Derby Black and White: Where did it originate?

Caitlin O'Sullivan
26 February 2021

Vodafone Derby Day is a day to leave your ‘stand out from the crowd’ attitude at home and gallop with the (Monochrome) herd! But WHY? There’s a few theories on where the Derby ‘black and white’ tradition originated. While we’re not about to make a call on which is correct, here are a few of the most common.

One theory states you’re probably donning that black and white ensemble due to (of all things) a marketing ploy for whisky! In 1960, the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine ran a competition in collaboration with whisky maker James Buchanan and Co - whose brand colours were black and white - for the best black and white outfit at the Melbourne Cup. The winner was to receive a £200 wardrobe.

While there are many Derby’s around the world today, the original is the English Derby, named after the Earl of Derby. The race was first run in 1780 and in 1787, the Earl of Derby’s horse won the race, carrying his black and white silks. Many believe this is where the black and white theme originated.

Others believe it was inspired by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady or that it was to mourn the death of King Edward VII. Wherever the black and white theme originated, Derby Day is a highlight on the calendar of many fashionistas, who enjoying putting their spin on the tradition.

While not an enforced dress code, Vodafone Derby Day provides a great opportunity for you to get creative in the wardrobe. Remember: black and white need not be black and boring!

Please note: Due to recent changes in COVID-19 alert levels, the Vodafone NZ Derby will be held behind closed doors. That's not to say you can't dress up and enjoy the festivities from the comfort of your own home however! 

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