Another year, another Grand National. Whatever you think of the sport, the world famous steeplechase turns a worldwide spotlight onto Aintree racecourse for the three days of the meet; the actual race itself being transmitted to over 500 million viewers in 140 countries. No mean feat.
It gathers an audience from those not normally swayed by horse racing: ‘The National’ is often the only time they’ll venture into a betting shop. It’s not unusual to see queues of people outside Ladbrokes on the Saturday afternoon, disturbing the more seasoned pros with their inexperience at filling in the forms, scattering 50p-each-way wagers across the field based on nothing more than the horses name sounding “lucky” or liking the colours of the jockey. It’s not about the winning, it’s a tradition, especially so in Liverpool.
And whilst this year might be slightly overshadowed by a certain football match, the event still looks on course to sell out. It brings a great deal of revenue to the locality and people go to enjoy themselves. None more so than the Scouse contingency. The planning and preparation from those attending is often dragged out over the course of 6-8 months; it’s so much more than buying a ticket and turning up on the day.
(we’ve taken screenshots from the site so you don’t have to bother visiting)
For the girls, a great deal of time and money is invested. They put a dress away at Cricket and pay it off every payday. They book hair at Voodou and make up at Peaches and Cream. They club together with their mates for a champagne breakfast, hire a limo to take them there and save up enough money to put into the kitty and have a flutter at the same time. It’s more than another night on the town, it’s something they look forward to all year. They go to have fun, and not to be ridiculed and criticised by faceless commentators.
Which is where the Daily Mail website comes in and its finely honed misogynistic ways. Renowned for their ‘Sidebar of Shame’ which is usually populated with gossip about the Kardashians or Imogen Thomas’s latest PR stunt, on Grand National weekend they make a special concession to include the general public and send their snappers to Aintree. But this isn’t a beauty parade – their job is to deride, not celebrate.
Reading the captions under each photograph you could be forgiven for thinking they were merely commenting on the fashion, but they’re a crafty bunch at the Mail. They get their readers to do their dirty work for them, and the comments section for the Grand National coverage is one of the most popular for the year.
Imagine getting dolled up for a big day out, something you’ve been looking forward to for a while. You feel great, a photographer asks to take your picture and you acquiesce thinking it’s for positive reasons. You get home, eagerly look for your photo and then you read the comments…
“I think it’s about time Aintree does the same as Ascot and enforces a strict fashion code!
- metalnurse, halifax”
“Deary me, its like a scousewives/towie best of the chavs competition! What on earth was that rather large lady in the v short lime green esemble thinking?? In fact – what were they all thinking with their predominantly ill fitting garish get ups! Better looking nags than wags here I think
- Kerrie, Aberdeen”
“I have to say, some of these ‘ladies’ must have amazing self-confidence to step out of the house looking like they do…
- Amazed, Aberdeen”
“What recession? Most of the photos show people looking overweight and over-preened. How many of those women wasted their benefits money on a mani-pedi?
- Debt-Free Chick, Currently Thailand”
Predictably it garners attention on Twitter too, colloquially referred to as ‘Slags in Hats day’ – social media playing right into the hands of Paul Dacre – as I suppose I am by even writing this.
However, it makes me sad that poking fun at people’s appearance – those on a day out, enjoying themselves, ‘civilians’ who don’t court the press – is seen as acceptable. It doesn’t sit easy with me when celebrities are the target, although there’s an undercurrent where I feel they do invite it, and it’s a hazard of the job. But looking at the pictures on the Mail, I don’t actually see that many ‘slags in hats’. I see groups of friends having fun, generations of families dressed up for a day at the races. Group shots of clashing florals that together looks jarring but when you look at each individual outfit you can tell that thought and time has gone into each ensemble. And for what? To be deemed “fat”, “horrific”, “ugly” and “disgusting” by a bunch of keyboard warriors.
Liverpool does exist in its own style bubble, admittedly. It takes catwalk trends and turns them up instead of toning them down, as per ‘the rules’. There are the ubiquitous rollers in town, the super-sized handbags dangled from the crook of the elbow, a city wide perma-tan fitting for the Costa Del Scouser. But there’s a pride in appearance that should be applauded.
And more than that, there’s a sense of playfulness behind it too. Prints and colours are everywhere, jewellery is bold and shoes are tall. It doesn’t make it wrong, it just makes it more interesting.
It’s not to everyone’s taste, that’s for sure. But there’s an old adage that comes into play here – if you can’t think of anything nice to say, then keep your gob shut. I don’t understand the mentality behind someone who sees a group of women dressed up for the races and thinks the most appropriate reaction is to attack them from an anonymous viewpoint.
But how to combat it? Don’t. The biggest two fingers to the naysayers is to keep on doing what you’re doing – if you want to wear a gold lame dress and sky high platforms than bloody well do so. I have more respect for those who go out to have a good time than their counterparts eagerly typing poisonous words into a comments thread. The personality from the Grand National comes from as much from the crowds as the prestige and history – fun and flamboyance is key.
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