It’s a Saturday night and you’ve been press-ganged into going to the discotheque. Maybe it’s a young relative’s 21st birthday party you’ve been trying to evade. Or perhaps you’ve been to every other decent spot in town and just can’t quite let the good times go. Either way, it looks like you’ll need to slide up to the velvet rope and do your best to impress the burly chap at the door without ending up in a sleeper choke.
As it happens, nightclubs take their wardrobe standards pretty seriously these days and it’s not always easy to walk away from a rejection at the door with your pride intact. We suspect that no one really enjoys clubbing, or at least not as much as the Instagram #squadgoals snaps would suggest. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your best foot forward on your one and only big night out for the year.
The following morsels should help you get your wardrobe in order so that you can go on to tell your friends that yes, you went to a nightclub, and no, you didn’t look like an unreformable tool in the process.
Research The Venue
Nightclubs are unique institutions with their own personalised standards. Sure, they all play dodgy techno far too loud, serve expensive drinks you could make with what you find at the bottom of the sink, and usually have long lines out the front with no shelter from the rain.
But they cater to unique or separate target markets and thus have vastly different dress codes that reflect the aesthetic the business is trying to promote. A bit of investigative legwork in advance can save you a lot of frustration.
Look at their social media or website to see what will pass at the door and what doesn’t. If that’s no good, ask a mate who’s a regular. No one wants to get geared up for a night out and then be told to bugger off at the door because their shoes or three-piece tux will offend the DJ.
Black & White
Monochromatic outfits are cool, but looking like one of the floor staff is not. Although black conceals sweat and other defects (like a tragic spill on your way out of the bar) it’s not terribly adventurous and can look sombre in such a social atmosphere.
Not to mention people could mistake you for a glassie and hand you their empty martini glasses all night. Add a white tee to the black jeans, and a navy or khaki bomber jacket instead of the black jacket.
However, you should stick to a darker colour palette. A white blazer or pair of chinos will get totally annihilated within a few hours, particularly in a darkly-lit rave cave where you can’t tiptoe around every unfortunate stain in front of you. Stains, wrinkles, and dirty patches will all stick out like a sore thumb if you’re unlucky. Save these bits of kit for the summer parties.
To Suit Or Shirt
Unless you’re making a serious run at Friday night kick-ons and haven’t had a chance to change, it’s not entirely necessary to deck yourself out in a full suit. It’s easy to destroy one at a club, and they’re dry-clean only.
That means an errant glass of red wine will become a costly mistake if you’re not lucky enough to avoid a drunken spill. Stick to separates instead. A blazer with a button down and smart chinos or dark denim is hard to beat. Just lose the tie, and avoid a pocket square.
Drunk people seem to enjoy using them as a tissue, or just flogging them to pass the time while waiting for bar service. However, for drinking establishments that are less club and more bar, a suit might be the difference between an extortionate entry free and breezing through the front door with an appreciative nod from the off-season bodybuilder standing guard.
Lose The Layers
Clubs get bloody hot. They’re poorly ventilated as it is and there’s usually a press of sweaty bodies in the way. And no one wants to wiggle their way out of six layers if they’ve been asked to embarrass themselves on the dance floor with the girl that’s been eyeing them off all night.
You won’t need the scarf inside, and the bartender won’t give you freebies because he likes your shawl knit. Plus, coat checks cost money, and you want something left over for the hungover gatorade-and-pizza combo the next morning.
The Good Threads
While we’re about the subject of what to leave at home, spare a thought to the crown jewels of your wardrobe. Clubs equal lots of drunken bodies fighting over empty space in booths and at the bar. It’s dark, noisy, and people can lose grasp of situational awareness quick smart once the cheap shots and drinking competitions get underway.
The Seamaster, Gucci button-down, and Loro Piana super150 wool-silk-linen blazer are all likely casualties in this setting. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by wearing your best gear only to witness it being wrecked in a drunken accident or collision on the way out of the bathrooms. Plus, it’s dark as shit. No one can really see you.
In most cases, a crisp button-down and dark trousers will get you past the selective dress codes on the door. A plain oxford shirt can’t go wrong, but feel free to experiment with modest patterns to give you some point of difference from the masses. Tucking the shirt in is generally mandatory. Some brands offer shorter cuts that are designed to be worn untucked, so just double check the proportions in the mirror before leaving the house.
A short-sleeve button down should be untucked, and they’re usually designed with this in mind. If you wear denim, make sure it’s a darker shade. Unfortunately, some venues still disallow jeans. In that case, smart wool trousers are a solid option. These are the most formal pant you can wear, but again the most likely to become a casualty if it’s a messy night.
Shoes are serious business after dark. First up, closed shoes are a must. When was the last time you saw a bloke leave the club with a leggy blonde while wearing sandals? Loafers can be hit and miss, depending on the whims of the folks on the door and whatever standards the venue demands. Check in advance. Additionally, your suede shoes weren’t made for busting a move to the Bee Gees.
They’re an absolute monster to clean and they will get filthy after a night of stepping through chewing gum, puke, and spilled margaritas. Let us persuade (heh) you against it. Your best bet? Polished brogues or chelsea boots. They’re not too corporate, nor too quirky, sitting in the middle of the spectrum of formality. You can dress them up or down with denim or smart chinos, and all it takes the morning after is a quick brush and some conditioner to set them straight again.
Everybody likes a pair of luxe sneakers, but that unfortunately doesn’t translate into universal acceptability on the nightlife circuit. R&B or hip hop venues aren’t as strict in this regard, but if you’re planning on hitting the sauce at a few establishments then you should probably give the sneakers some time off.
Some venues just don’t allow it, even if the bar where you started the night didn’t make an issue out of them. More to the point, your pristine white sneakers will become various shades of grey and green once you start getting down to your favourite Ed Sheeran disco remix. Save them for Sunday afternoons at the local, or trendy hole-in-the-wall bars that employ cleaners who take pride in their work.
Unless you’re a bus driver or a copper you have no business wearing a hat to town. The upscale, trendy nightspots usually have standing prohibitions against hats, and spending your time salvaging hat hair after the bouncer has told you to remove your headwear isn’t much of a fun way to spend a night. More to the point, the fairer sex appreciates a decent haircut. We’re yet to hear someone say, ‘you know what, mate, that girl wasn’t entirely sold on coming back to my dodgy share-house until I chucked on my Akubra’. You’re not a pick-up artist or Johnny Depp. As for beanies – just don’t do it. Wearing a beanie to a club will make you look like you smell bad.
A Good Attitude (Don’t Be That Guy)
The best thing you can wear to a club is a smile and a good attitude. No one likes a spoiled sport that goes ‘hunting’ to slay ‘chicks’ and then sulks when the fish don’t bite. Even more tragic is the pack of thirsty blokes hovering around the dance floor, waiting for an opportunity to practice the pick-up moves that got them unmatched on Tinder.
It’s just a night out with your mates. Try to be a decent chap and enjoy the night or your company on its own merits – even if you just spend your time making fun of the mate that still wears a trilby and tries to neg girls at the bar.