I have said it before and I will say it again, humans are exceedingly superficial. You might hear people say they go for personality over looks, but when its first impressions that count, I would be very surprised if a man approached a girl because he thought she looked like she had a good personality.
An upmarket bar or club is one place in which image is everything. Everyone has made an effort and the stakes are raised exponentially – these are places built on looks. As a result, it is a very complex situation that requires a lot of planning and preparation… which any misstep can only end badly.
One of the most important things to do here is to identify what kind of venue you will be attending. A bar and a club are two very different things. A bar is for drinking and socialising, a club is the place you go to dance. They are two very separate entities and will therefore require a different style of dressing.
One of the criticisms of my first attempt at this idea was that the looks I had proffered were not special enough for a club or a bar. This is something I hope to have rectified but I would also like to point out that much of my advice will retain close links to the ideas I discussed in that first article.
If the bar is for drinking and socialising then you can afford to pull out your very best threads, and lucky for us, it becomes a lot harder to overdress for an evening in a bar than it is for a razzle in the pub.
You could actually say that a Saturday night in a bar is an exhibition of your fashion consciousness and styling ability. You don’t necessarily need to worry too much about getting too hot and sweaty whilst throwing shapes, and the chances of you ruining your clothes with drink are much lower. It is more about strutting your stuff and allowing your clothes do the talking, rather than letting your perfect outfit down with some diabolical dance moves.
They are much more formal environments that require looks put together with structure and careful consideration. Your clothes ARE your first impression, so getting them right could mean the difference between success and failure.
Covered recently by Alex Woodhall in his guide to suit alternatives, the burgundy ensemble has the potential to liven up many a man’s wardrobe. You might be wondering however, when on earth you might be able to wear a burgundy suit. Well, here is your answer: in a swanky town bar.
The great thing about burgundy is that it’s individual and different but doesn’t necessarily jump out at people; especially in the darkened surroundings of a trendy bar, it’s the kind of attire that needs a second take. It will catch the eye, but also take a while to register.
A good white shirt is really the only thing to wear under such a suit, particularly in a bar; any man can wear a well fitting suit and a white shirt and look good. One thing I would advise you to do is try to find a shirt with a slightly higher collar than normal – don’t go the full Harry Hill, just something a touch bigger. This will ensure the shirt collar sits under the blazer lapels more cleanly, while the extra height will serve to help the collar stand upright and prevent it collapsing beneath the jacket.
You could alternatively invest in some of the magnetic collar stays Ben showcased a last week. Either way, you can make sure you stay looking fresh all night long.
To wear this kind of suit, playing around with the trousers can be the difference between a good look and a great look. This is an outfit that I think works best worn with loafers/slippers, without socks, so cropping and tapering the trousers is a must (around the ankle is perfect), especially if your loafers are lower and more streamlined than your normal shoes. This will make the suit work in a more casual setting, and with no bulky rolls at the bottom of your legs, you keep those sharp, tailored lines all the way down.
If you are worried about your feet/shoes being ruined in something soft and suede like lounge slippers (which would be an absolutely fantastic choice – awarding mega style points) then pull out some trusty leather loafers in any colour you fancy. Check out Topman for some cheaper slip on alternatives.
With block colours making up the rest of your outfit, go wild with a pocket square – literally anything you want. I would opt for a paisley print for maximum effect, and try a puff fold to make sure you get as many of the colours on show as possible.
You could easily modify this look with a t-shirt instead of a shirt, but I think a shirt works better. Take a leaf out of the Ryan Gosling ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ playbook and keep everything crisp. You can even opt for other rich shades of suiting in colours such as camel or olive green or even just muted colours with a slight sheen or metallic effect (again, see lookbook above). If you do opt for a tee, stick to white, grey or black V-necks and absolutely nothing too deeply cut.
For a slightly less formal take on the previous look, you could try using your separates to create a more evening appropriate version of what you would wear during the day.
By replacing the usual shirt with a v-neck tee, you remove some of the formal aesthetic but are still left with something that is structured and special enough for a night out at the bar. It will also make you more comfortable should the need arise to bust a move or two. The blazer and chino combination is one that will always work – especially a mix of stone and navy (you could very easily invert the colours of this look and still achieve the same effect) – and with a careful selection of accessories you can produce a comfortable, stylish and appropriate outfit.
I honestly cannot stress enough however, the difference that cropped and tapered trousers will make to this outfit in terms of producing clean lines and coming away from a formal and ‘stuffy’ aesthetic. You could also work this look with the trousers left down, but you should ensure that they are slim fitting so as to avoid covering the shoes completely.
A lightweight scarf can be a fantastic way of adding a shot of colour without being too bold or brash; keeping it under the blazer can add another layer of texture to your look and will definitely identify you as a man that knows what he is doing. Whilst I have gone for a block colour you could equally use a silk, paisley or spotted pattern, whatever takes your fancy.
Clubs are very similar to bars in that they ask the same thing of their attendees. In fact, the way you dress will be all the first impression you have; you can’t exactly get to know someone whilst a DJ spins terrible songs through massive speakers right by your ears.
But whilst you want to look your best, you also have to think practically. I have not set foot in a club that isn’t hot, sweaty, smelly and a bit dirty. It might be clean at the start of the night but you can guarantee that by three in the morning that the floor will not be looking its best.
Layering is the key to staying as cool as possible, while sticking to darker colours will ensure you don’t ruin your favourite clothes. Regardless of whether you go to nice clubs or grotty clubs, there is always the risk of someone throwing beer, and more often than not you only have yourself to blame – I know I spill more of my drink on myself than I actually consume; dancing does that.
I also think that it’s possible to overdress for a night in a club, not only because of the practical considerations but also because clubs are a more relaxed environment with respect to what you are doing. Dancing around for 5 hours isn’t conducive to wearing a dressed down suit, because it would look utterly ridiculous as well as being uncomfortable.
Club wear should be less restrictive, more comfortable and more genre appropriate. It is always worth remembering that different music will bring out a different crowd, so dress accordingly.
Remember the looks below are simply for inspiration, so adjust to suit – lose the jacket, switch out a knit for a different layer, change trainers for shoes, chinos for denim etc.
Personally, I am not a fan of Chelsea boots (especially those edging towards a pointier toe) worn with anything other than slimmest of slim or skinny jeans/trousers. Anything wider in the leg and you swamp the shoe with material and it really doesn’t look good. So if your preference is for slightly wider legs, opt for something a little chunkier and with a rounded toe – a black Oxford or Derby would do the job nicely.
A light coloured, pattern shirt is a great way to add some colour and create a focal point within an outfit, whilst it also moves you away from the plain white shirt as a staple. Simple polka dots fill this position really well, their unobtrusive nature creating just the right balance between fashion forwardness and restrained style.
By sticking with muted colours, you are assured of a look that will be appropriate in any club and will also retain the practical qualities that we want in club wear.
I would avoid monotone outfits, such as a black shirt, black jeans and black shoes; whilst you may think its slimming and that you look ‘super-fly’, it will actually make you look like a barman – everyone else will be fighting for your attention, waving £20 notes in your face and shouting vodka at you.
With this kind of look, especially with a plain shirt, you might also be tempted to wear a tie… maybe one of those really skinny jobs. In my opinion the skinny tie has had its day and a tie in a club or a bar just doesn’t work – they are too restricting and will just become a hindrance when you start to get hot. My suggestion would be to leave the tie at home and keep the buttons done up if you want the smaller details to define your outfit (at least you can undo them).
If practicality dictates you can’t wear your special clothes (as above), why not go for something more individual? A work wear look ticks all the practical boxes: not too heavy, hardwearing fabrics/colours and sturdy footwear, but it’s unique enough to make it suitable for a club or a night out. I’m pretty sure you won’t be seeing anyone else wearing anything like it.
It also tackles one of the side effects of being a style conscious man. We are often accused of getting a little too in touch with our feminine sides (a point that we all vehemently refute). With all our slim lines, penchant for colours and love of cream, I can sort of understand why. The traditional idea of manliness seems to have disappeared; the rough, tough rugged men that could fight off a bear with one hand and carry away a saucy wench in the other have gone, replaced with footballers and shaved chests.
Whilst it is true the world has moved on, I’m sure if you asked a lot of women whether they preferred a rugged man to one that walks around in small pink shorts and a vest to show off his pecks, they would probably say the former.
Work wear could be just the thing we men need to look stylish and hold onto some of those traditional ideas of what makes a man.
You could switch the plaid for something in chambray or denim (full collared or not) or go for something a little smarter with black or indigo jeans and a formal shirt. A pair of braces is a great way to make a bold statement without really thinking about it, and some solid boots will always serve you well.
I’m sure that not all of you will understand this choice or agree with it, but I wanted to offer you guys something that wasn’t just jeans/chinos and a shirt. You don’t need me to tell you about that kind of look, I want to suggest alternatives to the kinds of thing that every other man in a club wears – that often means thinking outside the box.
And quite frankly, I’ve never been into a club were you would need to wear anything more special than the above.
So there we have some suggestions of what you might want to wear in an upmarket bar or club. I must be honest I found the bar much easier to cover than the club because I honestly can’t see any club situation in which you would have to dress in anything smarter than a pair of trousers and a shirt. If you can sit around and have a discussion then it probably isn’t a club, it is bar with a dance floor.
However, what I have tried to do here is offer ideas that aren’t going to make you look like every Tom, Dick, Harry, John, Neil, Kevin and Simon that goes on a night out.
It is often the simplest looks that can produce the best results and it could be as easy as wearing a different pair of shoes to everyone else… or not wearing your mustard Topman chinos.
As I said last time, these are only suggestions, it is up to YOU to develop them and change them to suit your style and your idea of what you should wear when you go to a club.
Let me know your thoughts and suggest any future how to look good articles in the comments below.