There are more different clubs out there than in a PGA Tour golfer’s excess baggage. Therefore the short, and not especially helpful, answer to the question ‘what should I wear to a club’ is that it depends on the type. A trap club, for example, will have a very different dress code from a jazz club.
The other thanks-for-that answer is that most of the time, you can wear what you want – apart from the times that you can’t, of course. We’ve all seen that episode of The Inbetweeners. Then again, do you really want to go to the kind of club that won’t let you in without proper shoes?
If going to a specific one then an internet search is going to be most illuminating in the first instance, whether it’s a stated no-trainers policy on the venue’s website or images of dishevelled revellers. But if you still need some all-purpose caddying clothing-wise, then below are some general principles that you can apply to upgrade yourself to club class.
Firstly, we’re talking about nightclubs here, so the principles of eveningwear – which tends to be dark – apply. (Black tie is, you know, black.) So even though the only DJ on show will be on the decks, your palette should still be predominantly sombre, with maybe the odd flash of white to break it up. Save the SS17 pastel trend for a sunny day.
As well as being more evening appropriate, a monochrome or tonal outfit composed of black, navy or shades of grey is also a simple but effective way to give daytime staples an edge. Black jeans in particular have a rock ’n’ roll vibe; grey also skews more modern and less selvedge-head woodworker than indigo.
Chinos could fly if they’re dark, tapered and not too smart-casual catalogue model. Or you could dress down a pair of sharply tailored trousers – even a whole slim-lapelled, cropped-jacketed suit – with a T-shirt and trainers. But that’s assuming it’s the kind of club that’s smart enough to warrant it – and open-minded enough not to insist on shoes.
All-black-everything or strict monochrome can, however, be a bit severe; black can also look brown under artificial light. So as with dinner suits, consider midnight blue, either as an alternative or mixed into your ‘colour’ scheme to soften the black slightly. Maybe sub in grey jeans if wearing a black top half and shoes. Be wary of light grey tops, though, which will show up sweat like a spotlight: go white or dark, not in-between.
Temperature is an important consideration in a club: either you bookend the night with the purgatory that is the coat check queue, or you wear a light, inexpensive jacket that you’re comfortable keeping on and maybe even chucking to the side. That could be an unlined, breathable bomber (linings hold heat), a denim jacket or an overshirt.
Leather looks cool but doesn’t feel it when you’re hot, and is costly (if it’s good quality) – not something you want to lose or trash. A blazer might be less hot, but is just as delicate, and there’s the danger of being overdressed, or looking like you’re going to Sugar Hut.
This is another key point: it’s a big night out, so the inclination is to deck yourself out in all your swaggiest finery. But a club is a place where people drink and/or sweat profusely. There will be spillages. It’s not an environment where you want to be wearing your most precious, dry-clean-only cashmere – or putting it down only to have it stolen.
Besides, there’s something cooler about keeping your rig low-key. Sure, you could wear a shirt – as long as it’s not a ‘party’ shirt or one that looks like it’s missing a tie, and is short enough to be left untucked. But a T-shirt will be perfectly adequate in most cases: fitted but not so tight that you’re hulking out, with a neckline that isn’t undershirt-high or heavage-low. (No deep Vs, please.) Logos and slogans should be restricted to the sorts of wavey raves where you don’t need to worry about dress codes.
Best Foot Forward
Footwear is the realm that demands the most tightrope-walking caution. Thankfully, the line between trainers and shoes has become blurrier than the bottom row on a sight test. There now exists a whole category of what you might call ‘dress’ trainers: typically dark uppers with a contrast white sole. Although a matching dark sole is less likely to attract a second glance from the doorman, and see you engage in a lively debate about whether they’re really trainers or not (which you will almost certainly lose).
You don’t necessarily need to splurge on Common Projects or their spendy ilk either for your trainers to qualify as smart. Former Juventus midfielder and Point Break stunt double Pavel Nedved wore black Stan Smiths instead of shoes with his suit for punditry duties during a recent Champions League game – not that you would have noticed. Vans also does leather versions of its canvas styles, which come over a bit more formal.
If there’s any real risk that you’re not going to get let in for wearing trainers, then best not to take it. In which case, you need shoes that don’t make you look like David Brent. Office-friendly Oxfords are too formal; brogues, like chinos, can be a bit smart-casual for a club. On the other foot, a minimal Derby or other plain lace-up can look contemporary, especially if it has a chunky sole to contrast with slim legwear and inject a bit of shit-kicking Dr. Martens attitude. (DM has a foot in several musical subcultures.)
On the other side of the hybrid fence, you can get shoes that have contrast trainer-style soles, which makes them a little less fusty, and a lot more comfortable: another thing to think about when dancing from dusk till dawn.
Or kick shoes to the curb in favour of Chelsea boots. Like black jeans, they’re rock ’n’ roll and also now hip-hop, thanks to Kanye and co; they’re smart and emphatically not trainers but at the same time casual without being smart-casual and middle-aged. Especially with a contrast (and comfy) crepe sole, and in tan suede instead of black leather – although bear in mind the warning about spillages. Always use (fabric) protection.
Speaking of contraception methods, we shouldn’t need to tell you not to wear any shoes with a square toe. But just in case…