A Head-to-Toe Reference Guide Against Nightclub Dress Codes

“The head of the State Liquor Authority here has again warned disco owners and operators that some of their admission policies may infringe on the constitutional rights of patrons and could, as a result, lead to revocation of their license. Many New York clubs still scrutinize their patrons, and make admission difficult if not impossible.”

- Billboard Magazine, 1976


Operating with impunity for decades, the club dress code is perhaps the only modern code which embodies so many negative societal isms collectively: Racism, sexism, classism, elitism, think of a word, add the –ism suffix and it most likely applies. Each time the dress code is enforced and used to discriminate against an individual, there is a blatant violation in the name of one or more of those isms deceptively disguised as a simple error in sartorial judgement.

This is not some kumbaya to advocate for everyone to have equal opportunity to experience the debauchery that is club life. If club dress codes were illegal to enforce, the club experience itself would actually improve. Those looking to signal their apathy for hookups could wear sweatpants, t-shirts, slippers, and other comfortable clothes worn in the privacy of the home or on quick errands. Those looking for hookups could still dress to impress (and undress someone else later that night). The effort and energy expended in getting ready to go out could be saved and applied to actually having fun. The act of getting dressed, which intensifies the sexual pressures of the club experience by triggering thoughts of how others will be dressed and who will be there to attract, would be avoided. The difficulty in creating the correct level of sartorial class mixing casual, business casual, and sometimes formal wear would be also be avoided. Club goers could actually wear the most functional clothes for dancing or other alternatives to drinking, talking, and finding a sheet buddy for the night.

Below is a reference guide detailing what club owners, promoters, and bouncers see when judging who will gain entry, the significance each item of clothing actually bears, and an unveiling of how grossly prejudicial and disappointing the club experience is due to dress codes.



Fitted Cap


1. a hat commonly worn in the hip-hop and black communities and made popular worldwide by mainstream rappers who glorify violence, drugs, and promiscuity in their songs, leading many people to believe that all black males who are not their one or two token friends act in such a manner

2. headwear mostly worn by men who would like to display their enthusiasm for their favorite sports team or pride for their hometown, but suddenly indicates involvement in gang activity when on a black man’s head

3. an effective tool used to limit the number of men entering a club to make sure women outnumber them, making women prime targets for cheap pickup lines and awkward conversations

4. one of four things that grants a bouncer authority to automatically deny entry to its wearer on behalf of the establishment (see sneakers, see t-shirt, see shorts)

“You can’t get in with that fitted cap on. It doesn’t matter if you take it off.”

Synonyms: fitted, snapback, hat, new era




1. the preferred shirt of club dress codes for men which somehow transforms the wearer into an upstanding citizen who will not start the slightest trouble as if a layer of fabric can prevent too much alcohol from being consumed or punches from being thrown. 

2. a shirt that look best when paired with a blazer, cardigan, or pullover sweater, but these combinations are often too dressy for clubs, leading to unfortunate, awkward tucked/untucked, tie/no tie situations with jeans.

“I can’t get in looking like this, but I don’t feel like going back to my place.  Can I borrow a button-up?”

Synonyms: dress shirt, collared shirt, oxford shirt




1. a piece of clothing that only Disney’s Aladdin can wear casually and look good, not fit to be worn by real humans in clubs if not part of a three-piece suit (which should also never be worn in clubs, see suit)

“Should I were this vest over a v-neck or button up?”




1. a piece of formal wear that can instantly make a club outfit too dressy, upsetting the weird, undefined mix of casual, business casual and formal wear that club dress codes demand of their patrons

2. a piece of formal wear that can be dressed down correctly with style, but if attempted with a lack of sartorial swag it will alert other club goers that the wearer only dons ties to clubs, thus rendering the wearer an asshole.

“You look snazzy with that tie bro”

 Synonyms: bow tie, ascot




1. a shirt without a collar which somehow signals the wearer is not the type of person that an establishment wants to represent them in photos on Yelp

2. an article of clothing which many people with multiple degrees have earned the right to wear to work by taking on massive student debt, sacrificing thousands of dollars in earning power, and living without health benefits

3. The most functional type of shirt to wear in a club because clubs can be uncomfortably hot, especially when dancing or engaging in activities other than looking for someone to sleep with

4. The most expressive type of shirt that can be worn adorned with graphics or text that aligns with the wearer’s attitudes, but as clubs wish to stifle individuality and homogenize their patrons as much as possible,

5. one of four things that allows a bouncer to automatically deny entry to its wearer on behalf of the establishment (see fitted cap, see sneakers, see shorts)

“I’m sorry man, I can’t let you in without a collared shirt. That t-shirt won’t do.”

Synonyms: Tee, graphic tee, v-neck, crew neck




1.      Should never be worn to a club unless the wearer is fighting aliens as one of the Men in Black, is a member of the Reservoir Dogs, reenacting a fiction that is pulp, or Vince Vaughn in Swingers

2.      Instant indicator of scrotey tendencies

“I have to get my suit out of the cleaners for the club tomorrow.”




1. a sometimes restrictive article of clothing which makes dancing, games, or anything besides conversation incredibly difficult, especially when consisting of elastin, taffeta, or satin and combined with heels

2. an article of clothing which should be considered a health hazard when containing more than three percent spandex.

3. when of good taste, an article of clothing that is far too classy for clubs, making women look infinitely better than men to the point where they shouldn’t occupy the same space.

4. a nice, usually over-priced garment which is vulnerable to wine, beer, and hard liquor spills throughout the night, leading to attempted abuse of store return policies

“I can barely move, let alone breathe in this dress, but it’s fly though.”

 Synonym: gown




See dress, but think less material which begins at the waist



1. pants which are often worn by men with blazers and ties in an unfashionable manner (no matter what GQ, Details, or Esquire says) in attempts to find the elusive perfect level of sartorial class for the club.

2. pants that look somewhat awkward with dress shoes, even when rolled to the perfect height to display the proper amount of hipster shin and ankle.

3. pants worn by women which will make them comfortable while dancing, playing pool, or having any kind of fun, but can deny them entry to the most pretentious, uppity clubs.

4. pants that cannot be worn baggy or below the waist (as many black men wear them) and still gain the wearer entry

5. pants that should never have designs on the pockets or be boot-cut under any circumstances

“I think I’m just going to wear jeans tonight, hopefully I’ll still get in”

 Synonyms: denim




1. an article of clothing that cannot be worn by men of any color at a club

2. an article of clothing that would actually be the most comfortable at clubs, but look stupid with shoes and don’t exactly fit the “dress to impress” policy administered by most clubs

3. an article of clothing that is more than welcome on women, the shorter the better, especially to bypass a line or maybe catch the eye of a promoter who has the almighty task of maintaining the proper girl-to-guy ratio and is compensated for the number of women he funnels into the club

“Did you see the legs coming out of those shorts?”

Synonyms: boy shorts, daisy dukes




1. feet-beating dance impediments which render women immobile and thus easy targets to be hit on by drunken men

2. shoes which sometimes make women walk like a baby giraffe clumsily taking its first steps when combined with alcohol

3. footwear which an odorless spray has been invented to numb the feet and make them wearable, until one wakes up to bruised feet in excruciating pain the next day after the spray and alcohol has worn off.

I’m sorry ma’am. I’m going to have to ask you to put your heels back on.”

 Synonyms: pumps, red bottoms, come-fuck-me heels (ugh)




1. footwear which often costs just as much or more than the most expensive dress shoes on the market, but are worn by people of the wrong skin color and social class and thus deny them entry into the club

2. athletic footwear that is the most comfortable to dance in due to the ankle support they provide for whipping and nay-naying hard and the cushioning for jumping during electro and EDM drops.

3. footwear that rises in resale value, reaching up to five digits in some cases, but are still considered inferior to dress shoes despite the rich culture and significance surrounding them, which collectors and fashion enthusiasts appreciate.

4. one of four things that will automatically deny the wearer entry into the establishment (see t-shirt, see shorts, see fitted cap)

“I can’t let you in with sneakers. I’m sorry, maybe if they were all black, but not tonight.”

Synonyms: kicks, tennis shoes, tennies, trainers, cross trainers, basketball shoes, runners, retros, Nikes, Jordans




1. footwear that women often hide in their purses to switch midway during the club experience, or upon leaving the club if they can bare the pain from heels that long

2. footwear that may deny entry to a woman if the club is pretentious enough and there are already enough women inside to properly tip the ratio of men to women in favor of men

3. the most comfortable form of footwear for women to be worn for non-hookup activity

“I hope I can get away with flats in this place.”




Seriously, just go to a bar.