The Tragic Fall of Nightlife Fashion

by Gamal Hennessy

I see it when I’m in the Meatpacking District, or the Upper East Side, or Midtown West or any other part of town at night. There will be a girl, little black dress, heels, make up, the complete package. She’s clearly out to look good and get noticed. She often succeeds. Then you’ll look at the guy she’s holding hands with. He’s sporting a T-shirt, scruffy jeans and sneakers. For a split second I wonder why this attractive young woman is walking around with her plumber.

When I was a younger man, there used to be a guy at the door of most clubs who decided who was coming in. He decided based on appearance. The stylish people got in. Unstylish people didn’t. In the Studio 54 and Palladium days, only the beautiful people got into the clubs. The tradition goes back even farther in New York nightlife. Pictures from the jazz era in Harlem show men in suits, wing tips and French cuff shirts. Even guys at down at the pool hall had tweed vests and slacks back then. Nightlife was synonymous with style. Was it discriminatory? Yes. Was it elitist? Absolutely. But you knew there was a reward for putting some effort into how you looked.

Now the guy at the door will often open the velvet rope if you show up in flip flops and any shirt with a collar. All you have to do is get on a promoter’s list, flash some plastic or buy a bottle. Cash has replaced class and the only thing you can’t wear in a club now is pajamas, and that rule might be out the window too.

What’s the difference between then and now? I think the ‘business casual’ concept that grew out of the internet boom is the major culprit. When polo shirts and open toe sandals become OK for work, why would any guy actually dress up during his free time?

Cash flow is another big explanation. As costs go up to operate nightclubs, there is a big incentive to push out the well dressed, creative person for the striped shirt clone who’s willing to buy a bottle. But if you can afford bottle service, can’t you afford to put a little cash into your clothing?

Now this isn’t a call to simply spend money, because retailers have figured you guys out. I’m talking about the guys who try to be "rebellious" and "nonchalant" by pretending they can look good even if they just rolled off the couch. So now T-shirts cost $200 and jeans that cost $400. Congratulations rebel, you’ve just paid $600 to look like everyone else.

And by and large I am really just talking about guys, especially the ones who are hanging out with well dressed women. Now maybe your girl feels better knowing you’re not trying to get attention and cheat on her when you go out. Maybe women are willing to look past your disheveled, unoriginal appearance to your engaging personality. Maybe your penis is the size of a Louisville Slugger. Maybe they just want you to pay for things. In any event, your sartorial choices help me out a lot.

You see, I don’t own jeans. I don’t wear sneakers to any place that has a liquor license. If I wear a vertically stripped shirt, I add some style to it instead of just forgetting to tuck it into my pants. The result of this simple; I stand out. Women seek out my company because of my style. I often get a second look from the girl in the little black dress drinking with her plumber. Sometimes it becomes more than a look...

If all men actually took the time to get dressed, my look wouldn’t work as well. So I thank you and raise my glass to your next road house ensemble…

Have fun.