NYC Nightclub Dress Codes: What to Wear to NYC Clubs & Lounges

The dress code?  Is there a dress code?   If you have spent any amount of time in exclusive NYC clubs, or almost any place in New York for that matter, you know that you can wear pretty much anything you want, anywhere you want- and people will be totally cool with it.

The only ‘rule‘ to dressing well in New York is that you must make it look good.

The same logic applies  when you are going to an exclusive NYC club or lounge.  

While there are no hard and fast ‘rules’ for how you need to dress– there are some basic guide lines that you can follow which will make your night go more smoothly. Dressing well, and achieving a strong “look” will help you get past the doorman, and feel comfortable once inside Manhattan’s most exclusive nightlife destinations.

NYC Nightclub Dresscode

There is only one thing that you need to know – heels.   Wear heels.

In all seriousness, all that most girls need to do is make it look like they put in a little bit of an effort.  If a girl is attractive enough, she can get in wearing pretty much anything.  For example, those Wilhelmina models running around inside Ph-D wearing nothing but burlap potato sacksActually, we have never seen that happen.  But we would not be surprised.

What to Wear to New York Nightclubs - Nightclub Dresscode

For guys, having a well thought out ‘look’ often means the difference between the doors of the club swinging open to let them in — and the doors of a cab swinging open as they are forced to move on to another club after being rejected.  

Unfortunately, dressing well is  not as simple as throwing on a button down shirt and some leather shoes.  NYC’s nightclub doormen have a discerning eye for  fashion and what they see you wearing has a huge impact on your chance of entry.

While there are very few ‘rules’ dictating what a guy can and cannot wear to a club, there are a few pointers that everyone can follow to help swing the odds in their favor- Here are some important ones: 

Leave the business attire at the office, where it belongs

This a nightclub – not the Morgan Stanley mergers and acquisitions department
Nobody wants to be reminded of your daylight existence as a corporate Muppet, so leave the business cas’ back in your Murrary Hill  Walkup.   We didn’t come here to do business, we came here to get down to business– see the difference?   long story short- No business casual.

Ed Hardy is not on the guest list.

For those considering wearing Ed Hardy to a club, or anywhere else, we have prepared a special guide just for you!  Check it out!   You might also like this resource – Top Nightclubs in New Jersey.

If You’re Going to Wear a Button Down Shirt– Make it The Right kind

When you are going to a club, there is a right way to do button down shirts, and a wrong way.  If there is a chance that someone will mistake you for one of the Brooks Brothers, then you are doing it the wrong way.  In other words, avoid anything that makes you look too much like you just came from auditing a fortune 500 company;  people came here to party, not do each other’s taxes- you should dress with that in mind.

Steer clear of those blue stripped or checked  shirts that are so popular around the office.  Do your part to set a festive atmosphere and make sure that the only checks are the ones that come at the end of the night and include 20% gratuity– not the one’s on your Land’s End slim-fit.

The key to wearing a button down shirt is to do it in a way that stands out a little bit.  You don’t want to be just another one of the  ‘stripy shirt bros’ that marauds through the meatpacking in, un-tucked, matching stripped shirts like a herd of zebra.

Button down shirts the wrong way:

  • Shirts that fit like a tent
  • Anything too corporate or generic (blue stripes, checks, ‘boardroom blue’)
  • Anything that is ‘bedazzled’ or has a big dragon embroidered on it (see the guide for Ed Hardy t-shirts)

Botton down shirts the right way

  • A well tailored slim fitting button down
  • Something sharp looking from Charvet or similarly stylish shirts
  • Something that stands out a little, and fits well.

What to Wear to New York Nightclubs - Button Downs

*not actually endorsed by Macklemore, please don’t sue us. 


Baggy Jeans / Baggy Clothes

Can you get into an exclusive club wearing baggy jeans?  Yes you can!  But, you will need a time machine that can transport you back to the 1990s.  It might just be easier to wear jeans that fit.


Nice shoes are definitely appreciated.  Generally speaking, anything made of polished leather is a good choice.  Avoid shoes that are too pointy (you will look like an elf), or have a square toe (just don’t do it).
Square toe shoes-  No!  no, no no no no.   A wise man once told me that the shape of a man’s shoe is a reflection of his personality… better to be well rounded, and not a square.  Square toe shoes are not something that you wear, they are something that happen to you.  Like cancer.  Or a car accident.
Wearing square toe shoes is the equivalent of committing shoeicide – if you are going to do it, be sure to write a note to your loved ones first explaining what happened.
Let the confession of a female accomplice of ours serve as a warning   “I thought that he was hot and I was going to go home with him, but then I noticed that he was wearing these black square toe shoes—it killed the whole thing for me”….
Remember. Friends don’t let friends square toe shoe.

Things to be avoided:

  • Shorts
  • Sandals or open toe shoes
  • Sports jerseys
  • Athletic shoes
  • Baseball Hats (yes there will be some people inside wearing them, but these people often have connections to the club.  Unless you KNOW that you will get in wearing one, leave it at home)

Make sure your look matches the image of the venue

The bottom line is, you should do what you can to match the image of the crowd at the club you are going to. If you are going to a venue known for it’s cool downtown crowd, definitely don’t wear a suit.   If you are going to a venue known for an upscale crowd, maybe a stylish sports coat is not such a bad idea.  Tailoring your look to the venue you are going to goes a long way towards convincing the doorman to let you in.

Here is what some of NYC’s most well known door managers have to say about what to wear to a nightclub

Want other tips on how to get in to exclusive clubs?  Check out our guide on how to get into exclusive nightclubs