Dress Codes and Nightlife: How Manchester’s The Haçienda Changed The Game of Clubbing Uniforms
Whenever I return home for Christmas, like most people, my first thought goes straight to the first big night out back on the town. A prime opportunity to have a proper catch up with your nearest and dearest. A momentous occasion where the clock is yet to strike 12. Describing your state in that particular moment as “steaming” would be generous to say the least. You can’t help yourself, the cost of a bevvie in London accounts for at least two (plus a tequila shot) here – it would be rude not to. Returning home this Christmas however, things were a little different.
I was fully aware of Liverpool’s strict dress codes when it came to nights out. No Hugo Boss – check. No Nike Air Max 95s (or as they’re called back home, 110s) – check. Instead, I opted for something simple: a jet-black pair of Nike TNs and some straight-legged trousers that had white piping running down the outer leg. Though still, in my reserved look, I was stopped in my tracks. “Not in those webs,” the bouncer stuttered, snarling at my trainers. A valid excuse to crush my dreams of spending the night dancing to forgotten hits from Cassie and Missy Elliot? Apparently so.
Strict club dress codes feel as out of date as the tunes they blare down Matthew Street on a Saturday night. Dubbing Hugo Boss polo shirts as the modern-day uniform for undisputed anarchy doesn’t have the same ring to it as banishing punks or goths from your bar back in the day really, does it? However, rigorous rules on what not to wear still to this day are implemented with striking ferocity, and its plaguing clubs up North.
Yet it seems Northern venues are forgetting the valuable lessons learnt from their rich nightlife history. The Haçienda, arguably one of the world’s most famous clubs (along with Studio 54), was a pioneer in many fields. Nicknamed “the people’s palace”, The Haçienda was a sweat-soaked, ecstasy-fuelled cesspit of Manchester’s brightest personalities – one where two-stepping and gurning were two of the most popular dance moves. It was there that the acid house movement first began to flourish, its piano-driven, euphoric house sound trickling out of the club’s doors and down into the rest of the UK during the Second Summer of Love in the late 1980s.
Unlike their competitors at the time, The Haçienda didn’t implement a rigorous dress code. “The music had changed the way people dressed. Baggy trousers, T-shirts and kickers, a floppy, summery fashion,” New Order’s Peter Hook, the co-owner of the club, wrote in his memoir The Hacienda: How to Not Run a Club. “Funnily enough, kids still wear it today. It’s like dressing as a punk.”
A cultural cornucopia of all things Madchester, the club was pivotal in taking the slouched silhouettes synonymous with inner-city Manchester youth from merely street centric clothing, to going-out attire. No longer did you have to wear a pair of shit flickers (dress shoes) and a crisp Oxford shirt to get into places – your favourite Happy Mondays t-shirt was just as appropriate. In 1989, the club was on the cusp of a cultural renaissance – both musically and in terms of style. An on-the-door dress code would’ve outcast the kids that were leading the acid house revolution. So they went without…
Today, The Haç effect remains undimmed. Club nights like Chapter 10, Adonis and PDA all share a general consensus of providing a safe space for club-goers to dress as they please – to be loud, brash and unapologetically queer. Outside of the UK, Berlin nightlife is a sanctuary for scantily-clad techno lovers to dance hard as the next day’s sun begins to rise, sometimes merely clad in just a jockstrap or a bondage harness. In contemporary times, polluting tracksuits and Nike trainers with an overtly virile, troublesome stereotype feels like we are heading in the wrong direction – perpetuated notions against the style tribes of today should be left off the dance floor.