In Watford, it’s smart to fail the dress code

Paul Lester, a divorced music journalist navigates life


One of the few good things about getting older is that you no longer have to care about the dress code of nightclubs. This is because you don’t go to nightclubs, mainly out of fear that young people will point and laugh.

It used to be a major concern. I remember once, years ago, being refused entry into a West End disco because I was wearing sneakers. So I had to schlep back to Borehamwood to change out of my white Converse All-Stars into my best Ravel slip-ons, then back to the club, a 90-minute round trip. And all so I could slouch glumly in the corner as “happy hour” began and listen to such joy-suppressing “hits” as Hi Ho Silver Lining and D.I.S.C.O.

But you do still have to go to nightclubs if you’re divorced and quite like the idea of meeting another woman before you die. So I decided to go to Watford, because it’s prime Jewish girl real estate and entrance to clubs there is free before 10pm (what, people start their nights out after 10pm?) Also, I used to go there when I was younger so I know where to cower when the chairs start flying.

The problem, as ever, was what to wear? I began the evening dressed in what I presumed was suitable attire given the locale and the type of people I’d be mixing with — T-shirt, tracksuit bottoms and beanie. I looked good, in a footballer-on-his-way-home-from-training kind of way, and I felt confident as I passed the groups of boisterous adolescents hanging around outside the clubs in their revealing night-wear. The girls looked pretty racy, too. (Memo to self: lock own children up when they turn 16.)

The club I chose was a retro one where they played only ’80s music, which I optimistically presumed would mean lots of Human League and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but from what I could hear blaring from inside, actually meant The Tweets and Chas & Dave.

Not that I was going to be able to check, because I got stopped at the door by a man dressed like an extra from Reservoir Dogs, wearing an earpiece to show how serious and important his job was. There’s nothing more intimidating than a bouncer with a rule book. Whose dumb idea was it to wear a T-shirt, tracksuit bottoms and a beanie? Oh, mine.

I was told by the bulky brute, who was probably being tucked in by his grandmother the last time I went out in Watford, that I was improperly dressed. He explained that sportswear was a no-no because of the association with football, meaning I was more likely to get involved in a punch-up with inebriated supporters enraged by the colour of my gear. I explained that I don’t start fights, I run from them, and besides, what team wears beige? But he was adamant. So I had to go home and get changed. Deja vu, I surmised, is not a thing of the past.

Half an hour, and one new outfit, later, I was back at the club. The bouncer still wouldn’t let me in, though, something to do with my jumper having a hood and my boots having steel toecaps. Yes, I had to admit, I do have this terrible habit of hiding my head then anonymously booting passers-by in the shins after a few pear ciders. So I trudged home again (again), grabbed my one smart shirt, the trousers I wear to weddings and barmitzvahs, and my least threatening shoes, and returned for a third time to the club, thinking along the way that, compared to this, Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day had a diverse and varied existence.

Still, this time you couldn’t fault my threads — even the bouncer looked impressed as he waved me through the door. I approached the counter ready to hand over my £15. As I offered my hand to be stamped as proof of payment, the cuff on my one smart shirt pulled back to reveal my watch. It was 10.01pm. Time for bed.

    Last updated: 3:50pm, June 11 2009