Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dress to regress

I was going to mention this week's Capital Times article about dress codes at Wellington bars and nightclubs, but the Wellingtonista beat me to it. However, I'd like to take it further and apply some elementary statistical visualisation techniques to derive an interesting hypothesis about the relationship between a bar's dress code and its hipness level.

So, I used the bar managers' statements in the article to estimate the strictness of their dress code. Some of them had interesting ideas about what was acceptable: the manager of Jet, Go Go and Mini Bar was quoted as saying "Patches and hats don't look as smart, so we don't allow those". Patches and hats. So throw away that felt fedora from Lock & Co, gents, as apparently it's on a level with gang patches when it comes to slovenly dressing.

Then I applied a thoroughly scientific approach to determining a bar's stylishness and social desirability (that's a lie, actually: I just made it up - though see my later post for notes towards a methodology). Anyway, I plotted hipness on the x-axis and strictness of dress code on the y-axis, and this was the result.

Scatter plot - dress codes vs hipnessThe data has spoken: there is obviously a strongly negative correlation between strictness and hipness.

This has some interesting corollaries:
  • Do bars in the Hutt Valley require patrons to wear white tie and tails?
  • Is banning collared shirts, dress pants and shiny shoes enough to make a bar über-hip?
  • If someone opens a bar where singlets, ripped jeans and smelly sneakers are mandatory, how long will it be before it appears in a Wallpaper* photo shoot?


At 1:21 pm, November 24, 2005, Blogger noizy said...

that's brilliant.

At 9:55 am, November 25, 2005, Blogger Hadyn said...

What about those who fall off your trend line. I speak of those bars that are cool and have higher dress standards or the unhip who let you wear what you want (there must a few examples of this outside the Hutt).

At 10:01 am, November 25, 2005, Blogger Hadyn said...

Oh, and I think the real key to getting into "first quadrant" bars is to not be a drunk kid from the Hutt.

We were kindly ushered to the front of the line last week at the Mirror Bar (is that what's its called?). In the end I wished that we hadn't, but the only difference between us and the people who had to queue was our percieved age.

At 12:38 pm, November 25, 2005, Blogger Kate Borrell said...

It's UU (spelling? you you).

Would you say Motel is near Matterhorn on this chart?

At 12:41 pm, November 25, 2005, Blogger Kate Borrell said...

About 11 years ago the bouncers at Malthouse stopped some guys from going into the bar. Out of interest I asked them why. They said they looked like they came from the Hutt.


They did indeed look like Hutt boys. Not that I have anything against Hutt people... I try and not stand that close.

At 1:27 pm, November 25, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

Hadyn: I was limited to the bars in the Capital Times article, so of course the picture might not look so clear with a different sample, but yes, there are definitely bars in the other quadrants.

Confidential's sign only requires "a high standard of dress", and as far as I know there's no strict and arbitrary list of banned items. Have you tried getting in there in your expensive, carefully considered Diesely faux-scruffiness? I doubt they'd turn you away.

At the other end, yes I'm sure that good old-fashioned public bars (The Cambridge?) aren't too tough on dress code, but that's not the sort of unhipness I'm thinking of. It's more the self-consciously "classy" Courtenay Pl B&T blingfests like UU and GoGo that feel they have to impose a dress code. Then again, the Fats always had the longest dress code sign in town, but that's only because in most places you wouldn't need to explicitly state "No gang patches. No facial tattoos".

We don't have quite the same aggressive dress codes that they have in London, for example. Over there, there are still some pubs in the City and East End that require a jacket and tie, and there are DJ bars in Shoreditch that have a strict "no suits" policy. There was one in Old Street that I'm sure would only let you in if you were wearing the right model of vintage Adidas sneaks.

Oh, and this comment had a great word verification: "fuukz". That's the closest yet to a rude one!

At 1:42 pm, November 25, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

Kate: Yep, I'd say Motel must be pretty close to Matterhorn on the chart. Some would argue that it's retained its hipness better than "Matterho", and I haven't been there enough recently to test out its dress code (I've been to Cabaret more often recently, which reminds me: Video Kid tonight!), but it's definitely in the vicinity.

I used to allow myself to be put off by Motel's famous exclusiveness, but once I finally got around to going there I realised that it was actually very relaxed and non-judgemental. They weren't checking your image on the CCTV to see when you were last in Pavement: they just didn't want random stag parties charging in off the street and breaking the furniture.

Oh, and I shouldn't be too rude about the Hutt: some of my best friends live there, and they're probably hipper, smarter and more creative than most of the Matterhorn crowd. With rents going the way they are, is Waiwhetu the new Cuba St?

At 10:37 am, November 29, 2005, Blogger Kate Borrell said...

With rents going the way they are, is Waiwhetu the new Cuba St?

Now that's a scary thought.

At 11:16 am, November 29, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, it is a scary thought. In big dense cities, when a neighbourhood gets gentrified the previous inhabitants are likely to have another neighbourhood nearby to move to. In Wellington, beyond Te Aro and Newtown there aren't many options for cheap rent in places that have a recognisably urban nature, and both of them are under pressure.

If artists, musicians and the like are being forced out to the Hutt, then in one sense it shouldn't make any difference: cheap rent is cheap rent. But on the other hand, most of the Hutt lacks the density and cultural infrastructure (galleries, studios, pubs, venues) to enable creation, distribution and living to occur nearby, leading to a diffusion of energy, lack of artistic cross-pollination and a reliance on cars to get anywhere. But it's Wellington that'll be the big loser.

At 7:27 pm, June 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Australia now and some of the clubs here beat anything Wellington can offer hands down and the dress code isn't even half as strict as some clubs in Wellington.

Maybe some of those Welly clubs,or the people that go there are trying to make themselves out to be classier than they really are.

Here's a reality check..It's only Wellington,not the sunset strip in L.A.

At 12:45 pm, October 11, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom

I am writing an assignment on the Wellington bar scene and would love to ask you a couple questions. Can you please email me at catherine.moreau.hammond@gmail.com?

Thank you


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