“I was in a bar the other night, hopping from barstool to barstool, trying to get lucky, but there wasn’t any gum under any of them.” – American comedian, Emo Phillip
Interesting people go to bars. Let me stress that. A lot of interesting people go to bars, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d rather strike up a conversation with someone at a bar who’s interesting rather than someone who’s dull.
However, if you’re going to drop however much money on round after round of drinks, it pays to know what you’ll be getting yourself into before leaving the house – that way you’re not paying a ton of money for an experience you’ll hate and you’ll be able to enjoy the atmosphere a bit more.
As we all know, there are a ton of different types of bars out there. A lot of them are pretty self explanatory, but generally speaking, they all have a different aura to them. The walls may be different, the people may be different, and sometimes even the drinks may be completely different. One time, a while back, I paid a $25 cover to get into a nightclub in New York City on a whim, and they didn’t even have my favorite beer. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. Rookie mistake.
To avoid these types of scenarios, here’s a detailed list of 7 types of bars and how to prepare for them properly, mentally and physically, before leaving the house. Allow yourself to get in the mindset for the evening, that way you’ll be able to have a good time.
THE IRISH PUB
First off. Fun fact. Pub is short for “public house”, though I’m sure most of you knew that. Unlike private houses in Ireland in the Middle Ages where you needed a membership to enter, pubs were generally visited by working, lower class citizens. They sat around, complained about Britain’s rule over them, told stories and drank lots of beer. Sounds like a lot of us after our own workdays, right?
Today, Irish Pubs are modeled after these same buildings. The great thing about Irish pubs these days is that after all these years, they’re still, more or less, just a place to sit around and grab a beer after a long day’s work. I never feel under or overdressed, and I’ve never once paid a cover to get into a Irish Pub. I hope to never have to, except for on Saint Patrick’s Day. I suppose that’s understandable because that’s a whole different animal.
Occasionally, Irish pubs have great Irish-themed food such as Shepherd’s Pie or Bangers and Mash. And sometimes they’ll show the soccer games airing over in Europe, giving the impression that you may actually be in Ireland.
A lot of times, the bar patrons are just a collection of guys, often regulars, catching up with each other before moving on with their days. The music isn’t usually loud and obnoxious, making it easy to talk and have a good time, and the bar staff is usually friendly. Although, I’ve known a few lady bartenders at my local Irish pub to be quite feisty and force shots of Jameson down my throat. Not a bad deal.
I wouldn’t say dressing up to go to a bar like this is really necessary. Dress however you think you’ll feel most comfortable. A lot of the Irish pubs I’ve been to are pretty relaxed and not all that expensive. I have been to a few that are cash-only bars though, so make sure you’re prepared to pay appropriately and tip accordingly.
THE COLLEGE BAR
Be prepared for a shit show. I like to think of college bars as dive bars that got lucky. Most college bars that aren’t nightclubs or sports bars are generally just your run-of-the-mill bars overcrowded with hormonal college kids desperate to have a good time. To clarify, this isn’t a bad thing at all. I went to my fair share of them in college, and I had fun – perhaps even too much fun.
College bars are a lot like college house parties. They’re cramped, filled with neon beer signs, and are generally the breeding grounds for newly-turned 21-year-old girls in sashes that say “Birthday Girl!” You’ll find countless groups of girlfriends parading around followed by the few hopeful guys who straggle behind. It seems whichever college bar has the most young girls at their bar is generally the most successful. It’s what some would consider a sleazy tactic, but hey…these bar owners have to make a living too. Right?
A lot of these college kids are on a budget, and because they’ve likely pre-gamed with a rousing game of beer pong or a power hour beforehand, they’re often drunk before they even get to the bar. Therefore, they’re probably drinking cheap light beers like Bud Light, Coors Light or any other commercialized, watered down brew. You’ll also hear a lot of people ordering sugary shots such as the “Kamikaze” or the “Washington Apple”. Order what you want, but expect that craft beer or glass of whiskey to cost much, much extra. So…prepare for that.
If your goal for the night is to have a good time, partake in the excitement and meet new people, it wouldn’t hurt to dress up a bit. We’re not talking suit and tie, but a polo and freshly maintained jeans will go a long way in a bar like this. Also, don’t be like the tons of college guys in the bar who are marinating in Axe body spray. Read our tutorial on how to wear cologne properly and have fun.
Nightclubs are a lot of fun. People dance, they drink and they have a good time. Don’t expect to see or hear many people though. With the exception of the few neon lights from the DJ’s light show, it’s usually about as dark as it is loud. Don’t expect to have a real conversation with anyone in the club unless it’s based purely off of body language.
Additionally, unless it’s a themed nightclub where some sort of salsa dance or a variation thereof is accepted, a lot of the music will be remixed Top 40 hits. It’s also likely that the music may even be comprised of songs you’ve never heard in your entire life.
In terms of how to prepare for the evening, be sure to dress up before leaving the house. A lot of nightclubs have dress codes and will refuse entry to people who show up in jeans and sneakers. I’d know. It happened to me in Vegas. Again…a rookie move. You don’t have to wear an entire three-piece suit, but a nice, well-ironed shirt and pants accompanied with a stylish pair of shoes will go a long way at a good nightclub. If nothing else, dress up to stand out. Make people say, “Wow. Look at that guy.”
You’re also going to want to make sure your bank account is loaded up before you head out. You’re most likely going to have to pay some sort of cover fee at the door and a mere Miller Light may cost you up to $8 a bottle in some spots. I know…ridiculous.
In all seriousness though, nightclubs are a great way to meet people for those gentlemen out there who weren’t given the gift of gab. Get out there. Dance. Express yourself. And have a good time. Confidence is key in a place like this. Visiting a good nightclub is definitely worth experiencing at least once in your life. Check out the 25 Best Nightclubs of All Time according to Complex Magazine.
THE SPORTS BAR
Sports bars are pretty self-explanatory. They’re places where guys go to watch sports. Every wall is covered in gigantic flat screens, most of the waitresses are young, attractive women and virtually none of the food could possibly be considered healthy…but it tastes so good.
Prepare to be jolted in your seat whenever a team scores and the building either erupts with joy when their team succeeds or yells profanity at inanimate objects because their team is losing.
Although we’d usually encourage you to always look your best, you don’t have to dress up at a sports bar. It’s sports. You could show up in ripped jeans, a trucker hat and you’re your favorite football team’s hoodie and I doubt anyone would really look twice at you. Essentially, just be comfortable and enjoy the wings.
In my opinion, the great thing about sports bars really comes down to the beer. A lot of good sports bars have a fairly wide variety of beers on tap. Sure, they may not have that craft beer you wanted to try from that microbrewery in Oregon you read about on Twitter earlier, but they normally have a decent variety, especially if the sports bar you’re at is not a chain like Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters. Prepare to eat, drink, shout and leave happy, unless your team loses. In that case, the bright side is that you’re likely not going to spend all too much cash on buffalo wings and beer.
Lastly, I truly think every man should watch some sort of fight at a sports bar at least once in his life. Boxing. UFC. Even wrestling. It’s fun.
Perfect for dates, the lounge is great because the music is generally pretty soft, allowing for actual conversations to take place. You can actually engage in intimate human interaction with someone that doesn’t require shouting over the music or making a fool of yourself.
Lounges are usually dimly lit with plenty of spacious, comfortable seating. You’re going to be approached by some sort of cocktail waitress, and she’ll probably be the only person in the bar who’ll bother you all night. You can sit, relax, enjoy your drink and your company and not have a care in the world. I suppose that’s why they call it a “lounge”.
You do want to dress up at a lounge. And you do want to be prepared to spend a decent amount of money on a round or two of good cocktails. These drinks aren’t going to be cheap, and if you’re going to be spending money like someone with a hefty wallet, you may as well look the part. At the very least, we’d suggest a nice pair of jeans with a button up or a sweater. And again, musk up with a nice cologne.
Most importantly, lounges are usually associated with a certain level of class. The way you behave at a lounge is generally not the same as the way you behavior at a college or sports bar. Prepare to behave like a sophisticated individual. Or go crazy…whichever you’d prefer.
THE CIGAR BAR
Cigar bars are essentially just like lounges. They’re dimly lit and filled with comfortable seating. The only difference being, obviously, that they have an extensive selection of cigars in addition to alcohol. Everyone who works at a cigar bar can tell you everything you need to know about certain cigars and can even offer you recommendations.
While you’re there, you’re going to want to class up just a little bit. You may not want to wear a suit and tie for fear of it smelling like cigar smoke and having to get it dry cleaned repeatedly, but something nice wouldn’t kill you. You’re also going to want to mentally prepare for the aroma of fresh cigar smoke and the fact that it will stick to your clothes and hair until your next shower, although, if you’re an avid cigar smoker…this probably won’t bother you.
Additionally, a decent cigar isn’t going to be too expensive, but it’s not going to be cheap either. And you’ll probably want a drink or two to go with your cigar. You can find a list of drinks that pair well with cigars through our guide to smoking cigars. Whiskey and IPAs are generally a good way to go.
Cigar bars, like lounges, are also great for conversations with your buddies. I went to a cigar bar in Boston with a few friends of mine this past Saint Patrick’s Day and had a great time. It was relaxed, easy and enjoyable. Plus, my friend accidentally burned a hole in his jeans, so that was worth a laugh.
THE DIVE BAR
Ah. The most underrated of bars. The dive bar. These are the types of bars that are usually deemed the local dump where depression and shame is associated. This isn’t always true, but that’s the way the media tends to portray them. The first example of people at a dive bar that comes to mind is Homer Simpson and his friends at Moe’s.
All joking aside, I kind of like dive bars. I don’t go often, but they’re usually empty, generally quiet and the drinks are typically fairly inexpensive. Plus, the one by me is so empty that I hardly ever have to worry about waiting in line for the bathroom or hopping on the pool table with a friend. It’s like being at a lounge without having to dress up or shell out wads of cash for a decent drink. Don’t get me wrong, I love lounges, but sometimes you just have to switch it up, you know? In that sense, dive bars are the ideal bar for anyone who just wants to grab a drink on a random weeknight. Although, there’s always the Irish Pub…and they may have Shepherd’s Pie.
When it comes to the dive bar, the only real thing you need to prepare yourself for is the inevitable chance that you’re going to meet some really interesting people. They may want to tell you war stories, give you advice you didn’t ask for or make you feel a bit uncomfortable. However, all these guys have lived their lives, so sometimes they actually have something worth listening to. If nothing else, occasionally visit your local dive just to put your own life in perspective. It can be quite eye opening.
Again, there are a ton of different types of bars out there. There are these seven as well as taverns, speakeasies, alehouses, inns and more. Not to mention, there may be some bars near you that are completely different from any bars we’re familiar with. With that said, I truly believe the type of bar a man does or does not frequent says something about their personal character. So for all you seasoned vets out there, feel free to share any amazing or awful stories from some of your favorite bars near. What are some other things a young gentleman should be aware of in terms of how to prepare for different types of bars? Let’s keep them informed.
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