Updated: Jun 13, 2022
Can you get into bars and nightclubs wearing hiking shoes, shorts and a t-shirt?
The short answer is... probably.
There was a time when I couldn't imagine not having the option of going to the hottest club in whatever city I was visiting, these days I can't imagine wanting to go to the hottest clubs in any city - but everyone is different - and here are some things to consider when weighing the pros and cons of packing for nightlife.
To start, bars and nightclubs aren't like they are in the States, the high-end, $20/drink clubs of New York and LA are few and far between on the road, and if you're going to places that have a dress code, you probably aren't interested in minimalist travel to begin with.
I've had exactly zero issues getting into places I love while traveling; yes, there are places that will frown upon your hiking shoes and lackadaisical attitude towards clothes, but for every fancy nightclub, there are 100+ fun-filled bars, dance clubs, beach bars, tiki-huts and music venues that simply don't care what you're wearing; those are the places I like to, and ahem... have to.. frequent.
I've made the mistake of packing a nice pair of pants, nice shoes and a dress shirt - and what I've found, consistently, is that I've never missed them or needed them - you're already meeting people if you're staying in a hostel; every "big city" hostel seems to host a nightly bar-crawl, or have their own bar in the hostel; and many of the people you meet traveling will be on a budget, uninterested in hitting up the hottest spots in town. You are far more likely to meet fellow travelers, drinks some cheap beers at the hostel bar and then wander to a nearby place for more drinks and fun; fancy clubs just never seem to be on the menu - the last thing you should worry about is dressing up or packing to dress up, for a big night on the town.
Don't buy into the ads and don't let FOMO cause you to pack a million things you don't need or use, trust me when I tell you, you're not missing anything.
All of that being said, if you do decide to pack some additional clothes for a nicer look or fancy dinner, consider Vevo Barefoot as a very packable, low-profile, nice-but-minimalist shoe option, an Arcteryx button-down for a nice-looking, quick-dry, long-sleeve shirt, and ClothingArts for travel-ready, pick-pocket-proof, "stylish-enough" pants.