Going out is great. Sometimes. For all I moan about queues and tourists and bland booking policies and the creeping sense that, actually, this isn't as fun as it used to be, there are times, days, nights, when I'm back where I once was, fizzing with eyes-wide-shut excitement and enthusiasm. Then I remember I'm 25 now and my back hurts when I stand up for more than half an hour and that if I'm not in bed by 1am, the next day's a slow trudge through a mood cycle that takes in regret and remorse before breakfast.
Still, I was young once and I'll be older the future, so I decided to sketch out the terrain of a life lived in clubs.
Where You're At: You're young, fresh-faced and ready to party. The world's your sweaty, druggy oyster and you're raring to rip it open. You'll go anywhere, see anyone, do everything. This is it. You fall in love with DJs on a weekly basis. You want to be there in the thick of it. You are loving life. Loving it. Just loving life.
An Average Itinerary: 8PM: Right, mate, lets get fucking HAMMERED, my provisional just came through and I've only ever been pissed properly once so lets drink a bottle of basic's gin with some roller cola, then move onto the BEERS and then a few CHEEKY WKDs for the hell of it. Shall we go to a bar after? I heard they do amazing jaegerbombs there and I fucking love jaegerbombs because they get you pissed and getting pissed is so sick, I love it, you feel normal but not? Like, my face goes numb and I can't talk and I know I'm going to puke at some point but you take the right with the smooth.
11PM: Sankeys? Yeah I've heard of that, I think, meant to be a cool club. Let's fucking 'ave it down there, get proper pissed. Think there might be some girls there too. Nina Kraviz is playing? Ah, yeah mate, heard she's really sick, fucking wicked, nice one, Desperado anyone?
1AM: I've been sick twice and want to go home but I've lost my friends and I've sat in the toilets for half an hour and it's really loud and it's making my stomach hurt and I wish my mum was here to pick me up.
11AM: Great night with the lads!!! #Livingfortheweekend #anothershotplease #gottobedone
How to Dress Well: Fuck it, you're 18. You've either got a student loan or have a job and live at home so enjoy having disposable income for the only time in your life. Go wild. Buy those zebra print Cheap Mondays. Stock up on Stussy bucket hats. Get a pair of Nikes for every day of the week. When it comes to club-wear, again, go absolutely nuts. If you think red jeans look good, then wear red jeans. Except obviously don't actually wear red jeans because the only people who wear red jeans in the club are bent-nosed blokes called Jonty who swan about Chelsea clubs in Chelsea boots and rugby shirts perpetually on the verge of sexual harassment. But you get the point.
Where You're At: You're 21 and this is as good as you're clubbing life will get. You're largely free from the stresses of life, you know — in some minor way — who you are and what you like, and you're probably still excited by going out. Welcome to your salad days. Spend them wisely. Go to nights because you want to, not because you've got a mate who's mates with the DJ, plough your own furrow. This is your time. See whoever, whenever. You're 21 you young fucking pricks.
An Average Itinerary: You're 21, go anywhere. Go to the pub. Go to a bar. Go to a restaurant where you can spunk thirty quid on a hot dog, chips, and a bottle of the kind of American beer that Wetherspoons don't sell. Go to three clubs. Go to a mate's house after. Go to another mate's house after that. Repeat the cycle. You're 21 you young fucking pricks.
How to Dress Well: You're 21, you'll probably look good in anything, you young fucking pricks.
Where You're At: You've arrived slap bang in the middle of your 20s and it's terrifying. The hopes and dreams of adolescence have fizzled into a miserable puddle of regret, self-defeating nostalgia and debt. You've done nothing of note with your life and you're stuck in a joyless cycle of trying to stay young while all the while worrying about student loan repayment and gas bills. So you joylessly work your way through blue bag after blue bag of Carlsberg Export before going to any club night you can conceivably get into for free, splitting a pill between four of you, fruitlessly searching for the highs you had all those years ago, before your knees start creaking and your back ached constantly, way back when the comedowns didn't haunt you all week. You still find yourself huffing on rollies in club-queues on Friday nights with people you have less in common with by the day, praying that tonight you'll forget about the money you owe your parents. The weekend starts here!
An Average Itinerary: If it's payday weekend you'll probably roll down to the pub — a Wetherspoons, obviously, because nothing says BIG NIGHT OUT like reduced rate flat pints and microwaved pulled pork — for a couple before trying to persuade the barman to give you a fiver cashback so you can splash out on a six pack of Kronenbourg to be sunk in rapid near silence while a mate plays thirty seconds of thirty tracks on Spotify.
Eventually you'll arrive at the aforementioned guestlist-approved nightspot where everyone in the room is either disgustingly young or sickeningly old and you and your pals will flutter about on the peripheries before sneaking off one by one to inhale a few grains of some substance or other before ironically buying a WKD each for prime Instagram material. 3am rolls round and half-hearted mentions of an after-party are wordlessly battered away. A night bus trundles you all home. You don't text each other till next Thursday, gearing up for next Friday.
How to Dress Well: Hopefully, by 25, you've stopped being a total slave for fashion and have stopped spunking £40 on skate t-shirts and blapping a considerable chunk of that week's wage on trainers that look like someone puked up the worst element of 90s pop culture. You should know what you like. Anything other than a white t-shirt, black jeans, and plain Vans is for young people. And you aren't young any more.
Where you're At: When your mum and dad were thirty you were six. Think about that. They had actual careers. You're a freelance food writer, scraping together pennies from paninis. Or you've stuck at the music thing and earn half a crust from the odd bit of office temping. Life wasn't meant to be like this. More now than ever before you feel a grasping need to be out there in the world, to make your presence known. You go out less but when you do it's a Big Deal. There's champers, pills, poppers, party hats, the lot. You're record collection's been in stasis for a few years and you don't even check out RA anymore, but you like to think you know what's up, even though the DJs you fell for are now slamming it out in Space held up by zimmer frames. You're haunted by mortality. Still, pass us another, yeah?
An Average Itinerary: A quiet few in a nice pub, a pub that serves burgers slathered in caramelised onion and charges you for triple-cooked-rosemary chips, a pub where dogs are actively encouraged and a ukelele band perform on Sundays, a pub where you don't get change from a tenner for two pints, pubs you told yourself you'd never go to. So you blitz back to your flat, still renting after all these years, still trying to snort the last vestiges of youth before checking out a DJ you liked a decade ago who's going to play the same records they did ten years ago and you'll stand with clenched-fists, jaw swinging in the breeze, wishing you were back there, wishing things had been stationery, knowing you've fucked it and nothing's bringing your old life back. Still, this Villalobos set is alright innit?
How to Dress Well: Bin anything left in your wardrobe that was once remotely trendy. Get a few nice jumpers, a solid pair of slacks, comfy shoes.
Where You're At: Not in the club.
An Average Itinerary: You don't have one. It's over. It's all over. Forever.
How to Dress Well: Brown striped shirt with white collars and cuffs, stonewash bootcuts, school shoes. If it works for Alan Shearer…