When starting your freelance career as a bartender, you will be faced with many different types of venues, party styles, holidays and events that may require different uniforms. If you are working for multiple staffing agencies, they may each require their own dress code as well.
There will be various types of dress bartenders will be asked to wear. Make sure you have a spare in your closet for the most requested types of uniform so you’ll be prepared for any gig that comes your way!
The Standard Uniform
Black pants and black non-slip shoes are always required unless otherwise specified. (And the only other type that would be specified is a tuxedo pant with the tell-tale stripe down the outside of each leg.) Many companies allow you to wear any black pants that look generic, as long as they are not jeans.
Not too Nice!
But avoid over dressing too – it doesn’t pay to wear an expensive pair of pants as sometimes you will get spilled on as the festivities are going on. Although you are the bartender, you may be asked to help carry a large cake, help bring out other food items or even to move tables during set up that haven’t been cleaned yet. You don’t want to ruin your good pants!
Choosing the Shoes
For your non-slip shoes, I would suggest trying shoes recommended for diabetics. It sounds strange, but I have tried many, many types of shoes and these are the best for being on your feet for many hours at a time. I recently decided to wear my black sneakers to a party since there were chances of thunderstorms all day. (My sneakers are waterproof and can be easily washed if they got muddy.) Luckily, I was bartending on a covered deck, however, my feet were really hurting at the end of the night and I learned my lesson! I will remain faithful to the diabetic walking shoes while bartending.
When it comes to shirts, it’s best to consult the person who you got the booking from, or from the client. Some staffing companies have standard attire they want you to wear and you must consult with them if you are not notified of the dress code for your gig. It will also depend on the type of party and the time of year. If you’re bartending a summer BBQ, it may require a white or a black polo shirt. But it’s best to ask the client in advance so you will be prepared.
Important note: Wear simple shirts without logos or loud prints. You don’t want any advertising on your shirt that would draw attention. We are there to service the customer and not be the center of attention!
Dressing it Up
For more formal parties, there’s a whole spectrum of “dressing up” that may be requested – from a button down white shirt all the way to a full tux. Here are some tips for putting together your formal wardrobe.
White Shirt + Black Tie
There are other parties that require a regular white button down shirt with a long black tie. At times, a black vest is optional. Again, you must ask. Personally, unless it’s summertime, I prefer to wear the vest as it feels complete and more professional and helps to keep your white shirt clean.
For the long black ties, I recommend buying a ‘zipper tie.’ You can find these online and are about $20. I like them because you will never have to tie it – there is a zipper in the back that handles the matter of putting it over your head and zipping it up to tighten it. It always looks perfect so no need to have this worry during your shift!
There may be a time that you are asked to wear a special color bow tie and/or cummerbund. If this is requested, ask if the client will be supplying these. There is no need for you to purchase additional colors unless you are reimbursed for it! Normally, the customer will supply it as they want to make sure all waitstaff and bartenders are wearing the same color and style.
Sporting a Tux
If working a wedding, formal party or holiday gig, you may be asked to wear a tuxedo shirt. Unfortunately, it does get hot during some of these events and tuxedo shirts are warm. I’d recommend not rolling up your sleeves during the party unless you get a cue from other servers or it appears to be acceptable. When the party is over and you’re cleaning up, feel free to roll up your sleeves as the guests are busy saying their goodbyes and not likely to notice or mind if you do so.
Finally, you may be asked to wear a full tuxedo. The definition of a “full” tuxedo is black tuxedo pants (with the stripe down the leg), tuxedo shirt, black bow tie and black vest and a black tuxedo jacket. This may or may not include a cummerbund. I have only been asked to wear a cummerbund once and it was supplied to the party staff by the party planner.
Grooming & Look
A dress code for attire is important, but personal grooming, body jewelry and tattoos should also be taken into account.
If you have short hair (male or female), then this shouldn’t be an issue. But if you have long hair, it’s important to tie it back somehow – so you look professional and tidy. You may think that being the bartender would allow you to be more free with your hairstyle since you’re not serving food, but I disagree. Would you want the hiring executive to find a hair in their cocktail because it fell into the ice bin? Not good!
I find it easiest and most comfortable to part my hair on the side, put it in a french twist and use a clip and hairspray it down. This works for me – but you may opt for other styles. I have found that this works well for me, as it stays put for the evening and stays out of my way so I can focus on the job at hand. Other good hairstyles include the bun (or man-bun, for men with long hair) or any other style that is up, off your neck, and well secured to prevent stray hairs getting into your work.
It’s also good to note that it’s best to bring extra hair clips as sometimes they break, or a few hair ties or pins, in case of emergency.
As a warning, many staffing companies do not allow tattoos to be visible. This means if you are working a party that allows short sleeves, but you have body art on your arms that would show, you would still need to wear a long sleeve shirt. The same would apply if you have body art that is high on your neck where it may be necessary to have your buttons fastened all the way up for the duration of the event.
Visible body jewelry should also be kept to a minimum. Small earrings would be acceptable, while dangling earrings of any kind are not. In some formal venues, only one small pair of ear posts are acceptable and if you have multiple piercings, the remaining ones should be removed for the event.
Don’t take this article as a shopping list! You don’t have to go out and buy everything here all at once. As you get more gigs with additional dress code requirements, you can add to your work wardrobe. You can also look online for bartending uniforms. I highly recommend shopping at Burlington, Walmart or other discount stores for some of these items.
For the ladies: go to the men’s section to purchase polo shirts and tuxedo shirts and bow ties. They are much easier to find and you can usually find something that fits well enough. The vest may be a different story – you may need to go to a specialty store to find a vest that fits your figure. Just try them on and see what works!
Now that you are fully dressed and ready to go, have a great party and happy bartending!