Nashville Bar Scene: What to Wear (Including Shorts!)

Are you curious about what you can (or should) wear to Nashville bars?

Hi! My name is Alex; I'm a Nashville local and an expert on Nashville nightlife.

I can spot a tourist from a mile away. Tourists always wear cowboy hats and boots that will make your feet bleed. We locals don't mind if you dress like a cowboy!

Nashville is a unique place where you are not judged. In fact, you are encouraged to dress up and have a good time.

Lower Broadway between First and Fifth Avenue is known as the “honky-tonk highway.” This is where you will find over 32 bars. Tootsies Orchid Lounge is the most famous and backs up to the famous Ryman Auditorium.

If you are coming to Nashville for the first time, staying close to Broadway is ideal. It's close to all the major attractions like the Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium, Johnny Cash Museum, and Musicians Hall of Fame.

In this post, I'll answer the question: Can you wear shorts in Nashville? I'll also give you a good idea of what to wear out at night in Nashville.

Yes, you can wear shorts in Nashville bars – especially in summer! As far as clothing is concerned, almost anything goes. Most honky-tonks in Nashville require casual dress. Shorts, T-shirts, and hats are very common. You must have the basics, so remember that “No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service” applies to Nashville bars. Casual attire is standard on Broadway. You’ll commonly find men in jeans, t-shirts, and hats or ladies in short dresses, hats, and boots. Trust me, you don’t need to worry about what to wear.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sometimes bars don't like it when people wear athletic shorts. If you played basketball in the afternoon and then came to Broadway, that is about the only time you might not get in. Dress shorts and/or denim are fine.

Tips for Dressing for a Night Out on Broadway

My general advice for going out on Broadway is basically: wear whatever you want. Casual clothes is where it's at in Nashville. A common sight on Broadway is women wearing boots with shorts or skirts. Not a lot of women wear boots with jeans because the jeans will cover their boots. That would remove the reason to wear boots (to be seen!). If you want to wear boots, you'll be in good company.

Related: 17 Trendy Nashville Outfits: Charming Southern Fashion Meets Big City Chic

For men, it's most common to wear jeans and a T-shirt or collared shirt with a jacket as optional.

Nudie's Honky-Tonk on Broadway has the following dress codes. As you can tell, the dress standard is set quite low 😉 This should give you a good idea of the baseline on Broadway in Nashville.

  • No sleeveless undershirts, no cut-off shirts, no jerseys. Fashionable tank tops are permitted.
  • No large chains. 
  • No clothing that management considers vulgar, offensive or otherwise likely to cause a disturbance.
  • No motorcycle club or gang affiliation displays of any kind. 
  • Sandals and flip-flops are permitted but not recommended.
  • Footwear must be worn at all times. 

What to Wear in Nashville Bars

In general, Nashville does not enforce a dress code. If there are dress codes enforced, it's rare. Most of the time, you'll get away with what you want. You'll see lots of T-shirts, jeans, hats, jackets, dresses, cowboy boots and hats.

Even the high-class cocktail bar, The Patterson House, does not enforce a dress code.

As mentioned above, the honky-tonks on Broadway are casual. However, there is one bar on Broadway that is known for upholding a dress code.

The Twelve Thirty Club is located on upper Broadway and requires “cocktail or business casual attire. Well-kept jeans are permitted, and we kindly request guests to limit the wear of beach attire and sportswear while dining in the Supper Club.”

What to Wear in Different Seasons

The weather in Nashville from December to April ranges from really cold to mild. I'm writing this in January, and the weather today is a balmy 65 degrees.

It would be best if you were prepared to wear warm clothes like long pants and comfortable shoes.

During the summer, be prepared for HOT and humid conditions. Make sure you wear lightweight, breathable clothing like cotton or linen. The website Style Your Occasion recommends “shorts, tank tops, dresses, and an extra layer for nighttime.” We suggest items like slip dresses, bandanas, and denim cutoffs.

Are Bars in Nashville Strict?

In Nashville, you can expect to be asked for ID to enter any bar on Broadway. Many bars will scan your ID at the door with a blacklight to see if it's fake. Also, the bartender will likely scan it if the doorman doesn't do it. In Tennessee, the law is that anyone found using a fake ID will have their driver's license suspended for one year. Underage people using a fake ID face community service and fines.

Remember, it's in the best interests of the bars to not let underage people drink; the cost is exceptionally high for them.

If you get caught with a fake ID, the bar will likely confiscate it.

Now, are you likely to be arrested on the spot for using a fake ID? No. The bar will most likely confiscate it and throw you out.

Nashville bars have tens of thousands of customers of legal drinking age. They spend thousands of dollars every weekend, so the comparatively small amount they make from you isn't worth risking their license.

You still have options if you are under the legal drinking age of 21.

If you are with your parents or legal guardian, you can go to Tootsies Orchid Lounge before 7 in the evening. Wildhorse Saloon, The Station Inn, and Robert's Western World. Generally, you can go with your parents up until 8 pm to most bars.

When do Bars Close in Nashville?

In Nashville, Tennessee, all bars are legally mandated to cease alcohol service at 3:00 AM. Typical closing times range between 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM, though exact schedules can vary significantly from one venue to another. For instance, The Stage tends to close at 2:30 AM, while Robert's Western World usually closes its doors at 3:00 AM. For the most accurate information, refer to each bar's official website or contact them directly. Despite the late hour, numerous local diners and food trucks operating around the clock provide an opportunity for a late-night meal. Street activity tends to diminish significantly during these early morning hours in Nashville.

How Do I Not Look Like a Tourist in Nashville?

The way to not look like a tourist in Nashville is to avoid cowboy hats and cowboy boots. Locals don't wear that kind of attire (unless you're a country music star!). Instead, locals in Nashville usually wear casual clothes. However, feel free to dress up. In the trendy parts of Nashville like West End, East Nashville, or 12 South, you'll find eccentric clothing, colorful hair, and clothing that is, in my conservative opinion, “out there .” One thing is for sure: no one will look down on you for being a tourist.
Millions flock here to enjoy downtown all year round. So come on down; you are welcome here!


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