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When you go to a sports game, you don’t normally need to worry about what to wear.

You can cover yourself in facepaint and throw on a team-coloured top hat with no concern for the opinion of your fellow sports fans. But when you are invited to a game at a corporate hospitality event, things can be a little different.

You don’t want to be seen as a raving, top hat-wearing fanatic around your colleagues and clients, but you don’t want to look like you showed up for work while you watch Wayne Rooney miss yet another goal.

Different events will require different outfits, of course. For example, if you’re going to an event like Smart Group’s rugby hospitality at Twickenham, where you’ll be in the presence of former England captain Martin Johnson and other rugby luminaries, you’ll have to class it up a bit. On the other hand, if you’re going to Leicester City’s hospitality event, you can safely dress a little more casual (until their Premier League win goes to their heads, that is).

Despite these differences, there are general rules you can follow to ensure you are dressed appropriately for any kind event. To iron things out once and for all, we’ve surveyed the dress codes of various sports corporate hospitality events so you can make the match on time.

Don’t wear a sports shirt

This is one of the clearest unofficial dress code rules that applies to all corporate events. In fact, the official hospitality rules at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge specifically prohibit football shirts, Chelsea or otherwise, from being worn during corporate events.

There are a couple of reasons this rule is sensible to follow wherever your sports corporate event takes place. Firstly, football shirts are very casual. Probably the most casual thing you can wear aside from pyjamas. So wearing them around clients—especially clients who have treated you to an expensive VIP sports package—comes off as a little glib at best, and downright rude at worst.

The second reason not to wear a sports shirt to a hospitality event is simple tribal politics. If you turn up in one team’s colours and it turns out that your clients are die hard supporters of their opponents, it’ll just be awkward.

Beware of denim

Sports corporate hospitality dress codes are more denim-obsessed than Britney and Justin in 2001. But perhaps in an attempt to avoid any potential quadruple denim dates of a similar ilk, the dress codes appear to be weary of the tough blue material, allowing it, but not wishing patrons to take advantage of this.

Preston North End’s hospitality guidelines get around this by only allowing ‘smart denim’. Whether this is a leg-hugging version of a smartwatch or simply a more formal version of the material is unclear. To avoid all doubt, try wearing raw denim, that very fashionable version of the blue stuff that you don’t even need to wash. Otherwise stay away from denim altogether, as it’s not worth getting turned away at the door for wearing jeans that are ‘not smart enough’.

Master the art of smart/casual

Aside from a general aversion to denim and sportswear, the overwhelming majority of sports hospitality events require attendees to be dressed smart/casual. Understandably, this vague phrase causes anxiety and conjures up memories of agonising outfit choices in anyone who reads it, so we thought we’d help you out.

First, denim, other than the aforementioned raw denim, is pretty much off the table. For men, wear dark trousers and a classic button-down shirt. Don’t bother with a tie, but do bother with a nice jacket. And maybe a nice man bag. For ladies, feel free to err more towards smart or casual at your own discretion. It’s probably best to stay away from high heels though, as it’s likely you’ll spend most of the event on your feet.

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