What to wear: Bongo Ball

Image: Jessica Biggs.
Bongo Ball. Image: Jessica Biggs.
Bongo Ball. Image: Jessica Biggs.

It’s that time of year again when St Andrews plays host to Bongo Ball – one of the wildest balls in St Andrews – on 25 October. Even though it is a ball, Bongo Ball is actually not black tie, giving guests the opportunity to experiment with their attire.

While men are able to stick with the traditional black tie look of a suit, bow tie and dress shoes, Bongo Ball gives men the option to be far more daring. Last year, many male students went all out on the Africa theme – to the point of wearing animal-themed onesies and animal print trousers.

For women, Bongo Ball allows the most variety fashion-wise. Some will go for a dress, others will go for a nice skirt and top and some will even go for an animal onesie. Keeping up with the African theme, you can never go wrong by wearing anything with animal prints to Bongo Ball. Designers such as Burberry and Michael Kors have even brought some animal prints out on the runway this year.

If you opt for a dress, DO NOT go for a long one. The place will be crowded with rowdy bongoers and there’s an outdoor area with a bonfire. The last things you want to worry about are other people stepping on your dress, or having it trail through the mud.

With that in mind, there’s usually a short walk from the bus to the venue, so depending on Scottish weather you should be careful about which shoes you choose to wear. While it’s always fun to wear heals, getting your heel stuck in the mud is never a nice way to start the night.

Bongo Ball is one of the more casual balls, so if you prefer you can go for a nice skirt and shirt. Again while animal prints are advised, they aren’t necessary. Just wear whatever you feel comfortable in.

Make sure you have a warm coat. Last year, while most people appeared to have a good time, many people reported that it was too cold. A third year student even said: “I love Bongo Ball, I go every year, but it’s not great having to wait in a queue outside in sub-zero weather for the bus or restroom.”

The one accessory neither men nor women can go without tonight is face paint. People tend to don animal patterns such as zebra stripes, whiskers and leopard spots. Typically most people get by just using eyeliner to create their “look,” but for the more ambitious face paint is a must and can be bought either online or in Dundee.

Bongo Ball is a great way for students to show off their creative side when it comes to fashion. Have fun with it. Bongo Ball is always one of the highlights of the year and should promise to be a great night out.


    • Yeah, it’s outrageous. I for one will absolutely be boycotting it. Charity alone cannot justify the ridicule of a continent. Imagine going to a ‘european themed’ or ‘asia themed’ ball. It doesn’t make sense. Africa is a huge and diverse continent of a billion people, it cannot be reduced to a single identity. The iconography that bongo has peddled so far borders on obscene. What better way to portray africa than to pose with the zulu oxhide shield? (not to mention that the charity is working in Kenya+the DRC, places that are thousands of miles away from the origin of the ishlangu shield being used to promote the ball). And this ball isn’t helping alleviate the narrative that all Africans are poor and starving. But all these white rich st andreans will feel charitable and culturally enlightened because they pounded jager bombs in a warehouse, dressed as tribesmen and assorted animals. Great.


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