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Formal jacket and tie places -- love 'em or loathe 'em?

I was reading one of these new New York restaurant blogs the other day -- you know, the ones that have sprung up faster than toadstools after the rain -- and the author, Danyelle Freeman, praised a high-end place that discouraged jacket and tie. "We are a generation of casual diners," she said, "bred to enjoy good food in a relaxed setting... old world regulations just don't work in this millenium."

Now no one who sees me seven days a week will ever mistake me for Felix Unger , and indeed I've been offered leftover food as I stand outside my apartment building cadging a smoke. But about once a week or so, I feel the need to put on a shirt and spiffy tie, and grab a jacket from the coatrack, a jacket for which -- and never you mind how and where I got it -- SOMEBODY paid three thousand dollars, a jacket which whispers quiet elegance. And then I head to one of those posh places, a dying breed in New York, but you can still find 'em, where the headwaiter knows the difference between a Zegna and a Huntsman and a Brioni, and he gives me that subtle look that says, ah yes, YOU belong. And then the stately procession of waiters, as choreographed and formal as a minuet in a king's ballroom, come like kings bearing tribute to my table. It's over all too soon, only an hour or so, but for that brief shining space of time I've traveled far far away from the gritty New York streets and been a part of a purer, golden world, and when I emerge from that space I feel cosseted and validated and loved.

In short, I love those formal jacket and tie places. What about you? Do you love them.... or loathe them?

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  1. Love 'em. If one can't be comfortable and relaxed while wearing a jacket and tie it's time to change tailors.

    1. I love em -- we don't go all the time, but they're a special place -- I do love that feeling you take out to the world with you, after emerging from one of these cocoons. And agree the service choreography in places where a suit & tie is required is a joy to be part of. After our 4 hour lunch at Taillevent, I felt like I'd been out for both a meal and a show.

      1. I think Danyelle Freeman needs to dine at this new place called "As Far Away From Me As Possible."

        A special occasion visit to a restaurant is no longer special when everyone is wearing flipflops, barking on cellphones, chasing screaming children around, or have no concept of personal hygiene. There's no shortage of places that serve great food in a casual atmosphere. If anything, we need MORE "old world regulations," and fewer smug navel-gazing pronouncements from the trained seals of the tastemaking establishment.

        1 Reply
        1. There's a time and a place for everything. I wear a jacket and tie to work just about every day (fridays are casual- so no jacket, but still a tie). There are times to be appropriately dressed to eat out and there are times when it's ok not to be. I can't imagine someone discouraging someone from wearing a jacket and tie from work. As a matter of fact I think I'd find that kind of offensive.

          1. Right on, right on, y'all! Although I would add that someone dressed like a grownup but without need of a tie (turtleneck, ascot, etc.) is just fine. It's not about fashion, it's about pride.

            I just wish there were more dress-fine places to go on a lower $$$ scale. Not dressing like a jumbo toddler or teenslut doesn't equal billionaire budget.

            1. I rarely if ever go to such places, but I think they're important to have. It's good to know there are places like that you *could* go to, if a special enough occasion came along.

              1. Sorry, but I loathe them. One of our favorite restaurants is as the top of the price range, at least here in my hometown, ($75pp) and we always go in jeans or khakis. Dressing in a suit and tie just isn't what I enjoy.

                1. I'm with Rick. After years of wearing suits to work (and taking off the jacket the minute I arrived and not putting it back on until the minute I left), my corporate milieu moved to permanent "business casual" and I could finally 86 the tie - perhaps the single stupidest piece of clothing ever invented ("I need to be sharp today - hey, I'll just put a tourniquet around my neck!").

                  People in restaurants of decent quality and better (and that's most restaurants) should be neat, clean, and courteous to both staff and other patrons (e.g., mind the noise level and if your kids can't behave, go to Burger King). Beyond that, wearing the vestiges of Victorian men's wear is fine for those who still like to play dress-up, but requiring it of all patrons is snobby nonsense.

                  1. A man in a jacket & tie is a heart melter
                    Love em!

                    1. To me, the way people dress is an integral part of the decor of any restaurant. If you judge a restaurant at all by its appearance, you will likely care about whether its patrons compliment and/or complement it. So if a restaurant is elegant, I see no reason for customers not to dress likewise - or to resent being asked to dress accordingly. On the other hand, if a restaurant is hip and funky, the suit and tie may look ridiculously inappropriate. So IMHO the degree of attire formality shouldn't necessarily be as much a reflection of the menu prices as the atmosphere of the particular place.

                      1. I think it may be a throwback to when husband and I were younger, but I find getting "dressed up" to go to dinner makes the event special.aside from putting us on our best behavior. Those special occasion restaurants,where coat and tie are recommended, provide the atmosphere for a dining experience away from the cell phone, noise, and rushed service. I don't think it as much pretension as a desire to get back to a more genteel time.

                        1. There's a reason the good sisters required us to wear neat, clean uniforms to school every day: people tend to live up to the way they are dressed. Flip flops and blue jeans do not belong in church or fine dining establishments. But I know I'm a dying breed.

                          1. I purposely avoid jacket-and-tie places. Which is pretty easy to do in L.A.--most upscale restaurants do not require a jacket and tie here, although there are a couple of holdouts. Basically, to me the food is central to the experience, and when I am eating great food I I just want to be comfortable so that I can focus on the experience. And my husband, who wears jeans and t-shirts to his work, simply is not comfortable in a jacket and tie. That doesn't mean that we are going to nice restaurants wearing jeans and flip-flops. There is a whole range of options between jeans and flip-flops and jacket and tie. We generally wear nice clothes that blend in fine (he might wear khakis and a button-down shirt, and I might wear a skirt and sweater). If someone else wants to dress up, that is totally fine with me, but I really don't think our lack of fancier clothes is ruining anyone else's dining experience. So basically, I am pro appropriate attire, but anti jacket and tie.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: Nicole

                              I agree--business casual is fine but if I have to put on pantyhose and high heels that hurt my feet, especially in this cold weather, I won't go. I don't know why people would be offended if I wore a nice pant suit, instead of a dress, but apparently some are. Does a man wearing a coat and tie vs. a suit ruin the atmosphere?

                              1. re: chowser

                                Funny, as much as I love dressing for dinner, isn't a _requirement_ of stockings and heels antiquated? Tights, flats, slacks -- why not? Same goes for a coat and tie versus a suit.

                                I think the problem with "jacket and tie" is that maybe nowadays an actual jacket and tie is not what's in question, but it's a way of saying something clearly and briefly. It would be nice if someone could invent a catchy way to say "please no jeans, flip flops, sneakers, baseball caps, T-shirts....and I don't want to see your *ss-crack tattoo."

                                1. re: Up With Olives

                                  ain't it sad that even a jacket & tie doesn't protect us from the *ss-crack tattoo.

                                  weird the imbalance between men & women's requirements -- I have never ever seen a restaurant require hose & heels, even in places that still have the no-prices-on-the-lady's-menu thing going on.

                                  1. re: Up With Olives

                                    if and when asked, a lot of places will say "casual elegance", or "business attire."

                                    and here in boston, several restaurants at last allowed women to wear slacks. but only in the last 10 years. famous anecdote of the ritz-carlton not allowing the mayor to enter the bar because he was wearing a windbreaker.

                                    btw, that crack-tattoo can also be called a "tramp-stamp". lol.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      so there are actually restaurants that say "women must wear skirts"?!

                                      1. re: orangewasabi

                                        Not in years, I think. Back in the mid-60's when ultra-minis were all the rage and pant suits were just coming into vogue, I was living in England. All of the posh restaurants forbade women to wear pants. A group of upper-crust young people showed up at one such establishment for dinner and were refused entrance because one of the females was wearing a pants suit. With great panache, she removed the pants, leaving her wearing a very short mini, indeed. They were admitted.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          Women are still not allowed to walk thru a hotel lobby wearing a bathing suit, in some cases even with coverup or towel.

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Well, I've seen men walk thru a lobby with an open Hawaiian shirt and pass a bathing trunk off as shorts...so there is a difference/tolerance.

                                            2. re: HillJ

                                              but apparently women can walk into the pied piper bar in san francisco's palace hotel wearing only a bath robe. barkeep was a little surprised. so was my wife. i guess they just wanted two glasses of wine before heading to the spa. offense? no. goofy? yes.

                                            3. re: pikawicca

                                              it was mid- to late-80s when locke-ober and the ritz relaxed their no trousers rule for ladies.

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                I've read that item, but it was about sock-it-to-me girl Judy Carne, at the 21 Club in NYC.

                                        2. re: chowser

                                          I've never been to a restaurant that wouldn't allow a woman to wear a nice pant suit.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            Not restaurant dictated but I have read/heard some people say they are offended when the woman isn't in a dress when the man is in a coat and tie. Similarly when a man is in a tux, the woman must be in a gown and not a cocktail dress. That's the problem w/ going by other's aesthetics. Who's to judge? What if someone has a problem with others wearing white after Labor Day?

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              I see. I've heard that as well for certain social functions. Luckily, I don't go to those types of functions very often.

                                      2. Love jacket and tie places....for special occasions I love dressing for dinner and getting out my heels and long skirt, etc.

                                        1. I enjoy dressing up when the mood strikes or the occasion warrants, but I loathe dress codes. No matter what I'm wearing, I'd prefer not to eat in an establishment where a person would be turned away for lack of a tie or for wearing jeans, tennis shoes, etc.

                                          1. I'm not sure if some of the replies above are entirely serious or somewhat facetious ...
                                            "time to change tailors"? Gee, only bespoke will do?

                                            But taking things at face value ...

                                            I think there is something to the position "if you arent prepared to tip 20% on the $500 bottle
                                            of wine, dont order it", but obviously it's not reasonable to say "if you want really good service
                                            when you go out, find a $3000 jacket." It's sort of a weird form of a Pecuniary Externality


                                            Does the better treatment in a Brioni really happen? I suppose it's hardly surprising
                                            given the incetive system ... just like the salesperson at Barney's may be especially
                                            fawning to the woman with the $20,000 watch. But it's kinda lamentable ... especially
                                            given the more affluent individual probably 1. eats fancy often 2. dining fancy has
                                            lower opportunity cost [the guy in the Armani is probably not deciding to forgo cable TV
                                            so he has an extra $60/mo for dining nice] -> it's not really that special of an event for him.
                                            Compare to a person who does some scrimping and saving for a special meal and arrives
                                            in a "respectable cloth coat" instead of a mink ... it's probaby more of a special occasion
                                            for this person.

                                            Again it happens for sure ... do you get judged by your clothes, car, etc when you walk into
                                            a nice store, pull up at a hotel entrance etc. Of course. Those institutions dont even make a
                                            pretense toward equal treatment , as might a court of law or an emergency room.
                                            And of course luxe restaurants more more like Barney's and the Ritz than Chicago Hope
                                            or the Alameda County Superior Court, but I still think there is something a bit classist and
                                            crass about and unfair amout this.

                                            BTW, I own like +80 ties but have gone to work with fairly large amounts of blood on
                                            my jeans [this wasnt that big a deal until it came up in conversation whose blood was it
                                            and I wasnt actually sure], so along with the Original Poster, I play at both ends of the
                                            sartorial spectrum too. So it's not a knee jerk California attitude:

                                            speaking of which ...
                                            I am a little curious if any tip/commision based people out here have "recalibrated"
                                            how they size people up given that there are plenty of "high net worth" individuals
                                            out here driving priuses, wearing REI and North Face and $40 jeans, instead of couture.

                                            I have to say I was delightled when I rec'd excellent service at Boulevard [SF] after showing
                                            up in flipflops, shorts and a tshirt [no blood]. Althought after discussion with one of the people
                                            behind the bar, I did learn I was only tyhe 2nd worst dressed that day, the crown going to
                                            the lunch patron who arrived in the Budweiser King of Beers tshirt ... rats, next time, my ~20
                                            year old barely hanging together The Who Kids Are Alright concert tshirt.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: psb

                                              We'd like to think we're a more egalitarian society but it's still extremely prevalent, though I've found much less so in California. Have you read Ruth Riechle's Garlic and Sapphire? Eye opening. My friend with the three carat diamond ring gets incredible service when she goes shopping.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                >I've found much less so in California.
                                                well again i am wondering if it is because "people in CA are different"
                                                or because having NY standards in CA is irrational. i.e. plenty of millionaires here
                                                wear $300 gortex jackets and $200 suunto watches ... rather than bespoke suits
                                                and expensive and philippe patek on the write ... so salespeople and others
                                                ignore them at their peril.

                                                >Have you read Ruth Riechle's Garlic and Sapphire?
                                                yes, i have and i know what episodes you refer to.
                                                i thought to mention it, but the post was long enough.

                                                >My friend with the three carat diamond ring
                                                >gets incredible service when she goes shopping.
                                                I always though there should be a market for low quality but large
                                                diamonds [or even fakes ... maybe the maitre d' can tell a kiton suit
                                                at 10 paces, but can the nordstrom "show person" tell a diamon from
                                                a diamel without measuring the index of refraction?]

                                                1. re: psb

                                                  A maitre d' at one of these restaurants once told me why the people working there liked me, and it wasn't what I wore. He said, most of the people we see here come to talk business, or to impress their friends and colleagues with how much money they can spend. They barely notice what they are eating. But YOU *really* care about the food.

                                                  There are three restaurants in NY where I've gone on several occasions, once dressed in a Zegna jacket and once dressed either in Brioni or in something custom made in London and got noticeably better treatment the second time. But most high end places will give that "person who does some scrimping and saving for a special meal and arrives in a 'respectable cloth coat' " a far more enthusiastic welcome than they will give a whining, boorish celebrity whose clothes cost more than some small country's GNP.

                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                    My bf & I sometimes get Friends & Family discount at the most expensive restaurant we go to - to be fair, it's in California, not very expensive, and there's no dress code. But we are almost always [and obviously] the poorest people in there.... and probably the biggest tippers, since we know what it's like to have to work hard to make ends meet!

                                                    I love those scenes in Garlic & Sapphires, btw! Popped into my head upon reading this thread.

                                            2. i like getting dressed, and often will wear a skirt and heels even to more casual places. my mother always said it's better to be a bit overdressed. and yes, i like a man in a suit. a coat and tie is ok for someplace less fancy. at the bare minimum pressed khakis and a button down shirt.

                                              people seem to confuse the lack of a dress code with the license to wear baseball caps indoors and flip-flops to the ritz. if i wear it to mow the lawn, i'm not wearing it to dinner out.

                                              i understand people want to be comfortable, but i think one should show a certain amount of respect both to one's surroundings and to other guests.

                                              1. This one's a funny thread for this desert rat to read, since we don't really *have* jacket-and-tie places. As far as I know, the only place in town that was jackets required, Mary Elaine's at The Phoenician resort, recently went to jackets recommended. At most places, instead of Huntsman and Brioni, it's Reyn Spooner and Tommy Bahama tropical print silk shirts when the well-heeled folk from north Scottsdale go out to dine.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                  You know, despite my distaste for the suit and tie thing, I wouldn't have a problem dining at a place that required all men to wear Hawaiian shirts. :)

                                                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                    It seems that there is often more emphasis on labels and prices than the actual garment.

                                                  2. Same here, we don't really have places where jacket and ties are required. There are formal dining places and I love going to them for the food. But they won't throw you out because of what you're wearing. I usually go wearing my comfy clothes.

                                                    Blog: http://foodlava.com/blog/

                                                    1. I have been to many formal dining establishments, and at every single one, the emphasis has been more on the formal than the dining. The food may have been very good, but never worth the trouble of putting on what my lawyer uncle would refer to as a 'sue the b*st*rd' outfit.

                                                      These days, it is easy enough to check out a restaurant before visiting to see what the dress 'requirements' are. At any place that requires attire in which I will not be comfortable, you will not see me. But fret not; I will be enjoying a wonderful meal elsewhere.

                                                      All other things being equal, I find the notion of dressing to impress a head waiter to be hysterical.

                                                      1. Love them. As others have noted, it makes a special occasion that much more so. Plus, I always enjoy dressing myself up and have lots of lovely clothes well suited to such settings.

                                                        My parents started taking us out to dinner at a relatively early age and we associated the appropriate clothes and manners with the exciting and joyous experience of dining out. They were young and not particularly well off, so I know it was a conscious decision on their part and not a matter of convenience. I have to give them a lot of credit for that, because as an adult I never experienced the discomfort in a formal setting that so many others seem to have.

                                                        1. Love them AND loathe them. Love them for myself, because I love to dress up, and lament the current trend toward dressing down, not only for dinner, but for church, concerts, weddings, etc.

                                                          Loathe them because my husband hates to wear a jacket and it keeps me from going to some restaurants. Also loathe them because of my individualist values...I think people should be allowed to make their own choices about such things. It really got on my nerves that a place like Alinea, all uber-edgey, made my husband wear a jacket.

                                                          So...a lot of times we go out and I'm in a black cocktail dress and my husband is wearing a polo shirt. Like I said...individual choices.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: danna

                                                            Alinea makes you wear jackets??? You should take an old jacket, freeze it until brittle, burn it and catch the smoke in a box. Then when you get to the restaurant, open the box and let the fragrance waft out. They do this with food, they should let you in.

                                                            1. re: Brian S

                                                              No, no, no. Emulsify and foam the Jacket. Come now. Let's not be impractical.

                                                              1. re: Brian S

                                                                HAHAHAHA! Love it. As will my husband.

                                                            2. After eight years of business casual I now have offices in NYC and Fairfield County and when in NY I wear a tie. It took a little getting used to, but I’m in full swing again.

                                                              Whenever M&M Jfood go out, I’m normally ready first and watching the news. Mrs Jfood comes down all dolled up and suggests (in other words tells me) to go upstairs and change into A,B,C. Since she is ALWAYS right on what I should wear, I do a little b&tching and moaning and up I go to change.

                                                              There are times when the resto feels like it should be a tie place and other times it does not. Wearing a jacket always bothers me and I am usually the one who is first off and onto the back of the chairs. All the husbands follow suit (no pun intended). What is a godsend about the jacket-required places is the lack of unruly kids and babies. Rarely do you have your conversation interrupted by a screaming baby or unruly child (usually while parents ignore the blast or say, “oh isn’t little Tommy cute?”). Sorry, he is not.

                                                              Usually I am a slacks and long sleeve shirt Saturday dinner outing. Most of the husbands we go out with are similarly dressed. Waiters’ outfits range from black shirt and black slacks to tuxedo. Irrespective of their attire, they normally treat us very well and I notice no difference in service. And I couldn’t care less what the maitre d’, host(ess) or waitstaff think. As long as they do their jobs and the chef is on, I’m good.

                                                              If a resto wants to have a jacket-required policy, it’s their establishment. They choose the décor, the menu, the prices, the china, etc. If I do not want to don a sports coat that evening, I’ll go elsewhere, or wear one of the 48 longs they have in the closet and I’m a 40 regular, quite a site.

                                                              Once again, Life’s too short to worry about this one.

                                                              12 Replies
                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                Ah, the house jacket. Many years ago, when it was the place of fabled memory, I went to meet someone for lunch at the Russian Tea Room in NYC. Unfortunately, my companion had neglected to inform me (and I didn't know) that it was a jacket-required restaurant. Well, I was certainly neatly garbed, but had no jacket. No problem! The maitre d' sent me to the cloakroom where a jacket was provided for my use.

                                                                It didn't match anything I was wearing, and was about the size of the "big coat" David Byrne wore in his Talking Head days. The net effect was ludicrous; I looked like a clown in search of the Moscow Circus - but it magically made me a fit dining room companion for the assembled glitterati, even though I would have looked far better without it.

                                                                Being clean and neat when you go out to some place with more pretensions than a diner - sure, that's just common courtesy (and that's not to say that slovenly or dirty attire should be acceptable at a diner, either) - but this sort of thing is just silly, a relic of Elizabethan sumptuary laws and a "class"-driven approach to life.

                                                                1. re: Striver

                                                                  I have worn that very jacket and at 5'8" looked perfect at the RTR as someone from the wrong side of the gulag. I walked up to my table wher the in-laws were sitting and said "how do i look?" We had a good laugh and a great meal.

                                                                  One of those "whatcha gonna do" moments.

                                                                  1. re: Striver

                                                                    About a dozen or so years ago, I donned the house jacket at the bar of NY's renowned Rainbow Room. (Yes, quite unexpectedly, even just the bar - which is a completely separate, segregated area from the Rainbow Room restaurant - required a sports coat.) The monstrosity was so oversized that I had to roll up the sleeves just to hold my drink, exposing the stained garish lining inside. Not only did the jacket not fit properly, but it was some cheap, ugly, brown plaid thing. It almost seemed to have been selected in order to chastise and humiliatingly "put me in my place" in front of the other patrons. As someone who respects and appreciates dress codes, I honestly think it might have been better if they had just turned me away and told me to go elsewhere. But my companions and I did get a good, memorable laugh out of the senseless, counterproductive absurdity of the whole episode.

                                                                    1. re: Striver

                                                                      We were turned away from a restuarant once because my husband was wearing khaki shorts. (a country inn in North Carolina in August..come on) Too bad they didn't have "house trousers".

                                                                      On a side note, I have worn the "house skirt" at Bob Jones University's stunning museum of Renaissance Art. That was interesting.

                                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                                      The issue in our house is whether or not my husband decides to wear a jacket, because, in his world, once the jacket is donned, it is not to be removed, under any circumstance, once he has exited the apartment. I'm not sure where this "rule" came from, but it is very fixed in his mind, and often commented upon at weddings etc. by him. After twelve years of marriage, I still sometimes say, "Why not wear the jacket and, if no one else is wearing one, you can take it off?" Then, I get the look.

                                                                      One thing that I do not understand, is a tie without a jacket. Strikes me as awfully peculiar.

                                                                      1. re: MMRuth


                                                                        you and mrs jfood are twin daughters of different mothers and jfood and your DH are polar opposites.

                                                                        The first thing jfood notices when he enters a restaurant wearing a jacket is whether others are still wearing theirs or can he drape it on the back of the chair. The only difference between the two is in the former jfood is a member of a group and the latter, jfood is a trend setter.

                                                                        Only once has the MOD approached jfood to please wear the jacket and jfood complied. if that's the rules of engagement then jfood goes with the flow if he wants to enjoy.

                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                          howdy mmruth,
                                                                          a new york moment: sydney pollack had a table at le bernardin. he was there with four or so guests. deb and i were there at a two-top. he had on a jacket (required) but no tie. i had a jacket and a striped tie. he looked at me, i looked at him and he grabbed his throat.
                                                                          he will be missed.

                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                            I'll bet he's hiding caviar in the jacket. ; )

                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                Sorry, Needle, didn't see your post. But we did think of exactly the same thing.

                                                                              2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                He needs the jacket pocket to keep the can of caviar.

                                                                            1. I went to an upscale resteraunt last night and there were people in Tennis shoes and jeans, a little disapointing.

                                                                              With friends, playing golf at the Tijuana Countryu Club, we wanted to go out for a nice lunch in Tijuana, when we got to the resteraunt, they did not want to seat us, because of our lack of jacket and tie, our friend knew the maitre'de, after a lot of discussion, they agreed to seat us behind a curtain.

                                                                              We still talk about it, having to be hidden, and it was a great meal.

                                                                              1. Do I love them? No. I don't love them.

                                                                                Do I love places that have no dress code? No. I don't love them.

                                                                                Sometimes I like dressing up -- I have a tie on right now, in point of fact, despite the fact that I don't have to -- and sometimes I just want to go in neat (fashionable) jeans and a tucked-in shirt.

                                                                                We don't have many jacket-and-tie-required places in L.A. I don't know if I've ever been to one -- but I know I've felt more comfortable in a jacket and tie in certain places.

                                                                                I'll tell you this -- when you wear a suit and tie, people do treat you differently, and I've actually had people approach me on the street (for directions, for where the nearest drugstore is, etc.) and tell me they asked me because I'm "safe" -- obviously a professional man. I'm not sure what to make of that -- but read this thread in a tie and see how you feel.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                  I am and just did, and felt you were very creadible.

                                                                                2. Eek, this thread is pushing my buttons.

                                                                                  I personally take a lot of pride in dressing appropriately and well. But lots of people I know and respect don't. Upshot: to each his own. I want to dress in a way that pleases me, and I'm totally willing to extend others that same courtesy.

                                                                                  This thread reminds me of my husband's and my first date, back when we were 21. He took me to dinner at our city's highest-end restaurant, which required jackets. Post-apps and pre-mains, my husband draped his over his chairback, which made our waiter tsk audibly. And in a hilariously insane moment, 10 minutes later, he (the waiter) 'tripped' and smashed an entire tray of eight wineglasses onto his (my now-husband's) head.

                                                                                  It was crazy - almost certainly not pre-meditated, but still not entirely an accident, if you follow me. (He clearly hadn't cottoned to my husband, who at the time was young and mildly saucy, with a Ziggy Stardust haircut, aww.) No-one came running, nothing was comped, and really, for a spectacular, loud and potentially very dangerous accident, the apology didn't seem too heartfelt.

                                                                                  I'd say that level of rudeness is far worse than, you know .. an excess of flip-flops :-)

                                                                                  1. If anything, we are not given enough options. Let's not kid ourselves - food is art, too. Are we just spectators or participants?

                                                                                    As I mentioned in another thread, I am not a middle of the spectrum person when it comes to restaurants. I prefer the high end. I prefer the low end. More often than not, food simply tastes better at these two extremes. Litmus test: can I possibly duplicate this food at home? The answer is more often no at these places.

                                                                                    I am happy to dress down, downright bummy, at low end restaurants. So comfortable, and no one says anything. Why do I feel like there is a pressure to dress the same way whether I am doing fine dining or having dinner at a safe, middle of the spectrum restaurant?

                                                                                    Americans loathe going all the way, especially up. We see virtue in moderation. Bobos (a David Brooks word) are sneaky when we splurge. God forbid, nothing shiny or overtly fancy looking. But I can’t help it – I love dressing up. Not often - perhaps for special occasions, and perhaps, just because... just because we are not lemmings. I like options - retro long white gloves, hats, elegant evening gowns. Style. I didn’t say designer labels, which I loathe. (Sorry, mom.) I have to say, it’s a real challenge getting quality no-name dresses. But there are good designers who are not famous, and a skilled tailor/dressmaker is a godsend

                                                                                    Now, since I don’t want to be selfish and make anyone uncomfortable (especially in San Francisco) My dresses have nowhere to go. They sleep in the closet. A shame.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: grocerytrekker

                                                                                      Wear them to those high-end restaurants! Go relatively early. And everyone will be secretly thinking, "the social event of the season! It must be tonight.. and we weren't invited!"

                                                                                    2. I really identify with your post – it’s not that I think all fine dining restaurants should require a jacket. As noted, the atmosphere at some places doesn’t call for it. In fact, if people could be counted on to dress appropriately, I wouldn’t mind eliminating dress codes altogether. The problem I have is that there is almost no place left, even the nicest places, where you can count on your fellow guests dressing appropriately – and while perhaps it should not matter to me, it certainly affects the ambience, and I start to feel silly in my pretty gown if the people around me are in shorts. There is only one place I can think of around here that requires a jacket – these days most places find it difficult enough to even keep patrons from showing up in sneakers and baseball caps. So why does it bother people so much that one place in a thousand doesn’t go along with the trend toward casual dress?

                                                                                      I suppose I get more frustrated than I should when this topic comes up, because the arguments I hear on the other side remind me all too much of the comments I heard from cousins who show up in jeans and t-shirts to family funerals and weddings.

                                                                                      1. Maybe those who are so personally offended by restaurant dress codes ought to step back and compare the situation to the traditional scene that shows up in pretty much every James Bond movie. The one in a casino. Where everyone is dressed to the hilt. In tuxedos and ball gowns. Just to play cards. With their own money.

                                                                                        Now, does every casino have a dress code? Not at all, but a very select few do. Isn't a dollar waged in the all-access main casino worth the same as a dollar in the more austere back room? Of course. But would those film scenes have the same atmosphere if anyone present was dressed in nice business casual? Wouldn't that throw off the ambiance of the whole room?

                                                                                        A restaurant with a dress code is the same. Either you get and appreciate that analogy or you don't. And if you don't, that's fine, but, like it or not, just like in a James Bond casino, your money may simply be no good there.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Arthur

                                                                                          I have a visceral reaction to this whole approach - because my boyfriend and I have very little money. We're passionate about food, and not about clothing. We shop at thrift shops, and scrimp and save to be able to eat excellent food (whether a $3 Vietnamese sandwich or a $15 bowl of beans) - I am grateful for what I view the appropriate emphasis that California cuisine places on food over schmanciness, since I literally do not have the clothing to fit into your casino scenario. If a restaurant looks at my old sweater and skirt and decides my money is no good, they can go f*** themselves.

                                                                                          1. re: eeblet

                                                                                            Eeblet, I feel you. If I'm clean, presentable, and well-behaved, that should be good enough. Every inch of my left coast, feminist and jeans & fleece wearing self wants to take a hot hot shower. And yet I keep reading. I suppose it's the train wreck syndrome.

                                                                                            This all just seems rather classist to me. And I don't wear a skirt when I go to court-- why the hell would I put one on to go to dinner?

                                                                                            On the other hand, I can't think of a restaurant I've been to in Washington or Oregon (my two most recent home states) where I would have felt uncomfortable walking into wearing jeans. So maybe this is a generational/geographical thing, too.

                                                                                            1. re: eeblet

                                                                                              FInd a fabulous 50's skirt and little cashmere cardigan, or a little black dress from Ragstock or Goodwill, and wear them with pride. That's what I did when I was a broke college student, and people always complimented me on my sense of style.

                                                                                              Now that I can afford relatively expensive clothing, much of it still looks vintage.

                                                                                              That's assuming that you want to be part of the casino scenario, which I happen to find fun. If you hate it, than ignore it and eat elsewhere.

                                                                                              1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                I don't think of the issue as classist but comfortist. It is all what you feel comfortable wearing when you dine. I need to feel comfortable when I eat and I am not comfortable in clothes that I need to dress up into for work or a formal event, I am always shucking my suit and loosening my tie. If you are comfortable in your clothes, your dining experience will benefit.....

                                                                                                1. re: jspear

                                                                                                  Yes, it's hard to enjoy a 9 course meal in a tight fitting dress and spanx. Some cocktail dresses are made for standing only. I'm sure I'd get called on this by the What Not to Wear people but I have a dress that's a size larger so I can enjoy my food.

                                                                                          2. Is anyone afraid of spilling or splashing something on your clothes?

                                                                                            We tend to eat immed after services and still have on suits, ties and skirts. I spend the entire meal checking my tie for stains.

                                                                                            1. The jacket and tie required, Formal attire requires and Jacket required and preferred rule have been replaced by business casual and all other casual type codes and one day it will all be casual. and even in New York City. Very few restaurants require jacket and tie. even those so called super clubs are all casual everywhere. Jacket and tie required will be obsolete if it isn't already

                                                                                              1. The one time in my life a waiter put a napkin on my lap, I almost punched him in the nads. I was 12 at the time, and age hadn't changed that reaction....

                                                                                                1. I think that Vetter's point re: regionalism has quite a bit of merit. It's not just CA that's so casual. After living in the NW and Colorado for the past 10 years, I cringe to think about how much I'd have to spend on clothes if I were to move away. That said, I do like to dress up occasionally but it doesn't have anything to do with the restaurant we go to - it's a conscious decision to do something different, feel pretty, wear that sexy lingerie underneath that dress. I resent allowing a restaurant to dictate what I can wear but I love making my husband step back and say "Wow". I also don't really care if the table next to me is wearing jeans. I'm not there to talk to them, I'm there to be on a date with my husband.
                                                                                                  Besides, we're all there for the food and/or company. Everything else is secondary.

                                                                                                  1. Hate 'em because they present a financial and social barrier to much of the population. If jackets and ties were de rigueur in Montreal restos, a guy would need at least two (summer and winter) or maybe three (summer, spring/fall and winter) ensembles (slacks, dress shirt, tie, jacket, coordinated shoes and belt) plus a trench/rain coat, a suit-jacket compatible winter coat, gloves, scarf and galoshes. This can easily add up to a couple of thousand dollars or far, far more. These days lots of men don't wear a suit to work, so if they bought one it would sit unused except for eating out in the occasional fancy restaurant. Can you say wasteful?

                                                                                                    You have to wonder if fancy dress codes aren't one of the moneyed class's ways of instituting silent discrimination, of making sure there are places where only people like them can go. If someone wants to argue that it's OK to refuse admittance to, say, a food-loving student who's scrimped and saved enough to treat himself to his first-ever meal in a three-star restaurant because he doesn't have a suit and tie to wear, let 'em do so. Shows us where their heart is.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: carswell

                                                                                                      "You have to wonder if fancy dress codes aren't one of the moneyed class's ways of instituting silent discrimination, of making sure there are places where only people like them can go."

                                                                                                      Historically, they are. For the upper classes, cultural practices (including dressing and food habits and even grooming practices) have always been tools of maintaining social distinction from the lower classes and instruments in exercising symbolic violence over them. Think the martini scene in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie where a bunch of upperclassmen poke fun at a poor chauffeur that *gasp* don't know how to enjoy a fine martini.

                                                                                                    2. With my Catholic school education, years in the business world & now living in FL, I have grown to detest ties. As another poster said...The most useless piece of clothing ever created.

                                                                                                      So I have a very simple rule regarding restaurants that require me to wear one. If they expect me to wear a tie, I expect their food & service to be extraordinary. Anything less and they haven't keep up their side of the bargain.

                                                                                                      1. I sometimes love to dress for dinner, but loathe it to be required. If I want to feel posh I can do so and what people around me are wearing has no bearing on my experience.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                          You're lucky then - for me the decor and atmosphere of a place have a definite effect on the dining experience, and my fellow diners are very much a part of that.

                                                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                                                            Decor and atmosphere are one thing. What others decide to wear is entirely different. If the food is good, I can easily leave a restaurant and have no idea what anyone around us looked like.

                                                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                              Same here! I only ever notice other diners if I have boring dinner company or the food is terrible. :)

                                                                                                        2. I like your post, the topic, and your erudite presentation of it. Somehow, while I am dining with a silk bow tie, gold fox-head cufflinks on an Egyptian cotton french-cuffed shirt or pleated tuxedo shirt, and a Harris tweed, cashmere, or satin-lapelled tuxedo, with a haircut and a shoeshine, I enjoy dinner more. I lean back further with a deeper belly -laugh during the pre-dinner martini, and likewise with the apre-dinner cognac. (We're running out of cigar rooms, but I am amply supplied with Cuba's best). And yes, service is more attentive. Now it is sadly only special occasions; 30 years ago it was more of a weekend de rigueur. Nice post, Brian S.

                                                                                                          1. what i find amazing is the conceit that there is no middle ground between tie-required and people having" no personal hygiene"

                                                                                                            now i can rock a jacket adn tie with the best of them, but it is not my preferred milieu.

                                                                                                            i like stylish. very much. but style changes over time.

                                                                                                            here in NYC it seem that the most snobbish places are not the A-list places, but the B-list. That is because that guy in the casual attire just might be the mutli-billionaire CEO who doesn't feel like dressing that day. It is only places with something to prove, these days, that have that better than thou attitude.

                                                                                                            I like a sleeker more modern appeal - they kind of place where a jacket and tie are not out of place, nor are they required with slavish devotion to antique norms of style.

                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                              We antiques recognize that you may be draped in the finest of GQ which we neglected to read because we're too busy reading "Cemeteries- R -Us". But I don't think that means conceit on our part. Inevitably you and I or our equivalents will dine side-by-side, and I would no more prefer to be thought of as "conceited" as you would be thought of as a virulent carrier of staph infection. Can't we all just get along? R.K.
                                                                                                              buen provecho :)

                                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                i said the norms, not the people are antiques. im way too close to 50 to call anyone an antique

                                                                                                                and in this case conceit did not refer to "an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability, importance, wit, etc." but the other meaning of conceit: " a fancy; whim; fanciful notion"

                                                                                                                so to recap i did not call anyone conceited or an antique, I stated that the notion there is no middle ground between a jacket and tie and what one poster described as a total lack of hygiene is fanciful, to put it nicely, and that the idea that one must dress in a manner considered proper a century ago to eat in a stylish or top quality restaurant might be outdated

                                                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                                                  I'll admit to being antique, but as to being normal, I take offense and I'll challenge you to a shot and a beer swill until the lesser man drops. I'll wear black tie, you wear black turtleneck.
                                                                                                                  Just jesting, of course, but stylish and dapper as you are, remember that "outdated" returns with a periodicity of low-orbit comets :)

                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                    oh i would never stoop so low as to call anyone normal
                                                                                                                    that's too low for even l'il ol' moi

                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                      thew, you stood up well to the acid test. My next trip back to the Apple, drinks are on me.

                                                                                                                  2. re: thew

                                                                                                                    In my business seeing a suit and tie says "salesman." Our CEO and upper management rarely wear them.

                                                                                                                    Fashion does change. I'm sure at one point there was just as loud an outcry over the fact that people refused to wear powdered wigs anymore.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JonParker

                                                                                                                      Interesting observation. Successful Texans wear golf shirts rather than buttoned up collared shirts with cravats, partly for the weather, and partly because... they are going to play golf. But they have a pressed tux and a silver and black houndstooth cummerbund and tie on the ready.
                                                                                                                      EDIT: I feel a bit awkward and defensive here, but in it's time, there was nothing wrong with it. Or now.

                                                                                                              2. throwing on a jacket and strapping on a tie can be a good thing. it's not a burden. i do it in manhattan, i do it in la and i do it in san francisco. new orleans, too. it's a reflex. been wearing jacket and tie since first grade. never been fond of the business casual stuff but i go along. still, let the record show that i'm always wearing ancient, salty boat shoes. i'm ambivalent on the sock thing.

                                                                                                                1. I was a long-haired thift store-attired student-grad student in the late 60s and early 70s. When I lived in Bolivia in the mid to late 70s, for everyday dress when I was in La Paz, I had a rack of fine, fully-tailored suits, cotton shirts, and fine ties. Fully tailor-made suits are as comfortable as jeans and tee-shirts. I can't buy and don't feel comfortable in off-the-rack and altered. Bolivia has guys who shine your shoes; and tailor made and the best of fabrics were not very expensive. In years in Asia, dressing well is a sign of respect. But it is also hot and humid in most places I worked. You kind of had to dress as pro golfers do (no, not the white pants and funny belts and shoes--but you know what I mean). Once I became a somewhat respected scientist, however, I've ended up wearing Wrangler blue jeans and Hanes black tee-shirts for just about everything. I can still slick up nicely, but my days of fine dining dressed to the nines with the elite of Bolivia are now just a memory.

                                                                                                                  1. Every now and then it's nice to dress for dinner....Whether it's black tie for the men or just a suit, and a lovely evening dress long or short for the women.....it lends a whole different aura to the evening and, I think, is very romantic. Those days don't have to be gone forever....

                                                                                                                    1. here in San Diego I can't think of a place that requires a coat and tie, maybe a coat but the one or two (about) such places are ones where I'd probably be wearing a coat. this likely has something to do with our weather and "laid back" attitudes and life styles. more generally speaking, I concur with the sentiments and opinions expressed by Carswell. that said, and not sure why but I do kind of have a Tony Soprano feeling about men wearing baseball-type caps in a nice restaurant...

                                                                                                                      1. Suits are for weddings and funerals... with that said, if a place wants to have a dress code, I'm all for it. I just won't go. For those that do, more power to them.

                                                                                                                        1. Well, I dont loathe them, but I also dont patronize them.

                                                                                                                          I have a closet full of $$$ suits at home (what my lawyer uncle calls "Sue the Bastard!" outfits), but they are as much of a costume on me as a red fright wig, clown-white makeup, and a rubber nose would be. I never wear them.

                                                                                                                          I have been around long enough that I have known people who routinely wear $1000 suits, $200 custom-made shirts, and $400 Italian shoes, and are completly vacuous both socially and intellectually. I have also know witty and intelligent geniuses who cant seem to ever find a pair of socks that match. For me, clothes tell me nothing about a person.

                                                                                                                          My clothes are always clean, without holes or frays (even stylish ones), and I never wear baseball caps or flip-flops. My clothes are also comforatble and casual. Any place or group of people that would not have me dressed comfortably is a place or group of people that I will not be joining. Just the thought of eating while wearing a necktie gives me the jimjams, and the experience would (and has) suck all the enjoyment out of the meal for me.

                                                                                                                          So if dressing for dinner is what floats your boat, enjoy! But I wont be joining you. The bottom line for me is that grownups dont tell other grownups how to dress.

                                                                                                                          1. Loathe them. I try to avoid basically anything that requires me to dress up, restaurants included. I don't understand why busybodies worry what the people around them are wearing - if you don't like it, just don't look at them.

                                                                                                                            OTOH, it is the restaurant owner's decision, so its really whatever they want to do - but they won't be getting my money.

                                                                                                                            1. When the OP refers to a "formal jacket & tie" place, is this a reference to somewhere simply formal or to somewhere that actually requires a man to wear a jacket & tie. If the former, then I have no problem with formality in service and the need to dress smartly ("proper" shirt and trousers).

                                                                                                                              If, however, the latter, then I can't really answer. I struggle to think of anywhere in the UK apart from restaurants in a couple of the the stuffier hotels like the Savoy, that require jacket & tie these days. And there's only a couple of country's top rated restaurants, like Gavroche, that still require them. Such an old fashioned concept.


                                                                                                                                1. re: jspear

                                                                                                                                  The one local place that required them is gone. I loved the place, the owner and his wife the chef.

                                                                                                                                  There hasn't been a place of their consistent caliber in every sense of the dining experience since they left, and as I don't expect there ever to be again, I'd have to say that I won't be getting gussied up any time soon.

                                                                                                                                  Vive le foreign-made Levis/Lees.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                                                                                                    What did what you were wearing have to do with any of the things that you mentioned about this resto?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jspear

                                                                                                                                      Their service, food and ambience befitted the required jacket and tie.

                                                                                                                                      None of the restaurants I've gone to since have come close to them in overall dining experience, so I for one am happy to see the relaxation in dress code.