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Apr 21, 2014 09:37 AM

Jeans allowed?

It's been awhile since I lived in Manhattan. I'm planning a trip over the December holidays and want to take in a few great restaurants. Can I get away with wearing nice jeans with a collared shirt and jacket at places like Le Bernadin and Per Se? Or are they strictly verbotten?

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  1. im all for casual clothing but if they allow you to wear jeans at those restaurants, it doesnt necessarily mean that you should. you'll also look quite out of place.

    1. Sure you can wear jeans but you don't own any other pants? If you can afford to go to Per Se and own a jacket, get yourself a nice pair of slacks.

      12 Replies
        1. re: Bkeats

          Well, first of all, I'll be traveling - NYC is not my first destination, but a side trip - and I don't feel like packing a bunch of crap for a two-day stay. Second, as it turns out I don't own a lot of dress slacks because I live in Seattle, where you can go ANYWHERE in jeans. Third, because I'm not a short, fat man, trying to fiind dress slacks in my size (30/32-36) is virtually impossible. So, in truth, there are numerous challenges to my wearing dress slacks, which was my reason for the question in the first place!

          1. re: SeattleSam

            I live in Seattle too, I don't wear jeans a lot but you are correct. Def feel your pain on finding pants that fit right, I have a similar problem. Also didn't know it was a side trip, you would probably be fine wearing some nice dark jeans and a blazer or something.

            1. re: SeattleSam

              Uniqlo has same day free alterations my friend. Sometimes within an hour.

              1. re: Shirang

                Indeed. And also unlikely you'll need alterations, given that most of their stuff in indeed for taller, leaner guys in the first place. This is the land of tall, thin guys (my SO is one -- his APC jeans are a 26 waist!) so that's a pretty lame excuse. ;)

                1. re: loratliff

                  It might be a lame excuse if there were a Uniqlo in Seattle, which there is not. Perhaps you haven't been keeping up with the conversation.

                  1. re: SeattleSam

                    I'm just saying you could buy some slacks for 30 bucks, tailored within an hour from any of the manhattan locations, and make it to dinner. Eff it just show up in head to toe Julius or Issey Miyake and you should be fine.

                    1. re: Shirang

                      Miyake? Do you have reservations at The Quilted Giraffe or something? Grabbing a bite after the Mark Kostabi opening?

                  2. re: loratliff

                    hate to break the news to you but size 26 apc's are like a 30" waist.

                    1. re: sam1

                      More like 28", but last I checked, a 30" waist on a 6' tall guy is still pretty slim.

                      But I digress... I do *mostly* agree with sgordon that dark, nice jeans and a sport coat shouldn't be an issue if that's what you want to wear. I just wouldn't want to risk getting turned away because of that.

                2. re: SeattleSam

                  I'm not a short fat man either (and I don't know what that has to do with anything). I'm actually quite fit and trim and I own many pairs of dress slack and jeans. I have no idea why your size would be hard to fit. Most dress slacks I buy are unhemmed. You pick out a waist size, the cutter comes out and pins the slacks for fit. Come back later and pick them up or drop them off at your local tailor. Your size isn't unusual. I went recently on a trip to the French Caribbean. Took mostly shorts and T-shirts but I packed one pair of slacks and wore a jacket that I could use at some nicer places. Its not hard to do if you're willing to do it. One pair of pants doesn't take that much space but if you don't want to, you don't have to. I'd rather look like I belong where I am as opposed to have a sign pointing at me that says newbie.

                  1. re: SeattleSam

                    Well, you aren't going to be dining in Seattle so that isn't really relevant. I've been to Le Bernadine 4-5 times. I don't recall seeing anyone in jeans. I'm not sure its an issue, you might call or e-mail them. I think as long as you have a jacket and nice/dress jean I don't think they'll care.

                    As to the jacket requirement, I really don't care. I've always thought that its more a control issue with those who don't like the policy. But, people are free to vote with their wallets and not go to such places. But I've always thought that limits the fine dining options when it NYC. Other cities not so much.

                3. When we ate a le bernardin earlier this year i threatened (my wife) with showing up in just my down north face coat - no pants. as a native san franciscan i bristle at the idea of a dress code and would it not have caused the immediate end of my marriage would have relished the opportunity to get one over on them - if they feel the need to have a dress code, then it should be more comprehensive, i mean "jacket required" (in my eyes my down is a jacket, and thats all they said was required) leaves a lot of room.

                  in reality i think if you are someone who would consider going to one of these places in jeans you are unlikely to be somoene who will feel bad about "look[ing] out of place." you will not be denied service and if you feel ok, go with it.

                  1. Technically, they're "jacket required" - if your jeans are nice, it shouldn't matter as long as you've got a jacket on.

                    Personally, I'm with Tex - I basically refuse to go to any restaurant with a jacket requirement. A suggestion is fine, but a requirement - if I'm paying $200/pp for dinner, I'll take my money somewhere I can wear what I damn well please. It's an old-fashioned outdated concept that existed in Ye Olden Tymes to keep the "riff raff" out.

                    It also pushes the pretentious notion that it should be YOUR honor to eat their food, and you must come dressed for church. No, it should be THEIR honor to take my money.

                    There are some reasonable requirements, of course - men in sandals, no one wants to see or smell your stank-ass feet. That can actually affect others' dining pleasure. And no shorts I'm fine with, because they don't want to have to clean your leg hairs and thigh sweat off the seat after you leave.

                    But don't go buy new pants. As long as your jeans aren't torn up, and relatively dark, and you're not wearing them with gym sneaks, they'll look fine. Call them first to check, and if they say no just say, "That's cool, I'll go to EMP instead."

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: sgordon

                      Thanks! I appreciate the feedback!

                      1. re: sgordon

                        Actually sgordon i have somewhat the opposite opinion- i much prefer 'jacket required' to 'jacket preferred'.

                        For one, i disagree with you with the notion that 'jacket required' has anything to do with how the restaurant thinks you should 'feel lucky' to be there, and is all about the restaurant trying to create a certain atmosphere for everyone else in the room (this is not to say a restaurant can't be snooty, or that a dress code can encourage snooty behavior, it sure can).

                        I find the 'preferred' language just tends to end up encouraging a situation where people who take the time to dress up, and meet the dress code, end up feeling like the suckers. When people show up in jeans, it can ruin the vibe of the restaurant, and, you know, when you've dressed up, and are dropping $200 bucks, maybe you don't want to be seated next to some people dressed like schlubs?

                        In any event, i think that's at least as reasonable an argument as saying 'i'm spending my money on you so i can wear whatever i like': it's not about your relationship to the restaurant, it's about your relationship with other patrons.

                        that's not to say I'm against fine dining with casual wear (especially if that allows places to serve more customers, or have lower prices), and obviously the extent to which customers can influence the vibe of a room varies from place to place (eg say a chef's counter versus huge room with disparate seating areas).

                        But, ultimately, i just think if you're going to try and cultivate any sort of dress code, you need to at least have the nerve to enforce it: if any of your customers are going to have to feel awkward/unloved, it at least ought to be the ones who ignored your rules, not the ones trying to abide by them.

                        1. re: valcfield

                          Why would someone's clothing make -you- feel like a sucker? That makes no sense whatsoever to me.

                          I don't find it a reasonable argument. You're paying for a product and a service, not for the people next to you. Maybe they're dressed up nice but wearing a cheap cologne you don't like the smell of. Maybe there's a woman in a $4000 Armani Prive dress who uses that annoying "baby-talk" voice. There are lots of things that can distract from a meal, and I'd say clothing is way, way, way down on that list. It's far less distracting than sounds or aromas, in terms of it actually affecting your meal. Sounds and smells can't be avoided - but if you don't like the look of something, don't look at it.

                          I don't like dining next to social conservatives, personally. I'd find it far more offensive to be stuck next to, say, Sean Hannity than I would a guy in jeans and a sweater. Big deal.

                          If I'm dropping $200 on a meal, I don't care if the people next to me are shlubs. They're spending $200 too, I would hope they're comfortable and having a good time.

                          If you can't put them out of your head while you eat, if you're so easily distracted that someone's clothing choice is so powerful it can RUIN a meal for you, that's on you, not on the restaurant. I just find the jacket requirement an outdated relic, due for retirement.

                          And the industry, seemingly, does as well - how many new NYC restaurants have opened in the last decade or so that have them? I'm not sure I can think of a single one. Does Carbone? (Granted, they're intentionally kitschy, so it's a bit different...)

                          1. re: sgordon

                            The same way you feel like a sucker anytime there's a social norm that we all abide to create a shared value experience, and then someone free rides/breaks that norm, devaluing it for everyone?

                            I agree with you that all your examples can be just as bad a violation of social norms. In some of those cases (loud/disruptive talk), i'd expect the restaurant to intervene, for the sake of other customers. In other of your examples,(like perfume) i recognize there's just no good way of monitoring it.

                            But the fact that people can find ways to ruin a good experience doesn't mean we should allow them to exploit every possible way of doing so... dress code happens to be an easily enforceable, well-established norm, should the restaurant choose to have one.

                            Certainly- most restaurants realize that the current climate is about food not ambiance, and i'm all for that.

                            But when a restaurant has dropped the money to create the ambiance, train the service, and set the norm for clients that what they *want* is formal, then if you *choose* to go there, I think it's reasonable to expect you'll abide by those rules. No one is forcing you to eat there.

                            If you were at an expensive Japanese restaurant that used tatami, would you feel entitled to demand a chair and table just because you were dropping coin?

                            I don't see a fundamental difference here; restaurants have the ability to set their culture/experience. I don't think "i paid for it" gives you the right to do whatever you want; your money is just one of the terms of the implicit social contract you agree to when going out to eat/another lifestyle event.

                            also maybe shocking: I expect people to dress up to go to the opera, or theatre (where it's expected) as well, even though they're dropping lots of money to do it!

                            As for places that actually say required, only one i can think of right now is bk fare, which used to say just business dress, but now specifically says jacket required- and i imagine it's for precisely my comment above: this puts a clear enforceable line of what's expected, as opposed to non-enforceable, non-descriptive advice on what to wear.

                            I also think dress code makes sense at small counter like that, where any violation of social norms is most likely to be noticeable/distracting to guests.

                            1. re: valcfield

                              Of course it's quite different than the tatami-mat example. In that case, you are asking the establishment to provide you with something they do not have. A more comparable question would be, should that restaurant require all diners to show up in formal kimono?

                              "The same way you feel like a sucker anytime there's a social norm that we all abide to create a shared value experience, and then someone free rides/breaks that norm, devaluing it for everyone?"

                              I guess the difference is that, a.) I accept that it is not, in fact, a shared value or a societal norm, but rather an individual's personal values and preferences (I mean, this very thread would be proof that said value is not shared by everyone) and b.) it's not like the kitchen is leaving off the truffles or plating haphazardly or serving you Trader Joe's wine they've decanted into expensive bottles just because your neighbor is wearing jeans, so how said jeans are "devaluing" your meal I'm just not getting.

                              How are they free-riding? They're paying the same price you and everyone else in the restaurant is. You are, essentially, saying your comfort level is more important than theirs.

                              It's kind of like how aforementioned social conservative feel that if their gay neighbors get married it ruins their heterosexual one. Of course it doesn't. It doesn't affect their marriage all. It didn't kill their lawn or devalue their house (actually, it probably increased the value of their house...)

                              And just so, nor should someone's jeans affect your meal. As I said, that's kind of on you if it has such a marked effect as to RUIN it. A rat or a cockroach can -ruin- a meal. But that seems a bit of an overreaction to an innocent piece of fabric.

                              No one has said people should just go ahead defy the house and go to Daniel or wherever in jeans and a t-shirt. Every restaurant has the ability to set their rules, and "I paid for it" is not a reason to flaunt the house rules - has anyone in this thread actually suggested doing that? I don't imagine one even -can- flaunt them, I suspect the Daniels and Jean-Georges and Brooklyn Fares wouldn't even let you into the house TO pay for it.

                              But that said, if "everyone is dressed like me" is a requirement for you to be able to enjoy your meal - I mean, I don't get it, but whatever - fine, only go to those places where you'll never risk having your sight blighted by denim. That's cool.

                              But if you go to an EMP or Del Posto or Bouley(?) or wherever that doesn't have a strict requirement and someone's sitting next to you in jeans - y'know, you knew what the risk was, so get over it. Enjoy your meal. They are.

                              1. re: sgordon

                                A restaurant works on its decor and art work and the atmosphere they provide. The others dining there are part of it... whether you think so or not. If they have a rule you don't like... don't eat there. It is their establishment and they made a choice to exclude the denim clad jacket less diner that is their right. It is your right to take your $200 elsewhere. It is not sensible to know the rules and complain... just go where they like your money better. And it is not like social conservatives (unless they talk too loud with their opinions) It is not part of the environment.. or at least not part we complain loudly about. Some people like casual places and don't want to be in a bar or restaurant with "suit monkeys"... and they can go to places where everyon e is casual.

                                1. re: dyrewolf

                                  "It is their establishment and they made a choice to exclude the denim clad jacket less diner that is their right. It is your right to take your $200 elsewhere."

                                  That's exactly what I've said. No argument there.

                                2. re: sgordon

                                  So i think you have a lot of good points in here, and the scope of disagreement is small.

                                  to start at the bottom- i suppose i took it as advice to flaunt rules when, if someone really does say "jacket required", you're advising someone to wear jeans because jeans weren't specifically mentioned (i think it's pretty obvious from 'jacket required', especially, as you point out, how rare that code is, that it means slacks, not jeans, are also required). but, that said, i'm glad we agree on the fact that restaurants have the ability to set house rules.

                                  Good point on the kimono distinction, it is different when you require something out of the restaurant, though i still think both come down to variations of how much you're willing to say the restaurant should bend to you (but as you said, we agree on house rules).

                                  that said, i think a better analogy (and, oddly, i think this came up in another CH thread), if your friend says they're throwing a costume party, and asks that you please only come if you're wearing a costume, then, you know, it's kind of rude to show up not dressed. and the reason is, there *is* a good to everyone doing it together, and it is kind of ruined by people deciding not to be a part of that.

                                  this comes to

                                  2. your main argument seems to be that, unlike loud/obnoxious people, or smelly feet (which was a hilarious example, btw), clothes shouldn't affect my experience, and restaurants that have that policy are there just to 'keep the riff raff out', and that's something i disagree with.

                                  I do agree that, on its own, someone's dress has little impact on your experience. and, to be clear, personally, i think i've almost never been bothered by someone's dress per se (because yea, i do focus on the food). but that said, two points:

                                  a. at the same time, i do get why, when people spend $200 or whatever on a meal, they want to feel fancy, be in a fancy looking place, and not have that vibe interrupted. maybe it's their one big meal out. maybe it's an anniversary. but yeah, ultimately, even then, you're right it's a small interruption.

                                  b. what i do think it is more about is, when you set a dress code, it's also implicitly signaling to people what the environment is, and how you want people to behave. when people are dressed up, i think it has the influence of tamping down the loud/obnoxious talking, and other interrupting behaviors. we get that, when something is formal, we should be more mindful of those around us. In that sense, i think dress codes do promote a certain kind of environment that, if that's what you came here for, you're going to be pretty upset if the place doesn't deliver. In that sense, does one person not dressed well ruin that? No, of course not, but i do get that, without a required dress code, you run the risk of losing that environment as a whole.

                                  Which comes back to my original point that, by having a dress code, i don't think restaurants are inherently trying to act snooty/tell you you're so lucky to be there; they're doing it as a service to the clientele as a whole.

                                  as a result, also from my original point, i think 'preferred' actually ends up often causing more anxiety, and more snootiness, than 'required' does: when something is 'preferred', i think that runs the risk of the restaurant selectively enforcing dress code (in order to be snooty) based on subjective judgment calls.

                                  required sets a fair expectation for everyone, and also greatly reduces anxiety of being over/underdressed, or needing to go online to determine what's the appropriate way to show up.

                              2. re: sgordon

                                nothing takes away from a great meal like that feeling that there just isnt enough atrocious plastic surgery in the room . . .oh wait.

                          2. NY has many fine clothing stores (and many tall thin people who frequent them)...regardless of where you choose to dine, perhaps your sidetrip could yield a non-jean pair of pants...

                            re: question, i wouldnt recommend going to either of those restaurants in jeans, though jeans and a blazer would be fine at most places in nyc