No Jacket Required (An Anti Dress-Code Manifesto)

May 29, 2008 | By | COMMENTS


The man was a regular. He walked in confidently, with an air of entitlement about him. I’m not sure what he did for a living–was he a stock broker? An investment banker? A bestselling novelist?–whatever he was, it didn’t matter. He smacked of success; he glowed with accomplishment.

He moved briskly from the door to the maitre’d, an equally polished man who stood alongside an equally polished woman, there at the entrance to one of the city’s finest restaurants: Le Bernardin.

“Good afternoon, Monsieur,” said the maitre’d.

“How are you?” said the man in a deep, resounding voice, shaking the hand of the maitre’d. “I know I don’t have a reservation, but can you squeeze me in?”

The maitre’d carefully, but subtly, looked the man up and down. And the man, who possessed charisma and charm and a killer smile, lacked the one thing the maitre’d was looking for: a suit. The man was wearing shorts and an untucked buttoned-down shirt.

“I’m sorry, sir,” said the maitre’d. “Perhaps if you went home and changed?”

“Oh right,” said the man, laughing. “I’m not wearing a suit.”

“We’re sorry sir,” said the maitre’d. “We have to uphold our dress code.”

“I understand,” said the man, making his way for the door. “Thanks anyway.”

He exited and I felt like I had just witnessed something important, something I wanted to write about. As for myself, I was wearing a suit I hadn’t worn since law school, waiting to meet my friend Phoebe Damrosch. When she came, she complimented me on looking so dapper and the maitre’d happily led us to our table. Maybe it was because of what I had just witnessed, but the feeling was nothing less than triumphant.

* * * * *


The image you see above is one of the many stunning plates of food we imbibed that day in late November (yes, it's taken a while for this post to gestate). That's a milk chocolate caramel egg with sea salt; a strikingly strange combination of flavors and textures that was so harmonious, so brilliantly conceived and executed, it my greatest hope of hopes that each and every one of you reading this will get to experience it at some point in your lives. There are only two factors that will stand in your way: the first, not surprisingly, is what you have in your wallet and the second, perhaps more surprisingly, is what you have in your wardrobe. For to dine at Le Bernardin, as the gentleman learned in the opening anecdote, you have to be dressed appropriately: jacket and pants for men, pants or skirt for women.

These rules exist at all of the city's finest restaurants: Jean-Georges, Per Se, and Daniel all come to mind; and I'm sure the rule applies at many others. For many men and women, a dress code is something to be embraced. At its core, a dress code sets a mood and a tone; it makes an evening special. It ensures that all of the effort that you put into how you look--the money, the time, the thought, the energy--is rewarded by the explicit acknowledgement of the restaurant that you are "worthy" of your meal. The lavish ornamentation that makes a restaurant sparkle translates to people too; the glitzy jewelry on your neighbor's wrist might do battle with the chandelier for your attention. The glamour of fine dining, the polish of the silverware, the fizz of the champagne, is heightened--so the theory goes--by what people are wearing. And this, at least at the city's fanciest restaurants, is the status quo.

And yet, if we leave the hallowed halls of Le Bernardin and Per Se and Daniel for a moment and hop in a cab down to to the East Village, we may be surprised by the scene we'll observe at some of the city's most revered and undeniably relevant restaurants. Pop into David Chang's Ssäm Bar and what are people wearing? Jeans. T-shirts. Hats. Sneakers. An avenue over at Hearth people are wearing the same. Walk down a few blocks to Prune and some of the servers aren't even wearing bras. What's going on?

If we mosey over to the West Village and go somewhere a little more formidable, like Mario Batali's Babbo, we might see some bridge and tunnelers in their Sunday best, but at that table in the corner a 30-something guy is wearing a Metallica t-shirt. His girlfriend has a shaved head and a parade of piercings down her face. Their aesthetic matches the music and, come to think of it, matches the chef's: doesn't Mario flit about town in shorts and clogs?

And around the corner, at another formidable restaurant, Dan Barber's Blue Hill, I'm eating with Craig and his aunt and uncle (this is last month). The room is dim enough that it's not that easy to take everyone in, but for every pair of pants I see there's a pair of jeans, and sitting right behind me---I only notice him because a waiter drops a glass--is former mayor Ed Koch bundled up in an adorably tailored suit.

Ed Koch is right at home and so am I, and I'm wearing jeans. So is Craig. We're wearing jeans and stylish shirts and we've shaved and our hair is combed, but we're relaxed and happy and the evening, without the enforced formality, still feels special. My experience of the restaurant is not diminished by a lack of dress code; it is, in fact, enhanced. And thus is born a manifesto, an anti dress-code manifesto, the purpose of this post.

Good people of New York (and America and, for that matter, Europe and Asia and, well, the world), I understand that you cling to your traditions. I understand that there is something delightful about dressing up and looking nice. I applaud your designer suits and handbags and ties and scarves, I salute your jewelry, your makeup, your ornamental pins. But what's happening downtown in Manhattan is an important shift. The younger generation (and I include myself in that generation, thank you very much) is excited by food in a way that our parents weren't; we go out, first and foremost, to eat. Not just to eat, but to bravely conquer this audacious new cuisine surfacing all around us. We're eager to ingest Mario's lamb's tongues, we want extra fat in our David Chang pork buns. Getting dressed up might still be part of it, but we're looking at Gourmet, not Vogue, before we head out the door.

Our parents (or at least my parents) see dining out as a chance to escape the humdrummery of everyday life. My generation dines out not so much to escape the real world, but to engage it. I speak in generalities, of course, but it's not a coincidence that the most important new restaurants in New York--all of the ones I mentioned downtown, plus some uptown--are catering to a much younger audience. A reservation at David Chang's newest restaurant, Ko, requires a familiarity with the internet that many of our parents don't have. Our parents are confused by the passwords and logins the same way they're confused by why we're wearing jeans to dinner. This isn't a coincidence. The tides, I'm here to say, are turning.

Am I arguing against formal dress at restaurants? Not at all. My argument is egalitarian: doors open to everyone--suits and non-suits alike. I think there should be certain limitations. I'm ok with forbidding shorts--that man at Le Bernardin looked like he just stumbled in from the beach. I'm ok with requiring shoes. But should Le Bernardin turn you away for wearing jeans instead of pants? What if you're wearing jeans and a jacket? What if your pants are jeans-colored? What if your shirt looks like a t-shirt but it's really a buttoned-down shirt with hidden buttons? What if you're wearing traditional religious garb? What if you're in an iron lung?

I'm getting silly, but I think dress codes are silly and outmoded. I want everyone, regardless of dress, to have access to the world's greatest dishes. I want you to try the milk chocolate caramel egg at Le Bernardin and I want you to be able to do so without having to buy a suit. For the price of a suit, you can buy two lunches at Le Bernardin.

Part of me doesn't believe what I'm saying. We're so indoctrinated to believe that dining out means getting dressed up that it's impossible to imagine a four-star restaurant relaxing its dress code. But there are statistics that say gay marriage won't be an issue in 20 years because the younger generation embraces gay people far more willingly than the older generation; maybe that's true of dress codes too? Maybe in 20 years the Daniels and Per Ses will look a lot more like the Ssam Bars and Prunes? And if that happens, what will we have lost? What will we have gained?

The picture at the top of this post is the most compelling counter-argument to my thesis that I could come up with: there's Cary Grant, looking dapper and oozing cool in his slightly formal, perfectly pressed suit. One can't ignore the power of his presentation at table; and one can't help but feel nostalgia for a time when people dressed like that when they ate. Can we still celebrate that? Absolutely. But should we impose it?

My argument is: no.

[NOTE: If you don't have the wardrobe OR the wallet, you can attempt the milk chocolate caramel egg at home with the recipe from Le Bernardin pastry chef Michael Laiskonis's blog here. Please dress appropriately when consuming.]

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Categories: Essays

  • Jack

    Great post Adam. I 100% agree with you.

    In this-day-and-age, I can’t image being turned away for being dressed inappropiately, just crazy pig headedness on the restaurants part. As if someone is not good enough to dine there because of their outfit.

    I don’t think that type of place is for me. Its nice getting dressed up once in a while but I don’t need a ‘school prefect’ like character to insist on it!


  • Hande

    Adam, you are right. By the way, Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin’s wine director, has just become the World Best Sommelier!

  • Aaron

    I’ll second that manifesto. Just as the office has gone casual, the strict dress codes of these restaurants will likely be a thing of the past. Besides, it’s not as if all chaos will break loose. People still go to these restaurants for occasions. They tend to dress up to celebrate.

  • Jay

    While I agree with you in principle, I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed when, while celebrating my first anniversary at Bouley a few years back, a large man in tight t-shirt and ripped jeans w/ a posse of girls half his age – also brimming with confidence, was allowed entry (I don’t know if they had a reservation) and proceeded to casually throw down delicious food and copious bottles of wine, seemingly paying little attention to the food, but lavishing in being the center of attention as they hijacked the ambience of the entire restaurant. Where do you draw the line?

  • Trish

    While I understand your premise, I think a lot of us in your parents’ generation feel that relaxing the dress-code can sometimes be a slippery slope. I don’t really want to go to a nice restaurant and look at studs running down someone’s nose or stare at a hairy armpit at the next table. Where do restaurants draw the line? And, by the way, I’m pushing 60 and certainly know my way around the Internet and have more passwords and login names than I care to count but I still manage, as does my 81 year old father. Don’t sell our computer skills short…

  • R. P. McMurphy

    Having just returned from Europe (like every other time I return) I find that we in the US are far less formal than most.

    In my experience in London, I usually dorn a nice pair of jeans, a nice shirt (tucked in even) and a nice blazer and STILL felt under-dressed just walking around the street.

    I say…BRING BACK THE SUIT…..not just for fine dining…..but for the sake of Bond…

    I propose….let’s not make it a DRESS code…lets make it a MAN code.

  • Patrick R

    I have to wear pants? Fuggedaboutit!

    PS. I finished your book last night, Adam. Good reading.

  • Adrienne

    Adam, I loved this post. As a young person and relatively new food fanatic, I agree that it is a touch sad to lose the glamour of ye olde days, but food today is too exciting to cut off from so many people. I sometimes avoid restaurants with stuffy dress codes because I know the ambience will make me uncomfortable, and that’s just too bad. I’m sure the food is fantastic, but if some of the fancy-pants dining establishments near me relaxed their dress code to something along the lines of ‘snappy casual’ maybe I wouldn’t be so intimidated.

  • Greg

    Adam, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Right after the food, the single biggest memory I have of going to Jean-Georges for the first time was the one jerk in a t-shirt in the dining room. I’m fairly young (28), but even for me, part of what makes a special occasion restaurant special is that one dresses up for it.

  • tim

    I think you should file this under New York City traditions and the fact you don’t have a job in an office where dress rules are all over the place and change frequently. I just don’t see the jacket rule for restaurants anywhere else. The only time I’ve ever worn a jacket to a restaurant was my prom – 18 years ago. Since then its been jeans and I have never been challenged on it no matter what restaurant I’ve been in.

    The restaurant should be happy I’m paying 500 bucks for the meal and not worry about my attire unless I am wearing flashing neon bulbs.

  • Sam Greenfield

    I think your target of Le Bernardin is a bit off base. The guy was wearing sneakers, shorts, and a t-shirt. Refusing him service because of shorts is a far cry from requiring a suit. I have definitely seen people at Le Bernardin wearing jeans and a jacket; I have also seen people come in with a nice shirt and slacks and no jacket. (In fact, I have _been_ to Le Bernardin with someone wearing jeans!)

    The other restaurants you mention all have their peculiarities. For example, a vegetarian friend had a very difficult time at Ssam Bar–no variations were allowed on the menu at all. Why should this be acceptable but a dress code be unacceptable?

    (On the other hand, Per Se does require slacks. I have heard a story of someone walking into Per Se with jeans. They were directed to one of the retail stores downstairs to buy a pair of slacks.)

    Why not give a call to some of the restaurants who have a dress code? Give them a chance to explain their rational. For that matter, give a call to a couple of restaurants who don’t have a dress code as well–it might be interesting to see what guided their decision.

    I’m also puzzled by one thing you wrote: “I think there should be certain limitations. I’m ok with forbidding shorts[...]” Why are you okay with forbidding shorts but not other levels of dress? Would denim overalls be an acceptable style of dress? Why is one limit okay but another not okay?

  • Sarah

    Dress codes are funny beasts. They can be a way of identifying social class and wealth, and this is something those of us in our twenties and thirties do not like. However, we also forget that dressing up can be a gesture of respect toward other people. Wearing jeans, no matter how expensive, just doesn’t say “you were worth the time” the way a suit or dress does. I don’t think that we Americans appreciate the fact that in other countries, dressing up is a sign of respect toward other diners, not just the restaurant in which we are eating.

  • Matthew Amster-Burton

    Lack of dress code is one of my favorite things about the Pacific Northwest. We’re all lumberjack wannabes. Fine by me.

  • Heather

    I think along with the new enthusiasm for food has come along a sense of entitlement that needs to be addressed. Each restaurant owner has an idea of what they’d like to convey in their dining room and there are just a few restaurants left that ask for their guests to abide by a dress code. If you respect them, they will respect you. If you are intimidated, wait until you aren’t to go there.

    I don’t have to dress up to go to Ssam bar but I don’t get the service I get at LeB either. Or Blue Hill. And the food isn’t great, it’s spectacular.

    Each night is opening night for restaurants and if you’d like to be apart of what they are trying to convey, be apart of it. Not wearing jeans won’t kill you and in a world that has cheap designer knock-offs at H&M for less than the Gap, comb your hair, wear a pair of trousers and a decent shirt and show up for a spectacular lunch.

    And get over yourself.

  • Dylin

    Lack of dress code is one of my least favorite things about the Pac NW! Personally, I think it shows respect to both the restaurant and fellow diners when we wear nicer attire. Of course, here in Seattle, that would just mean no running shoes and perhaps removing the fleece jacket. Please??? :)

  • erin

    I disagree. I think dressing up is part of the experience of going to places like Le Bernardin. A $500 meal shouldn’t be an everyday experience–it’s a special treat (for most of us) and I like to feel as though the specialness of the occasion translates into my clothes and demeanor. It shows respect for the restaurant, my fellow diners, and myself. As you mention, there are plenty of places with amazing food in this city that don’t require fancy dress–if dressing up is so uncomfortable for some folks, they don’t have to visit the restaurants that require it.

  • Catherine

    I just posted an essay on hats at the table and I was headed to this thought next, now I can just send everyone over here (yippee!)… I am with Sarah and Dylin – it’s a respect issue. And besides, Adam, HELLO!!! It’s Sex in the City opening week, it’s all about dressing up! I don’t want to end up visiting your great suit and my pretty dresses (with waists, of cource) in style and cinematic museums one day. Catherine, The Blushing Hostess

  • Deborah Sampson

    I’m with the respect bunch on this one. Shortly after my husband and I moved to Denver 10 years ago, we dressed up a bit — suit for him, dress for me — to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Sadly, seated across from us was a group dressed in sweat suits, jeans and T-shirts and behaving in a similarly casual manner. We were there for a special occasion and for the special treatment one expects in a good restaurant. We’ve solved the problem by eating in for special occasions. I’m a good cook and can prepare dinners that rank with any restaurant in town, but we miss the je ne sais quois of dressing up and having a special occasion meal and all that goes with it.

  • Chip Griffin

    People are entitled to vote with their feet, especially with so many restaurant choices in Manhattan. If an establishment wants to enforce a dress code, I say go for it. Those who are comfortable with such rules will go; those who are not are free to go elsewhere.

    As for my personal view, I think we as a society have lost an understanding for how our attire signals respect (or lack thereof). That doesn’t mean we need to wear suits, dresses, and such. But there’s a vast chasm between what might be called “smart casual” (like jeans and a jacket) and simply sloppy (like the gentleman you described).

    There’s a time and place for all forms of attire, and if some restaurants want to require a more formal appearance, so be it.

  • Homina Ray

    Totally disagree. Not everyone wants evry establishment in Manhattan overtaken by the baseball cap and jeans wearing frat boys.

  • Clement

    I enjoyed the spirit of this post. I wouldn’t be surprised if dress codes gradually relax and tend toward the casual in the future. That said…

    It’s not clear to me why pork buns or lamb’s tongues exemplify audacious new cuisine. Both of the preparations you have in mind are scarcely audacious or new.

    The egalitarian argument you make is a bit specious. What you are actually saying is that there are excellent restaurants (which identify themselves quite differently, from Prune to Babbo) which share the fact that they don’t enforce a dress code. But nothing could be further from egalitarian than to suggest then that ALL restaurants in the US, Europe, and Asia adopt the very specific aesthetics of these types of restaurants. A different version of your argument would be: places serving great food, from diners to sushi bars to momofuku ko, have counter seating; therefore all restaurants should abandon tables and serve food across a counter.

    So as other commenters have pointed out, the true issue has nothing to do with generations. Or even food. It has to do with class, obviously (though you don’t once mention the word). It also has to do with the very simple idea that there is room for restaurants of different visions and identities offering different experiences. It’s really not that complicated.

  • Moriah

    Great post. I’d sign that manifesto – restaurants should not enforce dress codes (except for requiring shoes). They can suggest a type of dress, but unless they intend to become exclusive members-only clubs (not that some aren’t, at least in spirit), it’s unfair to exclude someone who wants to dine there, can pay for it, and can behave civilly.

    That said, I think most people dress up when they’re about to have a special meal. Certainly, dress codes are a deterrent people who want to enjoy a well-prepared meal in comfortable clothes, but I don’t think many people would wear shorts and flip-flops to three-star restaurants. Dressing for dinner seems pretty well-ingrained in our culture.

  • jon yang

    My bits say that yes indeed there should be an enforced dress code. As a participant in the theater of fine dining one should compliment and respect the energy of the environment created by the staff. Both customer and host enter into an agreement. The servers are professionally attentive and the chef’s dishes are executed with the crisp consistency. We expect it. The patron responds in kind by displaying a level of etiquette to match. That is so much of the joy of eating well.

    I don’t think it is too much to ask patrons to compliment those efforts with good etiquette.

    With so many opportunities for incredible food in relaxed atmospheres, it’s a matter of respect to show up looking put together at an establishment trying to generate a more formal environment.

    The one thing that erodes the dining experience is the notion that waiters are there simply to get paid however they do their jobs.

    The joy of service and serving is bring lost because we think that it’s only our money that buys graceful experiences. Do we want to be rich assholes or understanding participants? The latter creates a reciprocal environment that enhances and elevates chow.

  • tom

    I also totally disagree. Seeing the whole baseball cap/t-shirt/blue jean attire is really an affront to people who took time to actually put on a decent pair of pants, shirt, and jacket to go out and make a special night of it.

    I also find that your comment about having to spend the equivalent of a meal or two at Le Bernardin in order to get appropriately attired to eat in these places. Not true at all…to begin with, no one there is checking the price tag or the label of your suit or jacket….no way do you have to wear a six hundred dollar suit to get in…buy a decent jacket or suit from Filene’s Basement or Century 21 for not nearly as much, and they will still welcome you. It does not have to do with how much you spent on your wardrobe (in fact, some of the “hipsters” in ratty blue jeans probably spent more for their designer wear).

    As for the future of the trend of offices to go casual…I know that a number of firms in various industries are actually going back to requiring less “casual” attire to a more dressier office, because numerous studies have shown that sloppy, casual dress frequently spills over into sloppy, casual work habits. Not to mention the fact that many people can’t seem to get the message that just because it’s casual, it doesn’t mean anything goes (i.e., midriff baring tops and dirty flip-flops are not going to cut it in most offices no matter how casual they claim to be).

    It really is a red herring to tie in putting on a decent pair of pants and a jacket with being elitist…as others have pointed out, you’ll find in many places where people really have little or no money to spend, they will make an effort to dress up as their budgets permit for a special occasion.

  • vwc

    As long as one is clean and well behaved it should not matter what kind of clothing one is wearing. Shall we start turning away unattractive people too?

  • courtney

    mmmm…that looks better than a Cadbury egg!

  • simon

    This is moronic. Dress codes should be more stringent, not less. And they should apply to women too, and their designer jeans. Wear a skirt or a pair of suitpants. Enough of this laissez faire crap.

  • Mike Stone

    I like that this is raising many and differing comments. And I have to come down on the side of the anti-manifesto people on this one. We let the dress code go, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg, decline of western civilization. If it’s okay to dress slovenly wherever you go, pretty soon you can act like a slob, too. Pretty soon you have an idiot in the Whitehouse. I’m just warning you (oops, too late).

  • Mike Stone

    I like that this is raising many and differing comments. And I have to come down on the side of the anti-manifesto people on this one. We let the dress code go, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg, decline of western civilization. If it’s okay to dress slovenly wherever you go, pretty soon you can act like a slob, too. Pretty soon you have an idiot in the Whitehouse. I’m just warning you (oops, too late).

  • Mike Stone

    I like that this is raising many and differing comments. And I have to come down on the side of the anti-manifesto people on this one. We let the dress code go, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg, decline of western civilization. If it’s okay to dress slovenly wherever you go, pretty soon you can act like a slob, too. Pretty soon you have an idiot in the Whitehouse. I’m just warning you (oops, too late).

  • Joel

    I lived most of my life in San Francisco, a place that indeed competes or even exceeds New York City in a variety of restaurants from haute cuisine on to very casual neighborhood places.

    What seems to have been lost in recent years is that we wear different clothes for different settings and occasions. I would never think of wearing my best suits to a neighborhood Chinese restaurant, nor would I wear jeans and a T-Shirt to the best places in town. It all lies in what is appropriate for the venue. And of course there is a middle ground, in which a simple jacket and tie will suffice in the big city. I now live in the country–real country–and I will adapt to the mores of the small town.

    BTW re: gay marriage….since you wrote this post, the California Supreme Court has declared same sex marriage to be constitutional. The first licenses will be issued June 17. There is no residency requirement in California (as there is in Massachusetts), so bring Craig out here and get married! The Governor of New York, just recently, ordered the State and localities to honor same sex marriages from other states, even though New York’s legislature has not yet passed on it. Maybe marriage equality is sooner than 20 years?

  • Greg Lopez

    I think the argument is (inadvertently) made to keep a dress code. If there are a plethora of places to enjoy good food in jeans and a t-shirt, shouldn’t someone(s) maintain the jacket and tie tradition for those that prefer that mode of dining?

  • elarael

    “…it’s unfair to exclude someone who wants to dine there, can pay for it, and can behave civilly.”

    But knowing how to honor a dress code is one of the indicators that one uses to express the fact that they do indeed know how to behave civilly in polite society. We all know that just because someone shows up with a credit card doesn’t mean they have any idea how to respect their fellow diners. A dress code insures that *everyone* eating there will have the best experience possible because it automatically puts everyone on their best behavior by defining a social standard, maybe not a perfect one, but certainly one attainable by anyone who can afford to dine there.

    And not a thing prevents the food from being just as divine in a casual restaurant. Standards are there to encourage the best behavior from people. It is a social ritual that is simply about doing all that’s possible to define an experience with superlatives.

  • John

    Here! Here! Elarael! Nicely done!

  • Natty

    Great post, Adam! This isn’t something many people talk about.

    From a woman’s perspective, I like dress codes because, come on, it’s a suit or a sports coat. I wish I could look that good, that easily, that cheaply! A man can own ONE suit. ONE. Uno. 1. He can wear it everywhere and look sharp.

    Me? I have multiple outfits for all the parts of life that require looking sharp– weddings, job interviews, funerals, fine dining, etc. I have different outfits depending on the weather, time of year, and whether I’m home or traveling. I could try and get away with one little black dress but even that has its limits.

    Is it really hard for you dudes to put on suits? :-) We go out to dinner somewhere amazing I’m wearing Spanx under that flirtly little dress that tastefully shows of my cleavage. Do you know what Spanx are? No? You lucky, lucky devils.

    And Simon, I’ve seen women turned away from certain establishments for not having a skirt on, while I’ve seen men lent a sports coat (you can’t loan out skirts, I’m afraid) and I’ve never seen a woman allowed to wear jeans when there’s a dress code. Maybe it’s a NYC thing?

    So for me, dress codes are a non-issue. Additionally, my husband looks freakin hot in a suit or slacks and his camel hair coat. Please don’t take that away from me! :-)

    I know we could all say “screw it! Who cares?” but I firmly believe life is made better by the details. Some of my favorite moments of anticipation of a fancy meal come as my husband and I dress. He holds up ties for opinions, we work to share the mirror as he shaves and I primp, I pull my shoe out from behind the bed while he makes pre-dinner cocktails. I love it.

  • Sara

    “The restaurant should be happy I’m paying 500 bucks for the meal and not worry about my attire unless I am wearing flashing neon bulbs.” – Tim

    Am I the only one who read this and immediately thought “If you wanna make it / twinkle while you shake it.”? Anyone? Yeah. Probably just me.

  • Mark Boxshus


    Delightful subject matter you’ve selected. It appears today that the “dress down” mantra has spread to areas once considererd sacred or truly special. I can’t count the number of people I’ve encountered at “calling or viewing hours”, funerals, weddings, etc., who show up so casually dressed that you’d think there was a “Twinkie Toss” competition in the backyard, and the jeans, sweatshirts and multitude of personal paraphenalia displayed are the accepted dress du jour. And having embraced this “one size fits all” mentality as regards attire, these people also assume that entrance to any restaurant or club should not preclude them because of “codes” and require that they wear anything other than their garments of choice.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of casual attire and have readily embraced the tee shirt and sweats mentality since I am no longer embracing the pressure cooker of the boardroom, but rather the one found in the kitchen. For me, this dress code is acceptable attire for pots and pans, not Per Se. Dining in a 5 star establishment, in my opinion, is not a casual throwdown at Applebees, but rather a special, sophisticated and expensive occasion that should be savored and respectfully observed. If I’m anticipating a quiet, relaxed dining experience in a “special” environment, I don’t want to look at or hear other people who choose to ignore the respect a fine dining establishment deserves, and instead carry on as if they were eating burgers at Hooters. There should still be a time and a place for proper decorum. And for those, and I include myself here as well, who want the 5 star experience without the pomp and circumstance, there are personal caterers, chefs and takeout.

    If you are invited to an outdoor wedding on the beach and casual attire is suggested, then by all means toss on the flip flops and reach for the straw hat. But if you are invited to, or choose to dine in, a refined environment, then by all means you should dress, behave and respect not only the other diners, but the chef and owner who have worked so hard to create the unique ambiance, atmosphere and presentations that grace their tables.

  • md

    I disagree with this and I’m all of 25. People pay a lot of money to have a special meal at a fine restaurant, so I find it sort of inconsiderate when people come in wearing jeans and t-shirt, basically saying, I don’t give enough of a shit to change my clothes.

  • Judith in Umbria

    I disagree and mostly because resorts have already gone through this whole thing long ago. First the so-called formal dress is dropped and everybody comes covered up in different ways. Then some start wearing less and less and oner is dining next to a person charitably described as half dressed. Even the 7-11 says no shirt no service, but sometimes when when there’s a shirt, some fairly crucial coverage is missing. The next and disastrous step is that those whose informal became sloppy decide it is OK also to be dirty. Sweaty. Smelly.

    You end up with a host/hostess, maitre d having to decide at the door who is clean and decent. It never works well.

    I say ditch the tie as a requirement, but let’s insist on the generally accepted number of garments in what is generally accepted as dinner clothes when dining at good restaurants. Sidewalk cafes it doesn’t matter, let the ill-dressed ones sit there if such an option exists.

  • Marks


  • Simon

    What I really don’t understand in most of the comments here is why the hell do you care so much about what’s going on on the table next to you? Unless they are screaming their lungs out, none of this will have any impact on the meal in front of you and the people at your table. Concentrating on the experience of the restaurant has nothing to do with peeking at what other people look like and what they do.

  • Connie

    I love dress codes as a woman half the fun of dining out is getting ready. And lets keep things in perspective the ambiance is as important as the food being great.

    I really don’t relish the thought of being seated next to a man in a (as they call them) “WIFE BEATER”. Three cheers for the restaurant for having standards. We all should!

  • El Georgeo

    When You & Craig get Married perhaps everyone can show up in torn jeans & T shirts or better yet cutoffs!

    Oh wait, that would be disrespectful!

  • michael quinlan

    I disagree too.

    A resturateur must be free to impose such conditions on entry as he wishes. If he wishes to create a particular ambience he should be free to do so. (Thinks….’ragged jeans only’). If one does not like the conditions one can (and should) eat elsewhere.

    However, if dress conditions are imposed they must be applied UNIVERSALLY AND RIGOUROUSLY. Like the correspondent above riled by seeing the T-shirt in Jean-Georges (I have seen that too), I went to the opera in Monaco where penguin suits were stated as de rigeur and about one-third of the audience had not bothered. I felt cheated.

    Michael Quinlan, Monaco

  • Kitt

    My uncle dragged my mother and me to his “club” earlyier this year and the hostess hassled me about my brown twill pants. “We don’t allow jeans.” WTF??

    We were *allowed* to eat there anyway, and the food was abysmal.

    Still makes me mad.

  • Gary


    I am “50 something”, I enjoy wearing a classic suit, when I am on the town. Most times I even wear a sport coat when I am running errands on a Saturday morning. Getting dressed for dinner @ a “five star”… BRING IT ON!

  • robert g

    three cheers for bernardin!!! when i am dining on excellent food in a wonderful atmosphere i truly dont want to be surrounded by men and women wearing jeans an d tee shirts however fashionable you might feel in other food establishments– fine food dictates the environment and the style of dress–its about respect —-nothing wrong with shorts and a tee shirt at papaya king!

  • robert g

    three cheers for bernardin!!! when i am dining on excellent food in a wonderful atmosphere i truly dont want to be surrounded by men and women wearing jeans an d tee shirts however fashionable you might feel in other food establishments– fine food dictates the environment and the style of dress–its about respect —-nothing wrong with shorts and a tee shirt at papaya king!

  • robert g

    three cheers for bernardin!!! when i am dining on excellent food in a wonderful atmosphere i truly dont want to be surrounded by men and women wearing jeans an d tee shirts however fashionable you might feel in other food establishments– fine food dictates the environment and the style of dress–its about respect —-nothing wrong with shorts and a tee shirt at papaya king!

  • Elliot

    Sry Adam but I can’t agree with you. Eating at a restaurant is an experience influenced by EVERYTHING. Its the decor, the lighting the architecture, the company, the closeness of the tables, the waiters, the food and the company.

    One goes to different restaurants for different occassions and experiences.

    There is a place for fine dining in an elegant atmosphere in an environment of well dressed patrons and there’s a place for good food in a more casual atmosphere. It’s not just the food.

    If you don’t want to dress up don’t go to dress up places – there are plenty of others!

  • Chase

    I agree Adam. I think dress codes impose a certain uncomfortable elitist attitude towards the customer. Kudos to whoever wants to look good while they eat. But don’t force me to dress like everyone else. I see the coming generations in our culture abolishing this custom.

  • missbhavens

    Oh, jeez. This is a tough call. As a woman (and as a woman who doesn’t dine in “fine dining” establishments often, if ever, I don’t really run into this problem. I’ll pretty much always wear a non-trashy dress whenever weather permits.

    I hear the folks saying “don’t tell me what to wear!” and I feel the people hollering “show some respect for a nice night out!” I get the ones crying out “Clothes make the man and dress codes keep out the louts!”.

    Does anyone *really* think that everyone who wears a jacket to a restaurant is going to behave like less of an ass than the guy in the checkered shirt and ball cap? If so: you’re deluded. In fact, if you think that, you’re likely the guy in a suit behaving like an ass.

    Anyhoo, back when I worked at the Monkey Bar years and years ago I was the poor girl in the miniskirt crammed in the coat check closet who had to tell men “sorry you can’t come in without a jacket” then offer them one from our intensely skeevy and out-of-date collection, all size 32 or 48.

    It sucked and I always felt like a jerk.

  • RB

    I agree with Elliot, this isn’t McDonald’s Adam, its a fine restaurant. It’s all about the food, atmosphere and service. I don’t want to spend that much on food and have some slob in tattered jeans and a hoddie hanging out having beers.

  • Robert Synnott

    “But there are statistics that say gay marriage won’t be an issue in 20 years because the younger generation embraces gay people far more willingly than the older generation; maybe that’s true of dress codes too?”

    Ah, but, while in the last 100 years we have seen shocking improvements in human rights and society, the suit, for whatever reason, has become a permanent fixture. This wasn’t always the way, by the way; when the suit joined the wardrobe of the upper classes, a rotation period of about 50 years was normal. The suit somehow changed that, and has now been with us, effectively unchanged, for well over a century.

    The ‘fine dining requires suits’ thing, though, is just absurd snobbishness. It doesn’t even make sense. I, being rather shallow, find very fat people far more aesthetically displeasing than people who don’t wear suits, for instance, but when did you last see someone kicked out of a restaurant for bending the floorboards? Is the presence of someone not wearing a suit really that upsetting to _anyone_?

    Note that all of this is getting _worse_ in some places; many nightclubs in Moscow, I hear, have door policies requiring customers to look a certain, very specific way; not just dress, things like age and height and hair colour and race. Hopefully, this lovely trend doesn’t spread.

  • Stop Whining

    You can walk into 99% of the restaurants in this city wearing whatever you want, but you chose to complain about the small handful left where you can still enjoy an elegant experience that means more than just the food on your plate.

    Why should every restaurant be forced to adhere to YOUR standard?

  • Stop Whining

    You can walk into 99% of the restaurants in this city wearing whatever you want, but you chose to complain about the small handful left where you can still enjoy an elegant experience that means more than just the food on your plate.

    Why should every restaurant be forced to adhere to YOUR standard?

  • Hershele Ostropoler

    If I’m going to go to Per Se or similar, it’s probably for an occasion I’m going to dress up for whether the restaurant requires it or not.