I’m deeply flattered that Frank Bruni took the time to respond to my dress code manifesto on his Diner’s Journal blog (to read his response, click here; to read my original post, click here.) He begins by calling me a “lovely, thoughtful guy” (woohoo!) and then systematically dismantles my argument. I appreciate the logic of his approach and admit that, rationally speaking, it’s unreasonable to expect restaurants like Per Se or Le Bernardin to change their dress codes if customers are willing to (and often happy to) oblige. The best, part, though are the comments; so many comments, in fact, that Bruni wrote a follow-up post to highlight his favorites. My favorite comment concerns a patron at the French Laundry who, uncomfortably hot, removes his jacket only to have the maitre’d come over and say that jackets are required. “I replied that I was uncomfortable in it because of the heat. He replied that he doesn’t want me to be uncomfortable and asked for the jacket, which I gave him. After that, all the diners came in and noticed I wasn’t wearing a jacket. I wonder how they felt?”
As Bruni says in his follow-up, “A dress code is, indeed, arbitrary…But the code has to say something, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that the existence of a dress code is, on balance, going to lead to more formally dressed patrons than the absence of a code.”
Clearly, though, it’s a subject that inspires passion and I think that’s because there’s a sensitive link between what we wear and who we are. Seen through the prism of identity, a dress code drums up issues of class, gender, maybe even race. It’s a delicate conversation, and an important one, and I’m excited to be a part of it.