Do you like getting dressed up? When was the last time you did it? What did you wear?
What if you were invited to be a guest in a restaurant that required you to wear a suit or a dress, or that warned: “Upscale fashionable dress code strongly enforced”? Does that sound like fun to you — or not?
In “Leave the Sweatshirt at Home. Dining Dress Codes Are Back.,” Priya Krishna writes about a trend among some restaurants that want to make dressing up part of diners’ experience.
One unusually warm evening in the West Village, while other New Yorkers were outside walking their dogs in sneakers and T-shirts, a family of five sat primly in the front window of a formal dining room, each of them garbed in a stylish blazer. A couple in a velvet corner booth wore suits — his navy, hers powder blue. Pearls gleamed, freshly buffed shoes glowed. When a fashionably dressed couple stopped in momentarily for a peek at the menu, the sight was jarring: They were wearing jeans.
That everyone was in full feather at this restaurant, Les Trois Chevaux, was no coincidence. They had been instructed to do so the previous day in a text message that read like a manifesto.
“At Les Trois Chevaux, we revere the style and finesse that can only be attributed to having New York swagger,” it said. “We expect our guests to arrive in proper dinner attire, and for you to celebrate the style that downtown New York City can bring.”
Lest there be any confusion, details followed: “Blue jeans, shorts and sneakers are strictly prohibited.” Diners were “kindly” requested to wear jackets. For those without a jacket, a vintage Yves Saint Laurent model would be provided. Anything else? “Absolutely no flip-flops,” the chef and owner, Angie Mar, emphasized in an interview.
“Something that I feel tremendously is missing from New York over the past five or six years is that old-school flair that I love,” she said. “It is important that we bring that back.”
During a pandemic in which many Americans have traded their tailored slacks for leisure wear, dress codes are making an unexpected return to the dining room.
Over the last two years, several new restaurants around the country have opened with policies on expected attire, some stern (“upscale fashionable dress code strongly enforced,” warns a text from Olivetta in Los Angeles) and some vague (“smart casual or better,” advises Catbird in Dallas).
Some are aspirational: “We expect our guests to bring their best,” says Kitchen + Kocktails in Chicago. Others seem to allude to some disturbing prior incident: “Clothing emitting offensive odors is not permitted” at Juliet in Houston.
Whatever the particulars, the calculation is the same — a belief that many diners are eager to dress up again after an epoch of record-level dowdiness.
“Everywhere we went, people were walking around in sweatpants and T-shirts and their hair was not done,” said Rosea Grady, the general manager at Thirteen, a high-end Houston restaurant founded by the professional basketball player James Harden that opened in March 2021. “We wanted Thirteen to be a place where people put their best on.”
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
Would you like to get dressed up and dine at any of the restaurants mentioned in the article? Why or why not? What might you wear, if so?
How does dressing formally, and perhaps also putting more effort into your grooming and hair styling, affect how you feel? Does it tend to make you feel special and sophisticated — or uncomfortable and not yourself? What is the fanciest thing you have ever worn?
The article describes “a belief that many diners are eager to dress up again after an epoch of record-level dowdiness.” Do you think that, after two-plus years of a pandemic, we’re in a moment when people want to dress up again? Or, do you think loungewear is here to stay, and that people will continue dressing down? What are you seeing among your friends and family and in the places you go?
If you ever owned a restaurant, would you want it to have a dress code? If so, what would the dress code be? Why?
The article raises the issue that restaurant dress codes can be interpreted as discriminatory, and that some local governments have even stepped in to condemn dress codes. What is your reaction? Do you think dress codes could be used as an excuse to deny service to people based on attributes like race or gender? Do you think restaurants struggle with selectively enforcing their dress codes? What, if anything, needs to be done about these issues?
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Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.