OP-ED: Dress codes are about respect, not money |

There was a time when spending big at a fancy restaurant was seen as an occasion requiring disguise. Then, slob culture took over, so that even when an establishment went to great lengths to arrange flowers, iron tablecloths, and provide formal service, customers showed up wearing ratty sweatshirts and sneakers.

Dress standards for luxury restaurants started collapsing decades ago, but the pandemic has made them even worse. With the health crisis receding, high-end restaurants are seeking a reset by establishing (or re-establishing) dress codes. Olivetta in Los Angeles sends a text warning: “The high-end fashionable dress code is strongly enforced.” Houston’s Thirteen management – noting that “our wallpaper is Gucci” – also announced that customers in T-shirts and sweatpants would no longer be welcome.

So much the better for these defenders of decorum, and so much the worse for those who resent them.

The objections are fragile, if not false. But let’s get to them anyway.

First of all, dress codes are not about money. J. Crew is selling navy blazers for just $199, while ripped jeans at Nordstrom are $258. And not all stylish dressers rely on expensive tailoring. Some people just have style, the ability to put together chic outfits with moderately priced pieces. Appropriate attire can be found at Target, as well as Neiman Marcus.

Dress codes are not about race. To say they are is in itself racist. It’s no secret that many of the most elegantly dressed men and women downtown are black. And who could rival the ladies of the black church in their fabulous costumes and hats for splendour?

There have been unfortunate reports, such as a restaurant turning away a black customer in runway attire while admitting a similarly dressed white one. The cure is better trained staff.

Dress codes are not about class. On the contrary, dressing in high-end restaurants can take on the air of reverse slumming. Call it “slobberism”. You see people looking like they’re cleaning the garage snapping their fingers at waiters in ironed uniforms offering professional service.

Given the demographics of kitchen staff who often prepare truffled turbot – and many workers in crispy gear at the front of the house – laughing at how you present yourself to them can take on an air of class superiority. , sometimes racial. shades.

Dress codes are also about showing respect for the diners at the next table. When did we make the humans around us invisible?

We can partly blame an online culture where we watch what’s on screen knowing that, in most cases, no one is looking back. Thus, we forget that during live performances – whether in restaurants or in theaters – the audience is part of the show.

With the decline of communal meals at home, many have lost a sense of the occasion outside of big business, like Thanksgiving or a wedding party. Days and weeks melt into one long chatter that can drag on into an expensive dinner at a finer restaurant.

As for the legality of dress codes, yes, they are legal. Those who apply them are private companies. They have the right to set their own standards of conduct, including dress.

Of course, there are no fashion police to arrest wealthy peasants in T-shirts with vulgar words or wearing backwards baseball caps. These diners still have a wealth of options, many of which serve great food. These restaurants can accommodate anyone who can pay, and that’s fine.

Remember that dress codes are meant to promote respect, not exclusion. And even the most casual places can display signs saying, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.”

Froma Harrop is a nationally syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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