A Suit and Tie is Not a Straight Jacket and Noose

Incase you missed it last month when the Amateur Gourmet, Adam Roberts, reviewed the rationale of “dress codes”, putting attention onto the decorum of Upper East Side illuminati, specifically, Les Bernardin, the question erupted pontification from around the blogsphere.

Last week, in foil of pacification, Frank Bruni finally offered a retort on the matter, setting momentum again to the great Suit and Tie Debate of 2008.

For clarification on what spawned this wardrobe discussion, we have to go back to a kinder, simpler time.  Take us back to May 29, 2008. 

It was then when AG first presented his “manifesto”:

“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.”

Mr. Bruni, a month later, with a respectful tip of the hat to Mr. Roberts, exposed deep pockmarks in the idealist’s reform. 

“…I don’t think there’s anything un-egalitarian about Le Bernardin or Per Se or another restaurant of that ilk having a dress code. The code isn’t discriminatory or inherently exclusionary: it’s not setting a bar that some diners simply can’t reach, a bar that’s expressly designed to keep out a given sub-set of diners. If you can afford a meal at one of these restaurants, you can almost certainly afford a jacket — and, let’s be real here, you almost certainly have one somewhere in your closet.”

What I think Mr. Adams overlooks is that the restaurants he admires for their dressed down approach (Prune, Momofuku) while maintaining refined culinary standards, are located in the T-shirt and Jeans, Chucks wearing, tattoo adorned neighborhoods of the East Village and the Lower East Side.

When you head uptown, say to Per Se, you expect the dining experience to fit the atmosphere.  The restaurant is located in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle across from Central Park, most of the patrons, or those just wondering the center, are a bit older with a conscious regal poise.  You head downtown to WD~50, you’re on a thin tree lined street betwixt bodegas and coffee shops with younger pedestrians on their way to Arlenes Grocery.  Each establishment is composed of the materials around them presenting a unique experience all their own.  And that’s why we dine out mostly, for unique experiences.

I agree with Mr. Bruni in citing Mr. Adam’s views as un-egalitarian, for what Mr. Adam’s doesn’t realize is that his nearsighted argument only grants greater homogony of the city.

Restaurants that choose a dress code should, as long as the code isn’t discriminatory and heeds consistence.  And like one commenter posted on Bruni’s blog, if you don’t care to wear the suit and tie through dinner, just slip them off after the 1st course.

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