So, as a guy who’s, you know, sort of into this whole fashion thing, I felt mildly compelled to immediately denounce the much-talked-about Wall Street Journal article that laboriously mourns the fact that dudes do not dress up for dinner anymore. If you haven’t read it, you might want to jaunt over to the Journal’s website and take a gander or two before continuing here.
Did you gander? OK, great. Let’s get started.
The article, entitled Jacket (Not) Required, employs a coterie of “gentlemen of certain generations and upbringings” who are downright appalled that very few of their favorite fine dining institutions no longer require men to wear ties to dinner, and most have done away with the requirement that they wear jackets, too. This is taken to be a sign that men in general are dressing a lot more casually than they used to, and that the fine art of dressing well is dead in the water. And that’s partially true. Looking around the Abrams Media office, I see one guy wearing a hoodie, another one with a pair of headphones slung round his neck where a tie would be in an ideal world, and yet another whose shirt is probably irreparably wrinkled. I doubt any of these dudes are going to suit up before they head off to dine.
And while they would appall men like Gay Talese, the dandy journalist, who sees poorly dressed men at restaurants and thinks, “why aren’t you at a baseball game, or eating popcorn somewhere? Anywhere but here,” for me that’s just normal. Restaurants need their money now more than ever. Per the Journal:
For most formal establishments, recent apparel relaxations are a matter of economics, priorities and pragmatism. In these tight-pocketed times, restaurants don’t have the luxury of imposing rules. And, after the initial shock, it is reasoned that most fine-dining regulars who enjoyed “the rules” will come to accept the inevitable. The world isn’t their Oysters Rockefeller anymore. Old money’s out, and the Converse-sneaker-clad social networkers are in.
But the shift in menswear isn’t some shocking new conspiracy. I tend to think that older men pore over black-and-white pictures from between the World Wars and wonder why we young bucks don’t dress like that anymore. It’s because we don’t have to, and because we haven’t had to in a long time. If our offices have gradually let go of the high standard of dress for work, doesn’t it make sense that our sidewalks, restaurants and other areas of transit and leisure would, too? Yes, it does. And yes, they have.
So it’s unfair to assign the blame for dressing carelessly to men themselves. Assign it to the institutions that not only allow them to dress like buffoons, but encourage them to do so. Maybe instead of letting go of the dinner jacket rule, the 21 Club and other restaurants like it should have held onto them for dear life.
Luckily (and to its credit the Journal realizes this) there are plenty of young guys out there who are rediscovering that there’s a time and a place for sweatpants and athletic socks, and that fine dining establishments is not one of them. I’d venture that slowly but surely, the rules will come back in the same way that an emphasis on menswear is coming back right now.
Jacket (Not) Required [The Wall Street Journal]