Dressing Down Those Who Dress Down

Manolo says, the Manolo’s good friend, the Linda Grant, has written the much needed piece in today’s Guardian about the sloppiness of the modern restaurant patron.

Forty or 50 years ago, when a couple went out to dine the men wore suits, ties (preferably regimental) and shined shoes, and the women would be in cocktail dresses, heels and even mink stoles. The dress code of an establishment was directly linked to the numbers of pieces of cutlery at each place setting. Judging by the films of the period, there might also be a small dancefloor, and a band.

There was always the suspicion that restaurants imposed dress codes so that oiks would be prevented from getting any further than the front door. Now you can wear anything you like. You can blame it on the fact that eating out is no longer classified as a special occasion. Or perhaps that the price of meals is so astronomical, in London at least, that diners can no longer afford expensive clothes. Or that the competition between proliferating numbers of restaurants is so intense that owners can’t afford to place restrictions on who can and can’t come in. And for celeb diners, who can always get a table at a full restaurant at 8pm, there are no rules.


This change extends beyond restaurant etiquette – no one goes to the theatre or opera in evening dress any more. The outfits photographed on the red carpet have no occasion except the red carpet. Apart from weddings, when are we allowed to dress up? What are all those clothes doing in the shops, if we have no place any more to wear them because of the relentless dumbing down of dress? It is a depressing experience to sit in a beautiful room eating delicious food and see at the next table a party dressed in beige fleeces and Cornish pasty shoes. Surely going out is all about dressing up, about making an effort, about suiting the clothes to the activity?

This is one of the more lamentable changes of the past three decades, this slow inexorable slide of the general population into sweat pants and crocs.

Yes, right now you are going out to eat at the fancy restaurant in the pressed bluejeans and polo shirt. He doesn't care how he looks, why should those who dine at his restaurants care?

“It is okay,” you say to yourself, “at least I am dressed better than this restaurant’s celebrity owner…” Who has just at that moment come shambling out of the kitchen wearing the scruffy beard, the orange crocs, the scarf made out of sausage, and what appears to be no pants, just the dirty apron.

And so, one more step toward the slippery slope has been taken.

Next thing you know, you have ditched the polo and pressed jeans for the tattered cutoffs and the stupid/ironic-ironic/stupid hipster t-shirt that you pulled from the dirty laundry hamper moments before leaving the house.

So what if you are the 45-year-old senior vice president at the bank, you only live once, eh? No reason to put on the old monkey suit, not when everyone else looks like orangutans.

The Linda Grant is so completely and terribly right, we are losing our occasions to dress up.