A Higher Standard: Don’t Test The Dress Code. | A Continuous Lean.

A Higher Standard: Don’t Test The Dress Code.

Aug 26th, 2013 | Categories: David Coggins, Menswear, New York City | by David Coggins


An unsettling article tucked away in the Times last week announced that the few remaining Manhattan restaurants still requiring dress codes—bless you 21—are now providing a better class of jacket to their delinquent underdressed visitors. Relax, the article said, there’s a perfectly good coat waiting for you at Per Se, so you can hide your complete lack of protocol under a 40 regular from Ralph Lauren.

While the restaurants are being perfectly hospitable—Daniel, in fact, has their coats custom-made—that does not mean you want to join the sartorial class of clothes swapping masses who wander into serious establishments in their shirtsleeves. Perhaps you prefer to rent a tuxedo for your own wedding, as well.

Show a sense of occasion. When you stride into Per Se, a restaurant that is not kidding around, why not wear your most devastating pinstripe suit? Or break out a double-breasted coat for your lunch at 21, and honor the dapper New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno who was a fixture there.

Unless you are known by one name or have taken your own company public, a dress code is not to be tested lightly. You might think you’re getting away with something, but who wins in the scenario where you are the most casual man in the room? Certainly not your date.

So take it upon yourself to be the man who makes an impression, honors the house style and sets a higher standard. —DAVID COGGINS

Further reading: Jacket (Not) Required by Steve Garbarino in the Wall Street Journal.

Comments: 33

33 Comments to “A Higher Standard: Don’t Test The Dress Code.”

  1. Lucas
    on Aug 26th, 2013
    @ 1:10 PM

    I can’t agree with this more. It’s sad that a dress code is even necessary. What happened to dressing well simply because it showed respect for the people around you? There’s no risk in dressing well; it’s far better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

  2. Jeff
    on Aug 26th, 2013
    @ 3:47 PM

    While I largely agree, a jacket is often very uncomfortable during the relentless 100+ degree days in Austin and other similarly hot cities. There’s little relief at night, as it’s often still in the 90′s at 10 p.m.

    I will say that a jacket comes in handy on those bitter cold winter days when the temperature here plunges into the low 40′s ;)

  3. Roseann
    on Aug 26th, 2013
    @ 4:16 PM

    Well said, and thank you (and we agree, Lucas, on your comment above). My husband and I could not agree more. The demise of the well-dressed male is distressing. We so often see gorgeously dressed women accompanied by men in t-shirts and flip-flops, baseball caps turned backwards. Ironically, it seems mostly America where we see this. In Europe it’s much less common. Even in the developing world, when people present themselves in public for a meal or a social gathering, they dress as well as they can, with neatly tucked shirts, pressed pants, and clean shoes—even if their home is a shack in Nairobi’s Kibera.

  4. Sean West Sculley
    on Aug 26th, 2013
    @ 4:17 PM


  5. Andrea
    on Aug 26th, 2013
    @ 11:06 PM

    Thank you! Americans in particular seem to simultaneously read the social importance of dress *and* choose to ignore it. It’s a puzzle to me.

  6. Bruce Loch
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 5:58 AM

    It all started back in 1993 when Roseanne Barr got her own TV show, and she made being a slob fashionable. Things have really gone downhill from there.

  7. Gary Duffey
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 9:20 AM

    Mother said, “stand out above the crowd rather than below”. Nothing will serve to build confidence faster than being dressed well, plus there is a Saturday morning in every week.
    Note: Third from left in that photo is Robert Ruark, one of my favorites. Fixture at ’21′, and a man given to much drink.

  8. Tom
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 9:22 AM

    Well Jeff…that seems to be how it all starts. If it’s too hot to wear a jacket in the summer in Austin, maybe you’re wearing the wrong fabrics for summertime in Austin. Once exceptions start being made they will quickly consume the rule.

  9. Rob
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 9:42 AM

    @Jeff, That’s why God invented linen. And cotton. And Boglioli. I’m down in Houston, and I don’t do date night at Uchi or wherever without a jacket. Even in August.

  10. Mike V.
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 11:40 AM

    Would it kill a guy to put on a shirt with a collar, or a jacket?
    I live in sunny southern CA, so it’s pretty casual here, but still. When you go out to dinner, I really don’t care where, if you’re “sitting down” for a meal, try a little bit. But no untucked douche shirts with embroidery.
    We went to a place for a special dinner that in the old days would have been “jacket required” but now it’s “jacket requested”. Guys in golf shirts and the like were not uncommon.

  11. keith g.
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 12:35 PM

    wow. really? you can’t be serious?

    i’m never reading this website again. why do you even care about what other people are wearing and where? it is all about the things that you yourself enjoy and feel good about.

    if you feel good about that double breasted zoot suit and $500 shoes – live it the fuck up. why waste the energy looking down your nose at how the slob next to you is dressed? how about the man who lives his life like he wants and is self confident has sense of modesty and is well held in the eyes of his peers?

    dislike the guy in flops and tank top with the stunning date on his arm? is it that your arm is empty? be the better man and tell his date how great she looks – you don’t want or need her; but, pay a compliment where it’s due and who the fuck cares about the rest.

    i really dig this site for its showcase of well made goods – and that is as far as it goes. there really shouldn’t be any lauding it over anyone. respect is not given or taken from what a person is able to afford to wear – it is given for the quality of a person’s character. if it isn’t in you to see or learn that character instead of reading it on that persons clothing labels – then kindly shut up. that is the lesson when bemoaning how good the old days were – it is in the doing – not the useless talk.

  12. jiheison
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 2:40 PM

    Americans increasingly dress like children throughout their entire lives. I blame whichever generation was on average 10 years old when jeans and T shirts first became popular.

  13. Jeff Byrnes
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 2:51 PM

    I’d argue that the well-dressed male is returning. With dozens of men’s clothiers springing up, offering more dapper ready-to-wear (Bonobos, Frank & Oak) as well as custom-made (Windsor Custom, Blank Label), and plenty of folks writing about men’s fashion, I see more & more men looking better both in and out of the office.

    We’ve got a long way to go to get back to the height of men’s fashion, but it’s moving in the right direction.

  14. James
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 2:53 PM

    I wonder if any of the restaurants with a dress code also ban children? A crying baby or an ill-mannered brat kill a nice evening out.

  15. RKW
    on Aug 27th, 2013
    @ 7:20 PM

    I never even noticed the dress code at 21. Perhaps thats because I was always in a coat and tie anyway, when I went there. (being from out of town). I will say this, the very first time I went, about 1977, it was around 2pm, and I went in with a friend for a late lunch. Not being familiar with the place, we went in without reservations, or even having a clue. They took charge of us like old time customers, and presented us with one of the best (and most expensive) lunches I’d ever had. I expensed it, and the main office was not happy LOL. Been back many times now over the years, always in a coat and tie, but on my dime.

  16. Wolvrne88
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 12:00 AM

    @Keith – I’m not sure that you understood the spirit of the article (or read the accompanying piece in the WSJ). It’s not about “disliking” someone for what they can or cannot afford to wear. The article, at least the way that I read it, was about respect for tradition, your fellow diners, and established decorum. As long as a gentleman is appropriately attired for the establishment at which he is dining, I could care less if his jacket and tie are from J.C. Penney’s or bespoke from Saville Row in London. If you want to wear a “wife beater,” “jorts,” and flip flops, bon appétit at the Olive Garden.

  17. David Coggins
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 12:40 AM

    Really sorry to hear that @keithg. But didn’t you realize that this website has a dress code?

  18. Ed
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 5:40 AM

    Things can get pretty dire, even at properly formal occasions. I was at a wedding last weekend and there were some shocking bad suits, nightmare shoes, and strangely absent or poorly-tied ties. These chaps were in their thirties.

    Luckily, it seems women still prefer the slightly-less-hopeless look…

  19. Peter
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 6:52 AM


    A classist’s focus on appearance of afluence over substance of character or deed certainly shows your natterings about quality and tradition of domestic American goods in a different light.

    Few things are further from an American tradition than classism. Quality yes, durability, yes. Exclusion, no. Think on this.

  20. Sean West Sculley
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 10:23 AM

    To dress well and neatly at table is disgusting as opposed to sporting a pair of Jalies, T-Shirt and baseball cap lodged backwards?
    Do you mean to say that dressing as a revolting slob evinces character and substance and/or deed?
    Classicism not American?
    From what sources was the American “Republic” derived?
    Rangoon, the Sea of Banda, Manchuria?
    Think on this.

  21. Dan Hook
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 1:58 PM

    It’s good to have this presented again. As Ben Franklin said, “you eat for yourself, but you dress for others.” It is indeed a terrible thing to see a well turned out lady with a Docker-clad husband… The sad thing is, it looks like the guy has a rental for the night… That’s terrible!! How is that right or fair??! As much as it would be great to believe that people are judged by their character alone, the truth is that you still must make a first impression (seconds to make & years to dispel… No matter how cool or brilliant you are). To not dress appropriately for whatever the occasion may be is perceived as the height of arrogance….(who are you that I need to dress up??) Aka, reverse snobbery. Somebody has to be the best dressed, why not it be you?

  22. Joe
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 3:04 PM

    I completely agree, you should always dress your best.

  23. Jeff
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 3:34 PM

    Hey Tom and Rob, I own two linen sports jackets, a couple of pairs of linen pants, several linen shirts, a seasucker suit, searsucker pants, a searsucker shirt and a tan tropical wool suit, so please lecture someone else about dealing with the heat.

    Perhaps y’all don’t sweat much; I do. So, I’m going to exercise some common sense and not wear a jacket at certain times of the year. Comprende?

  24. jiheison
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 5:29 PM

    Re: Few things are further from an American tradition than classism.

    And few things better illustrate American consumer disfunction than the fact that owning one decent suit of clothes is considered an elitist affront to the masses who spend many times as much on mountains of cheap crap. The condescension and low expectation inherent to this attitude is the real classism.

  25. haneesh
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 7:02 PM

    The dapper gent is returning, im making sure of it one suit at a time! Whilst its much more common here in the UK, its great to see standards of dress are bieng encouraged in the USA. Keep it up chaps!

  26. Jesus Espinoza
    on Aug 28th, 2013
    @ 8:56 PM

    A proper gentleman will refrain from uttering y’all(I) – Ephesians 4:29

    @Keith G.
    Thou shalt not justify wearing untucked douche shirts with embroidery – Mike V. 8:27

  27. Jeff
    on Aug 29th, 2013
    @ 2:22 PM

    “Judge not, that you be not judged.” — Matthew 7:1-5

  28. Jesus Espinoza
    on Aug 29th, 2013
    @ 7:53 PM


    Alas, biblical irony, judgment, et al.

  29. jiheison
    on Aug 30th, 2013
    @ 3:13 PM

    I don’t think I mind whatever this Matthew fellow might think of me for refraining from the use of “y’all” and the wear of bad shirts.

  30. gareth
    on Sep 8th, 2013
    @ 1:29 AM

    they should not provide any jackets for those who show up in their usual, uncaring attire. instead, they should gently remark that they have a dress code and turn them away with a smile.

  31. Peter
    on Sep 13th, 2013
    @ 10:05 PM

    “owning one decent suit of clothes is considered an elitist affront to the masses”

    No. It isn’t.

    This condescension is though:
    “you [don't] want to join sartorial class of clothes swapping masses who wander into serious establishments in their shirtsleeves.”

  32. Peter
    on Sep 13th, 2013
    @ 10:06 PM

    Also, don’t pull that ‘reverse classism’ crap. No one’s buying that.

  33. Herb
    on Sep 14th, 2013
    @ 6:55 AM

    Wow! I wish I had a SEASUCKER suit and SEARSUCKER pants and shirt. Where can I get some of those?