Dress Code Debate

Mastro steakhouse

On a recent Saturday evening, Peter and I, along with another couple, had reservations at one of our favorite Boston steakhouses, Mastro. It is on the waterfront, a beautiful setting, with an equally impressive dining room. From the bread basket to the desserts, all food is outstanding – with prices to match. The service is impeccable, delivered by a staff in formal white jackets and black bow ties.  And – to top it all off, they have live entertainment on the weekends which contributes to an energetic, fun vibe. (Yeah, loud too!)  There was only one problem: an apparent lack of  dress code.  Sitting next to us, a young man in a tee shirt, while his date was wearing a cocktail dress. Plenty of other men in jeans and sneakers. Sloppy looking, very casual.  Toward the end of the evening, a guy walked by our table actually wearing baggy gym shorts and athletic sneakers. Awful!  Sorry, I don’t want to see this when I am paying this much money for an elegant dining experience. After a lengthy discussion with our friends on our way home and a bit of online research, here are a few points to ponder:

  • This occurs not only at Mastro – most high end restaurants now have a very loose dress code; Mistral, L’Espalier do not require men to wear jackets.
  • The loose dress code is likely done for business reasons. They do not want to turn away revenue from the affluent younger set, nor do they want a dining room filled with sedate baby boomers.
  • Having a dress code that states ‘business casual’, ‘upscale casual’, or ‘no ripped jeans’ is too vague and confusing for most people to interpret. Guys especially can be clueless when it comes to this category, many only understanding ‘dressed up’ (suit and tie) or ‘casual’ (jeans, sneakers, fleece or leather jacket).  There needs to be more specific guidelines.
  • If it were up to me, it should be ‘Jackets required for men, no jeans, no sneakers, no athletic wear.’ (While ‘nice’ jeans look great with a sport jacket and dress shoes, it leaves too much up to interpretation for what are ‘nice’ jeans.)  Basically, you need to draw the line somewhere.
  • The lack of dress code is unlikely to change, so what to do?  Just because you can wear jeans, teeshirts, sneakers, shorts – doesn’t mean YOU have to. There are plenty of people in upscale restaurants dressed nicely, and not only those over 50. Dressing up shows a level of respect for who you are with, for where you are, and for yourself.  And trust me, people notice.

Ok!  I am hoping to get many comments on this post so please don’t let me down!  What do you think about the lack of dress codes in fine restaurants?  Does it bother you or not so much?  For the ladies, you may enjoy the occasion to wear a dress/skirt, but would it be a challenge for your husband wear a sport jacket if it was not required?  Do you care? Let’s get the debate going!

candy in your inbox

Enter your name and email below to get notifications
of new blog articles sent via email.

17 Comments

  • I guess it does add an element of “specialness” to it – I think Boston is a more casual city in general, so it’s hard. If you were in Paris or NYC, there would probably be more of an expectation to dress up. I def agree that so much is about the younger people not knowing. How to educate them??? Hmmm…

    Reply
  • I agree w u Candy . “ Jacket required for men, no jeans, no athletic wear, no sneakers” like u stated. My parents always were dressed up when they went out on dates when dining .

    Reply
  • I tell my hubs to dress based on what I am wearing. If I’m casual, he can be casual. But gone are the days when men would be handed ties to put on in a restaurant if they neglected to wear one. Restaurants, theater, graduations you name it, folks just don’t care. We live in a casual world.

    Reply
    • It sure is obvious that many don’t care, but I will get on my soapbox and say THEY SHOULD. Certain occasions and places deserve more formal attire to show you consider them to be of importance. The person you are out with deserves it. The world may have become more casual but I will not follow the fleece and flip flop crowd. I will do everything I can in my corner of the world to change that.
      Tom Ford quote: “Dressing well is a form of good manners.” Amen.

      Reply
    • I was thinking about the poor woman in the cocktail dress who had to sit there with her trashy-looking escort, I’ll bet she was embarassed.

      Reply
  • I agree but think, unfortunately, that ship has sailed. I would be happy if men just wore a collared shirt and long pants. I’m willing to compromise on jackets so they can have their comfortable clothes. One thing still seems to be true–you tend to get better service when well-dressed, so that can be a good motivator.

    Reply
  • I am with you on this 100%, and cannot stand it. We have become such a sloppy, lazy looking society. I travel often for work, and I always see at least one, if not two people boarding a plane in pajama pants. I’ve even seen slippers.

    Casual has a time and a place, but I think there is something lovely about getting dressed up and looking nice for a night out. It adds a specialness to it.
    Not all places need to be jackets required, but I feel like if the servers are wearing jackets and white gloves, the patrons could at least rise to the occasion, and get out of the gym clothes.

    Reply
  • Candy,
    I agree with you all the way. Even my husband notices when others don’t dress nicely at an up scale restaurant. We’ve seen jeans at Broadway shows at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. (If there is ever a place I want to dress up, it’s there!) We’ve seen baseball caps and cargo shorts at nice restaurants (those that require a reservation). I even work with people who wear flip flops on a daily basis. I often wonder if it’s an age thing or something else. My mother and grandmother taught me how to dress nicely for all occasions and I’ve never forgotten. Other than model the correct way to dress, I don’t know what else to do.

    Reply
  • I totally agree with you, Candy. Casual has become sloppy and even in NYC the general attire is athletic wear and sneakers (along with a yoga mat and water bottle!) whether or not one is heading to or back from the gym. As Professor Linda Przybyzewski teaches at Notre Dame, we have become “A Nation of Slobs”. She has a wonderful book out called The Lost Art of Dress.

    Reply
  • I totally agree that “upscale” restaurants should have dress codes. Rather than telling people what they must wear, I think it is more important to let them know what they cannot wear. Even mediocre restaurants should have guidelines on dress. I think jeans are fine to wear but keep the gym clothes for the gym, the flip flops for the beach and the slippers and lounge pants for home! And one of my biggest pet peeves…..men wearing hats in a restaurant!!!! I guess I’m old fashioned.

    Reply
    • Interesting approach to say only what they cannot wear. Hmmm. ‘No shirts without collars, no athletic wear, no sneakers, no flip flops, no hats.’ It would definitely be an improvement! ;-)

      Reply
    • Our mothers and grandmothers taught us well! If you are modeling the correct way to dress (appropriate for the occasion) keep on doing it! While it may not not seem like anyone notices, THEY DO. You are influencing others.

      Reply
    • Funny that you mention people on a plane in pjs. Makes me think of those who say they want to be “comfortable” when they go out to dinner. If your nice clothes are really uncomfortable, that tells me they must not fit properly, maybe they are a size too small! Being comfortable in public need not mean wearing pjs or gym clothes. ;-)

      Reply
    • Collared shirt and long pants definitely a step in the right direction, but let’s not give up on the jackets altogether. A jacket adds instant style/polish and should be completely comfortable if it fits! Comfortable, better service, and ‘admiration’ from your significant other – who wouldn’t want that? :-)

      Reply
  • I have no problem with guys wearing dark wash jeans with a sports jacket, but I agree, nice restaurants and other establishments should set a dress code. I think more of them would do that if more of us asked them to. Otherwise, they ASSume we don’t mind dining among flip-flops and cargo shorts.

    Reply
    • Good point Rita, assuming we don’t mind. And it’s not that a guy can’t look fabulous wearing a nice sweater with nice jeans and nice shoes, but it’s too hard to define what’s nice! ;-)

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top