Dinner Attire Dept: Bring! Back! Blazers!
Stop acting like Adam Sandler is your spirit animal and start dressing up for dinner, even if you're a downtown dirtbag
Throughout November, we’ll be posting reported features, essays, lists, and more around our monthly theme: The Influence Appetite.
Does anyone dress up for dinner anymore?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself lately. It started about six months ago, when my wife and I grabbed dinner downtown at a hotspot where the maitre d’ was kind enough to welcome us as a walk-in, even going so far as to bless us with a banquette primed for people watching. In the end, however, it didn’t amount to a memorable meal. Both the food and the decor, that is roughly two-thirds of the overall vibe, seemed to suffer from an identity crises — a mix of this and that, all of it vaguely Mediterranean with no real through line, no commitment.
The same could not be said for the people. Everyone there was the type of hype beast bleeding edge New Yorker who dresses the part — commits to the bit, hard. If you’ve spent anytime downtown these days you can probably picture who I am talking about — dirtbags dripping in a mix of ALD and overpriced thrift store finds, a pair of Salomon trail running sneaks and equally aggressive athletic wrap around sunglasses by Oakley, maybe some baggy jeans (like, with patches and logos sewn onto them, wtf is that?), the guys adorned in earrings befitting a late ‘90s boy or rap metal band, some gas-station-core accessories laden in irony.
On an individual level, the drip was eclectic, but on the whole everyone dressed the same, and as a result the entire dining room looked bland. Blame it on fit checks and #fyp algorithms, everyone influenced down to the last tiny detail. Still, I’ve seen the same homogeneity elsewhere, among the less permanently online, in other circles and other dining rooms. The attire is of course different—maybe it’s fleece vest finance crowds in Tribeca stealth wealth spots, or the UWS parents who show up for their resy in athleisure, or hirsute Brooklynites who remain unaware that waxed mustache maker culture has been retired permanently to the Hudson Valley and points further north—but the overall effect remains the same: no high-low mix of style supercharging the scene.
There’s also this: no one seems to be changing before they go out for dinner anymore. Perhaps the pandemic has lulled us all into a state in which whatever we’ve been wearing that day is good enough for dinner that night. And yet…
Hear Us Out
Earlier this autumn, Jason Diamond wrote an excellent piece on the death of the scene restaurant. He cited iconic spots like The Palm, The Four Seasons, and 21 — places where “certain codes and rules were to be followed.” Of course, one of these codes was how patrons dressed. If dining is theater, and surely it is, then guests should meet it halfway. In other words, show up, which is something we’ve written about before.
Short of running our fits through ChatGPT and asking AI to make them “more elegant” or “more chic” or “more prep” (hey, you do you), what can we do, sartorially speaking, to show up when we dine out? Simple: put on a damn blazer. Yes, restaurants like Le Bern have even done away with the dress code these days. And lamenting the loss of certain fashion standards is reductive and pointless, like bemoaning the death of rock and roll as contemporary culture’s preeminent form of pop music. I don’t want to sound like your dad.
But we all know how styles and trends work. Want to start a new one? Zag where others have zigged. Normcore and dirtbag fits, especially in the menswear space, are a natural reaction to all the over-the-top Pitti-style peacocking we saw last decade — every dude done up in all manners of blazers and scarves, as if Scott Schuman lurked around every corner, ready to immortalize them on the pages of The Sartorialist. It was…exhausting.
I’m not advocating to bring back the excesses of the “menswear decade,” just the blazer. And I’m not gendering the garment either. Princess Di, Grace Jones — plenty of female fashion heroes have donned the jacket. The same goes for our trans and non-binary friends. Dress it up, vintage it out with shoulder pads, pull a Timothée Chalamet and wear one with nothing underneath — the world’s your oyster.
To don a blazer—or, even better, a dinner jacket—in this excessively casual day and age feels almost punk, a big f you to the man. And if you show up in one, you’ll add some eclecticism to the otherwise homogenous dinner scene — like when Wall Street tycoons mingled with downtown club kids in the post punk 80s (see Patrick McMullan’s archive for evidence). Trust me, at the risk of sounding prescriptive, you’ll feel like a macher.
So, before you head to Cervo’s tonight, swing by your apartment first and dust off that blazer. I’ll see you there, and I’ll be wearing one, too.
Blackbird Labs, Inc.