Do Men Have to Wear a Jacket in Restaurants in Your City?

Paul Graham’s latest essay on Cities and Ambition has some parts I agree with, some parts I do not (as usual), but I found this footnote particularly amusing:

How many times have you read about startup founders who continued to live inexpensively as their companies took off?  Who continued to dress in jeans and t-shirts, to drive the old car they had in grad school, and so on?  If you did that in New York, people would treat you like shit.  If you walk into a fancy restaurant in San Francisco wearing a jeans and a t-shirt, they’re nice to you; who knows who you might be?  Not in New York.

One sign of a city’s potential as a technology center is the number of restaurants that still require jackets for men.  According to Zagat’s there are none in San Francisco, LA, Boston, or Seattle, 4 in DC, 6 in Chicago, 8 in London, 13 in New York, and 20 in Paris.

(Zagat’s lists the Ritz Carlton Dining Room in SF as requiring jackets but I couldn’t believe it, so I called to check and in fact they don’t. Apparently there’s only one restaurant left on the entire West Coast that still requires jackets: The French Laundry in Napa Valley.)

11 comments on “Do Men Have to Wear a Jacket in Restaurants in Your City?
  • It’s always seemed to me that if I’m going to pay for an expensive meal, I should be able to dress any way I’d like. I don’t enjoy playing dress-up and I really don’t enjoy it when I’m a paying customer.

  • I am not sure if any folk wisdom exists on this in other cultures but in North India, they say:

    “Eat what you like, and dress how others like.”

    That aside, to be fair, the London list of jacket-required restaurants includes places like Le Gavroche (2 Michelin stars) where people are unlikely to dine every day. If it is special enough to warrant a visit to Le Gavroche, surely it is worth more than jeans? The same goes in general for Michelin starred restaurants outside London (such as the Freres Roux’s Waterside Inn).

    In London, there is also a sort of unstated code about where certain professions hang out. e.g. Showy media types and ‘celebrities’ prefer the Ivy. If one does not wish to be egregious, perhaps dressing to blend is a good idea. The usual clientele is pretty well-heeled and well-turned out.

    In Europe in general – irresp of what Zagat says – a jacket is usually a good thing to have on, if one wishes to get decent service in a good restaurant. Such are the vagaries of culture. Many places will also turn customers away without a second glance.

  • This seems absolutely ridiculous to me, but hey what do I know, I’m from New England. I like being comfortable while I eat, especially if I’m going to pay for over-priced food. “Jacket-required” to me, is a relic held over from a pass era.

  • Professionals visit restaurants on purpose that’s not always to eat. The order is often a soup and some sandwiches or at the most some beer. Especially consultants operating in expensive cities like Tokyo or Singapore can only afford a pigeon hole for an office/home where they can’t invite clients. But they do cut deals and most discussions take place in fine restaurants that have an ambience and a quiet crowd. Places that call for a dress code are often less noisy and suit that purpose very well. The table should accommodate a laptop and if there is free Wi-Fi, it’s added aha.

  • Yep–I’ve eaten in some of the classiest restaurants in Seattle, and half the folks in there are sporting some form of fleece and/or jeans. They usually have expensive eyeglasses, though. 😉

  • Yep–I’ve eaten in some of the classiest restaurants in Seattle, and half the folks in there are sporting some form of fleece and/or jeans. They usually have expensive eyeglasses, though. 😉

  • Take it from the ultimate non-fashionista: I don’t like to play dress-up either. But I’ve found that there are times that it pays to play this game. And that’s why the dress-up clothes are still in my closet.

  • Adding to Krishna’s point about business and meals: The French Laundry requiring jackets actually makes perfect sense to me. As the only 3-star Michelin on the West Coast, it has the status of a food shrine and consequently people treat a meal there like a pilgrimage (it takes two months to book a reservation there, and it’s not the kind of place where people can conduct business and eat Thomas Keller’s divine food at the same time).

    Similarly, in NY and Paris, the restaurants requiring jackets are also the highest-ranked according to Michelin and Milau.

    Though it seems to be a declining trend with the elimination of tie requirements, jackets reinforce the idea that you are going to a restaurant to enjoy the best of fine dining. The jacket seems to be a reinforced tradition mainly in French haute cuisine, however, and it’s believed that the Michelin critics have a bias for French chefs (so there’s a self-perpetuating cycle of dining formality for you).

    On the flip side, the highest-rated restaurants in England and Spain, Fat Duck and El Bulli respectively, don’t require jackets and apparently people come in jeans and flip flops. Then again, they’re Molecular gastronomists, whose food itself embodies the technological innovation and ambition that the French aren’t known for yet. So even though it takes a long time to get reservations at either of these restaurants (the seasonal El Bulli chooses its diners by lottery), it’s just weird to feel formal when you’re experimenting with cotton candy that tastes like fish or drinking a glassless margarita in the shape of a foam cube.

    In conclusion, in order to truly secure itself as the center of civilization’s advancement, San Francisco needs more molecular gastronomists.

  • Going out to eat is about more than just the food. Dressing well is a sign of self-respect, and it drives me berserk to see people conduct business meetings in denim – particularly once I moved to Seattle, where women attend black tie events in dresses cut above the knee.

    A restaurant is private property and therefore free to have all the dress code restrictions it wants. Don’t like it, eat somewhere else. Having all the money in the world doesn’t justify being a slob.

  • Way late to this particular party, but I would now take having no restaurants requiring jackets as simply a lack of variety rather than a pointer to a stuffy culture. Having too many restaurants that require jackets would indicate this, but not having any could show a lack of aesthetic appreciation, lack of money, or lack of variety. But then, my off-the-cuff right number of restaurants requiring jackets would be one per one million residents, so I don’t know how many of these cities get it right.

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