polo ralph lauren men Dress Codes in New York Clubs
GENTLEMEN who prefer Ed Hardy shirts, those dragon happy hallmarks of “Jersey Shore” chic, will not be getting into the Mulberry Project, the subterranean speakeasy cocktail lounge in Little Italy, any time soon. If you prefer your dress shirts colorful and boldly striped, don’t bother with the club Provocateur, in the meatpacking district. with that, but there will be no Continental for you tonight.
Dress codes have long been the secret language of New York City night life; fluency can mean the difference between an epic night out and a humiliating kick to the curb. “There’s nothing that dresses a room like a crowd,” said Ian Parms, an owner of the Mulberry Project. “The ambience of the experience is the people around you, so it’s important for us to keep those people fashion forward and eclectic and interesting and engaging.”
Beyond being inherently snobbish, such selectivity has invited charges of racism. In December, the New York City Commission on Human Rights opened an investigation (still in progress) into the Continental, a sports bar in the East Village on Third Avenue, for its “no baggy jeans or bling” policy, which civil rights groups called a barely concealed ploy to keep out blacks. Trigger Smith, the owner of the Continental, denied that he was trying to exclude people of a certain race. “It just so happens that more minorities wear these” kinds of clothes, he told The New York Times in January. “There isn’t a racist bone in my body.” One reason some may have found the Continental’s policy hard to swallow is the bar’s otherwise obvious lack of interest in fashion. On a typical Saturday night, the Continental’s mixture of frat boys and barflies sports an unironic mélange of ripped blue jeans, grubby backpacks, baseball hats and sneakers. (And for what it’s worth, the crowd was about 30 percent black on a visit in April.)
But Mr. Smith’s defense illuminates a truth about dress codes at even the most exclusive velvet roped clubs: they are frequently intended to keep out a certain type of person. The clothes themselves are secondary.
Mr. Satsky suggests that his male patrons wear “a blazer, a solid button down or a solid sweater.” For women, shoes are key. “Minimum five inch heel,” he said. “Christians are our favorite,” he added, referring not to the faithful but to Christian Louboutin, the designer known for his red soles. Jimmy Choo and Christian Dior are also welcome. If the crowd in Provocateur on any given night is a gauge, being European, gorgeous and at least 5 foot 10 is good, too.
An injunction against flannel, shorts and other typical brunch fashions helps convey the message that the sparklers and champagne bacchanal known as the Day and Night Brunch, which until June was held at the Plaza, is for socialites and financiers, not hotel guests in search of French toast, said Daniel Koch, who runs the weekly party with his twin brother, Derek. Koch said. “We have to say, ‘Look, dude, this isn’t what you think it is.’ You can’t rock a T shirt here unless you’re a rock star.”
(How does one dress for a brunch that resembles a Russian oligarch’s stag party? Ladies should consider brightly colored dresses or skirts and avoid cleavage baring blouses. “You don’t want that in your face at brunch,” said Mr. Koch, who now holds his brunch at different locations each week, including the Hamptons and St. Tropez.
“Today, people dress in costume,” she said. “We wear what we wish to be seen as,” whether that’s an emo kid, a Guidette (a female Guido) or a gangster.
Hence, the surest way for proprietors to create the “right” atmosphere in their clubs is to keep out the crowd they don’t want by banning an essential element of their style.
Ryan Dusheiko, general manager of Riff Raff’s, a new tiki themed club in the Flatiron district, put it simply, “It’s not what you’re wearing; it’s who you are.” (Guys confused by the upscale tiki lounge concept are encouraged to wear “a nice sports coat, a really great flower print shirt underneath, maybe a matching pocket square,” Mr. Dusheiko said. “We respect individuality.”)
For patrons, such flexibility can be either liberating or paralyzing, depending on their level of comfort with fashion. Who knows what you can get away with where anymore? Lauren Cosenza, a makeup artist who lives in NoLIta, said she has learned to dress for the neighborhood, not the club.
“Different neighborhoods reflect different tribes,” said Ms. Cosenza, who can be found in clubs like GoldBar, in Little Italy; Griffin, in the meatpacking district; and XIX, in NoLIta, four to five nights a week. For example, the hipster bars on the Lower East Side prefer “natural fabrics, lots of skinny denim on boys and girls, a lot of draping fabrics and muted colors.” The East Village is “more rock ‘n’ roll with punk undertones” (try ripped or distressed denim). “Meatpacking is your party dress, your five inch heels, designer bags.” In SoHo and NoLIta, she said, anything goes.
“I once saw a woman in GoldBar wearing pajama pants,” Ms. Cosenza recalled, insisting the woman pulled it off, thanks to the right accessories a “cool tank top and thick shoes” and tons of confidence. “To walk into a place and know it’s ridiculous but I couldn’t care less because I’m rockin’ my pajama pants,” she said, “that’s very SoHo.”
Of course, many club owners are loath to admit they have any dress code at all. They posit that anything works as long as you wear it with confidence.
“There are people who can put together a T shirt and jeans and sneakers and make it look as good as a three piece suit,” said Eugene Remm, who oversees Tenjune and SL in the meatpacking district, “and there are people who can wear a three piece suit and make it look sloppy.”