I learned something this week. Apparently I was so hung up on the injustice of dress codes in schools all these years, that I didn’t realize that some restaurants in South Florida also have dress codes for real, grown adults and they are much worse than high school dress codes could ever be. For example, you can make a reservation at a regular ol’ steakhouse and then not be allowed in simply because you’re wearing flip flops, even when you are wearing a perfectly on-trend yet classic urban summer dress from Allsaints with said flip flops (in FLORIDA. Didn’t you guys basically invent flip flops? They’ve got to be your state shoe or something). Even when everyone else in the casino where said steakhouse Council Oak is located is dressed like it’s 2001 and brown lip liner and pageboy caps are literally everywhere you turn and you notice someone’s hot pink thong poking out of their low-rise studded jeans and suddenly you just really need to sit down and close your eyes for a second. Even then. Even when right outside on the strip there is a guy with dreadlocks and an ironic trucker hat singing Red Hot Chili Peppers covers (not even like “Fight Like A Brave” or anything, I mean straight up Californication BS), drawing a small crowd of no-necked guys with buzz cuts and identical button up shirts holding glow sticks. Even when he switches to Sublime covers, and are your eyes deceiving you? Are you seeing an Ed Hardy shirt? Oh yes you are. EVEN THEN. Even when your husband is talking to the manager like the seasoned professional that he is and explaining, “Look, I know you are probably just starting out in this business. But if you decide to continue on this career path, you will realize one day that this was a mistake. Are you honestly going to look at this woman and tell me something is wrong with her appearance? You WANT people who look like her dining at your establishment. She could walk into any $300 a plate restaurant in New York City dressed like this and be welcomed with open arms.” Even then. Then I zoned out for a second during their conversation and thought to myself, “Huh. I’ve worked in fashion my entire life. Is it possible that I don’t know as much as I think I do? Was that degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology a waste of money? Has this restaurant staff never flipped through the pages of a J. Crew catalog? No, that can’t be right. I mean I’ve been in print meetings with Nicole Miller and Anna Sui with people wearing flip flops. I’ve been in trend meetings with people who INVENT FASHION TRENDS wearing flip flops. I’ve even seen people wearing the occasional flip flop paired effortlessly with a caftan or leather legging during New York Fashion Week events.” Years ago my best friend designed t-shirt graphics for Abercrombie & Fitch, and they gave their employees two options of footwear to wear to work – Converse or FLIP FLOPS. Their dress code WAS flip flops. And they were actual clothing designers for gods sake. When I texted this friend about this, he replied, “It’s Florida, are you sure you didn’t get kicked out for wearing heels?”
Sadly, places with these micromanaging rules reek of desperation. It’s as if they want so badly to be “fancy” because they know deep down they’re mediocre at best. You’re basically asking your clientele to do the work for you. “Please try to look so good that nobody notices how subpar our food is. And then pay us for the privilege.” Unfortunately you’re going to realize soon that people are tired of doing your work. But it’s not too late. Before that happens, let me Obamacare your whole problematic dress code system. Wait, maybe that’s a bad example. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that we live in an age where Barneys sells ripped (ahem, “distressed”) t-shirts for $440. And people buy them. Like it or not, this is the current situation when it comes to fashion. This antiquated notion that you can’t look cool or put together in flip flops is as outdated as women thinking they need to wear shoulder pads in the workplace to be taken seriously. Would I walk into 11 Madison Park wearing flip flops? Probably not. But if I did, it would be none of their concern because they would be too busy being the very best at what they do. Council Oak, you absolutely must evolve from your current stagnant stance on fashion. Because you know what they say, “What is the difference between a living thing and a dead thing? In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple.” And you don’t want your restaurant to DIE, do you? Come on. Help me help you.