Why wouldn’t you wear black tie?

The debate around dress code needs to be shot between the eyes.

Every so often the same questions get raised, the same ignorant gripes get aired, while the same cultural institutions get slammed.

Dress code doesn’t put people off from attending concerts and the opera, debates about dress code does.

And that debate is one which, I suspect, is constantly revisited by the young. Or its one which is constantly analyzed through a young person’s eyes. Alexander Chandler adopts a refreshingly liberal stance on the matter in his Spectactor Blog, published today. He writes:

there is no doubt about it — people who have splashed out on tickets to a country-house opera want to make it an occasion to remember and find it all the more memorable if they are togged up in their best finery. And there is a school of thought that holds that evening dress, far from being elitist, is on the contrary a social leveller.

The point about evening dress being a social leveller will inevitably be misunderstood. For those who aren’t wearing it, evening dress is the sign of either the upper classes, or those pretending to be the upper classes. A uniform. A requirement. The point is, that for those who are wearing it (and hear I’m concentrating on the men), the visual simplicity of the dinner jacket means that everyone donning one for a night out looks exactly the same.

The point is how we as individuals approach the classical music concert or opera performance. If we as individuals want to turn our attendance into a memorable event, then why shouldn’t we dress up a bit? If there’s a garden nearby or a park, then why the bloody hell shouldn’t we have a picnic in the afternoon beforehand? As I grow older, I rather look forward to those traditions, for the same reason that me and husband make an effort to put a suit and tie on when we go to our favourite restaurant.

To argue that dressing up for a night of entertainment demonstrates snobbery or elitism denies us as individuals the opportunity to make an occasion out of an event.

But whilst it may appear I’m just echoing everything Chandler is saying in his blog, there is one fundamental difference between us. The problem for men (if there really can be said to be one) is not the requirement to wear a dinner jacket and a bow tie. Rather that generally speaking, unless you look as chiselled and pumped as Daniel Craig, most DJs aren’t especially flattering outfits. If I could look good in a DJ I’d wear one. I despise wearing one for concerts I’m asked to play in, for example. I’d like to be smart, but not wearing a costume.

So, as I get older, I think I’d probably prefer to go to a concert wearing a jacket of some kind. I’ll only wear a tie if I’ve been wearing it for something else during the day. If it’s the Proms, I’ll more than likely wear jeans. But, don’t box me in. I’ll see how I feel on the day and decide then. Just don’t think you can judge me when you see me in whatever I’m dressed in. I’m coming for the music. It’s not a fashion parade. Thank God.


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