The scourge of enforced casual

Thursday, July 28, 2011
I noticed an interesting story buried inside yesterday's Evening Standard about Peter Bingle, a PR man, who was banned from Soho House (one of London's new breed of modern private members' clubs) for wearing a suit. All very strange. It seems that Soho House, in keeping with its role as being the members' club for people in the creative industries, has decided to not only permit, but actually enforce a casual dress code.

How incredibly naff.

I have nothing against private clubs that permit a casual dress code. I am myself a member of both a 'traditional' private club, and a more modern one. The latter suits me when I want later opening hours, trendier cocktails, and not to have to wear a suit and tie. The former has a very different role. That's all fine, but one of the things I like about the more modern club is that I also know that if I happened to turn up in full white tie, neither the staff nor any of the other guests would so much as bat an eyelid. I simply cannot understand the sort of institutional insecurity that leads a private club to actually insist upon a casual dress code.

It is, of course, an attitude deeply ingrained in the creative world that Soho House was formed to serve. I should know, I work in the industry myself, and there is certainly an attitude in some quarters that casual dressing is not just permitted but actually required. Happily, though, this sort of pretentiousness seems to be losing traction and a few agency types, perhaps inspired by Mad Men, are beginning to see that dressing smartly doesn't prevent you from being 'cool', creative, or whatever it is they aspire to. Hopefully, people are finally beginning to ditch the idea that the suit represents conformity, The Man, being boring, and so forth. Instead, they may start to see the infinite possibility for variety and self-expression possible with good tailoring.

Perhaps then, Soho house will also appreciate that, by enforcing a casual dress code, they are pandering to exactly the sort of stale, desperate, conformity that they were, presumably, trying to keep out.