The Legalities of Dress Code

I learned something interesting recently about the legalities of dress code.

#1. Security guards are not allowed to touch you unless you do something illegal. Being dressed a certain way (barring nudity of course) does not constitute an illegal act. Thus if you go to a restaurant that has a dress code, the restaurant cannot have security guards throw you out, because legally they are not allowed to touch you unless you do something illegal. If a security guard touches you and you haven't done anything illegal, you can have his security guard license revoked and he or she will be unable to work. Security guards know this rule thoroughly too. The purpose of security guards is really to stop shoplifters, thieves, people who are breaking and entering, vandals, etc. They are not there to be "Fashion Police".

#2. Calling the police is out of the question too. The police don't care what you do as long as you don't break the law. They're not being paid to be "Fashion Police" either.

#3. Basically the only places that can legally enforce a dress code is a court of law. If the judge finds your attire unappropriate they may find you in contempt of court and insist you change into better looking clothing. However if you tell the judge that this is the best clothes you own, well, not much the judge can do about it. They might still find you in contempt of court however if the judge thinks you are lying.

#4. Many restaurants make people wait to be seated, basically standing in the foyer of the restaurant. If you are not dressed a certain way they might refuse to seat you. In which case if you try to seat yourself, then yes, you are trespassing, in which case they could physically throw you out if you refuse to leave.

#5. Trump Card! Food critics can wear whatever they want pretty much. If the restaurant thinks you are a food critic then who are they to argue? They aren't going to insist you leave based on your choices of fashion if they think you are a food critic and might give them a bad review.

Some places have a black tie policy. But what is considered "black tie" can be vague to some people. Its a bit like trying to figure out what "business casual" means. Ask 10 different people and you will get a different answer each time.

In general "Black Tie" is basically a black suit / tuxedo, white dress shirt, black bow tie, black socks, black dress shoes. However there are sub-groups of Black Tie which require a cumberbund, cuff links, etc.

However for women there is a lot more variety and options. That standard is an ankle or calf length dress, or a cocktail dress, sometimes accompanied by a stole, wrap, scarf, gloves, evening shoes - nothing too gaudy or outrageous.

Its a bit like going to the Oscars. Except the dresses the women wear are much more conservative.

I should note at the same time that dress code from decade to decade has a tendency to change dramatically.

What was considered "okay" in 1950 versus what was considered "okay" in 2010 has changed quite a bit - we now show a lot more skin than we used to.

You might think we showed a lot more skin during the 1960s or 1970s, but really that is only because popular culture has made a fuss about such things. In reality we show way more neck, shoulder, back, midriff, leg and even butt cheeks than we ever did before...

Whether you can get into a certain restaurant or posh casino dressed like that however - whole other story.

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