June 23, 2007

Cracking Up at the Dress Code in LA, New York City

A recent article comparing dress codes in Los Angeles and New York City had me ROFL, because it was so dead-on. The Wall Street Journal article, "Cracking the Dress Code in L.A., New York," was accompanied by some very telling photos (some of the photos in the print version, especially the one of the high-powered bald L.A. executive in jeans, long sleeve t-shirt and flip- flops, are different than those in the online version).

I grew up near New York City and still visit occasionally, and now I live not far from L.A. at the beach. I thought that the article's author, Christina Binkley, nailed this one on the head, other than allowing her New York City bias to show by referring to her city as "New York." Remember, New York is a very large and diverse state. If one wants to be even more precise, one should refer to Manhattan rather than New York City. Anyone who has seen the films "Working Girl" or "Saturday Night Fever" knows that folks in the boroughs outside of Manhattan (derisively described by Manhattanites as the "bridge and tunnel crowd" or "BBQs" [Bronx Brooklyn Queens]) may dress very differently than people who live in Manhattan. And then there's the hair, which has tended to be big for women on Staten Island and "zippered" for men in Brooklyn.

Her New York City bias aside, Ms. Binkley accurately describes the very opposite signals sent by the exact same clothing in Los Angeles and Manhattan. Binkley writes that, while a man in a quality suit and tie exudes power and status while lunching at a Manhattan restaurant, the same man in the same suit and tie would be mistaken for "a worker bee -- someone's accountant or agent" -- in Los Angeles. In contrast, recently I saw a man in his sixties wearing a t-shirt and shorts in a restaurant here. He looked pretty disheveled, practically homeless, and even the servers snickered at him behind his back. We both left at the same time, and I saw him get into an expensive Mercedes. He's probably a movie or record executive.
After moving to Southern California from Washington, DC last fall, I wore a black suit to my first museum event out here. Big mistake. The jeans-clad denizens stared at me, and it wasn't because they thought I was George Clooney. I think they were waiting to see me carrying a tray of drinks so that they could order one from me. Since then, my jeans, which I rarely wore in DC, have gotten a strenuous workout. But even when I wear jeans, I'm still overdressed compared to the guys wearing jeans with holes in them. Likewise, as I indicated in a recent post, my tasseled lawyer's loafers from DC are collecting dust while my growing sneaker collection cannot keep up with rapid wear and tear.

For women, as Ms. Binkley notes, clingy clothes to show off that buff bod are de rigeur in L.A. In towns like mine near the beach, the amount of skin revealed would result in the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Ms. Binkley also mentions pantyhose for women. What are those? I don't remember. Not a problem.

Does anyone want to buy some previously owned double-breasted Armani suits? I'll even brush off the dust beforehand.


At 8:10 AM, Blogger globalchameleon said...

Armani suits - nice - you could have quite a garage sale! Good article and post - and so true. When I first moved out here, I had so much Colorado-wear in my wardrobe that inevitably the statement "I thought you lived in Takoma Park" would come up in conversation. And what I wear now, though by no means Hill-conservative, would strike folks out there as overly uptight

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

It sounds like your whole life is more relaxed than when you lived here in DC. Definitely a move in the right direction.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

The dress code is more relaxed but not everything is more relaxed. Anything to do with driving is definitely not relaxed!


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