The web log Easy & Elegant Life recently published its author’s account of breakfast at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C., a nice place across the street from the White House. Like most nice places, the Hay-Adams has abandoned – like rats jumping off a beautiful and majestically sinking ship – the idea of a dress code, opting instead for self-correction among patrons at the behest of public shaming.
(With regard to patrons immune to, or ignorant of, public shaming – i.e., The Real Housewives of New Jersey – the hotel seems without recourse.)
Still, most people dress appropriately for breakfast at the Hay-Adams (if for no other reason than the cost of rooms encourages a clientage partial to materialism). The author reports blazers, sweaters, trousers, and shined shoes in evidence.
He reports also a man in a gun-check plaid jacket, yellow tie, blue-and-white blucher-striped shirt, and bespoke gray slacks, with a willowy lady in red. They sat in silence by a window while she had grapefruit juice and he had nothing. He stood up and left, she followed, and shortly thereafter a uniformed driver came in to retrieve the man’s briefcase, which he’d left at the table. The room was quickly rife with speculation. A visiting diplomat and his secretary? Ambassador and wife? Foreign businessman and consort?
On the opposite side of the room as the mysterious couple had been, a group of friends was eating breakfast too. They wore shorts, sweatpants, sneakers, and short-sleeved shirts. Nobody paid any attention to them.
The moral is, you can eat breakfast dressed however you like. The days when you might be turned back for appearing under-dressed exist now only in nostalgia. Bespoke gun-check plaid jacket or sweatpants, the choice is yours and the waiters will serve you either way.
But a striking figure still generates interest. The well-turned out man carries with him an idea of intrigue and derring-do the slob in sweatpants never will, though they both may eat the same breakfast. The lesson is, what matters is not just that you live (or, eat breakfast)… but also how you do it. We all know how James Bond prefered his martinis. Do any of us care how Bobby down the street prefers his wine in a box?