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How do I deal with lame hipster dress codes at the club?

The question

A couple of my friends have recently joined a private club with a hipster vibe. Guys seem to have replaced jackets and ties with lumberjack shirts tied around their waists. (I'll refrain from giving my own opinion on such matters, except to say I belong to an older club and quite enjoy the atmosphere there.) Both my friends have jobs that require them to wear suits and ties, and both men have told me that, upon entering the club, they are asked to remove their ties. Is there a place in civilized society where wearing a jacket and tie is unacceptable, especially a high-end club where you are paying significant dues to be a member? I like to wear a tie and don't like to be told what I can and can't wear. If one of my friends invites me to this club, I'm thinking of refusing to take it off. Should I?

The answer

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Well, you might try saying you're wearing your tie "ironically," and see how that flies.

Now, personally, I happen to agree with you re: old-school clubs. My ideal scenario is reading the paper in front of a fire in a well-appointed room, the only other person in it being an old duffer in mutton chops (or sidewhiskers) dozing in a Regency wing chair. After a while, a waiter who is even older than the mutton-chopped chair-duffer shuffles over with a glass of scotch that is older than all of us.

Basically, I like quiet. A club should be a sanctuary from the madding mob. Also, it's nice if they have some exercise equipment or a squash court somewhere on the premises. Unfortunately, I've never been invited to join this type of club, so maybe it's the Groucho Marx effect: I yearn to join because I could never get in.

I have been invited to join a couple of the "hipster" clubs of the type you mention, and while I find them too frantic and scenester-filled pour moi, I do applaud the basic impulse: They want their membership to be composed mostly of people who make a living in some kind of "arty" way.

My wealthiest friend, a money man who has seriously pondered the question of whether to install a helipad on his private island, was shocked recently to discover that he wasn't able to become a member of one of these clubs.

And while I felt sorry for him (well, as sorry as you can feel for someone with that much dough), part of me found the club's dedication to its founding principles touching. Guys like him get into everything! Wherever he goes, velvet ropes are raised, doors fly open, and he gets the VIP treatment.

When he goes to the bank machine, I imagine a special secret door slides open to proffer Brie and crackers and a chilled glass of chardonnay: GOOD AFTERNOON, SIR, HOW MAY WE HELP YOU?

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Whereas when I go to the bank machine, thanks in part to the "arty" choices I've made in life, it's like: AMOUNT REQUESTED EXCEEDS AVAILABLE BALANCE: TRANSACTION CANCELLED. And the machine unceremoniously spits out my card.

It's about time for a club for the likes of me! But obviously this particular establishment is taking it all a bit far. Artistic types dress in all kinds of ways, not just in tiny plaid shirts and tuques – I heard that one of these places asked one of its members, a conductor, to remove his bow tie after he popped by after the symphony.

I mean, what's next? "We have a plaid shirt in your size we can give you, if you don't have one, sir." Or: "Excuse me, sir, your conventional hairdo is making some of our members feel kind of uptight. We have a barber in the back to maybe shave down the sides, if you'll just step this way…"

But should you pull some sort of stand and refuse to remove your neckwear? Nix. When your friend joined the club, he entered into a contract: To abide by their rules and regs, no matter how silly. And when you agree to come along, as his guest, you agree to live under the umbrella of those rules – just as I'm sure you would want him meekly to accept whatever ill-fitting jacket they issued him if he forgot to wear one to your club.

So loosen your tie, then take it off, unbutton a couple of buttons, and have a laugh about it all, because in the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad a problem to have.

What am I supposed to do now?

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