Friday Question of the Day – At What Point Do Dress Codes Go Overboard?


I’ll admit it right away – I hate dress codes. But when I saw this sign on 18th Street in Adams Morgan I couldn’t believe it. “No timberland boots”? How can they possibly single out a brand like that? I mean why not say – no boots? I suppose I can understand places that want to maintain an air of class by banning sneakers and shorts but Timberland Boots? Am I thinking too deeply on this? Or does this seem a bit odd? I know it’s going to go there so I’ll just straight up ask it – is there a racial element to this?

I’m waiting for them to say anybody with their hair parted to the left will not be allowed in. Specifically banning Timberland boots seems that arbitrary to me.

102 Comment

  • Wow, where is this? This strikes me as thinly-veiled racism.

    • i know plenty of whites who wear some or all of these items…classism is more like it.

      • Thinly veiled racism against who? At least half of the articles of clothing on that list are favored more by white people.

        • really?
          Let’s make a bet. We sit out for a weekend on a corner of 18th and columbia. Count the number of white men (we all know dress codes are geared towards men, women can get away with nearly anything) wearing long white Ts, timberland boots, baggy clothing full of large logos, jerseys, and camo.

          Then count the number of non-white men doing the same.

          I BET you’ll lose.

          You can’t just take one of those banned articles (say, caps) and say “well, white college frat boys all wear caps so it’s clearly aimed at them!”, or take the list out of context – “well all my hunter buddies in western VA wear cammo, it’s aimed against them!” it’s about reading the list in its entirety, in the context of where the place is located – DC.

    • sounds to me like its more racist to claim that only people of a certain race would wear these clothes than to ban people wearing these clothes in hopes of banning people of a certain race. Are you saying only people of one race wear HATS? Or LOGOS?

    • ah

      It also excludes the bravew men and women of our armed forces who favor camo. An outrage!

  • As it should be, the rough and ready tough riders have really taken over. It’s horrible all the crap that neighborhood has to endure Thurs-Sat. We used to constantly have punks from MD bust up car windows in our alley and not steal anything, sometimes even spraying bullets upon arrival in their secret parking spot. Finally got some secret service response, but I’d suspect it’ll pick up again as the weather warms.

    • The violent culture embraced by members of the young black community sucks big time. So what we have here is a business response to the clothing and other cultural norms that might be associated with entrenched violent behavior?

  • Classist, not racist. It’s targeted at a demographic that is largely black, but this really has more to do with attitude and behavior. Just like most of DC’s “race” issues, it’s more of a socioeconomic thing than a skin color thing. The owner of the club seems to have observed that people wearing those items aren’t they type of customer they want. They may be assuming that those who identify with such styles yield more visits from police and have lower discretionary income than the crowd they’re trying to attract.

    • I should have also mentioned this example:

      This is targeted at a demographic that is exclusively white, but it is not a race issue, either. Once again, a club owner is saying, “I don’t like those people, and I don’t want them in my club acting like idiots and scaring away the kinds of customers that I do want.”

      • Anon, that’s the best link I’ve clicked in weeks.

      • that’s bot hysterical and speaks to those that want to make race out of this issue. not everything is about race, and neither is this issue.

        • Sort of like when Black Cat staff was thinking about banning flip flops in an attempt to keep NoVa frat-boy types out. I never knew if they were joking or serious about it, but would have been in full support personally.

          • Banning flip-flops is also about safety. People jumping around, crushing toes is not good. There is a music venue in Chicago that requires closed toe shoes for that reason.

            Banning baggy clothing is also about safety. Everyone knows it’s easier to hide drugs and weapons in baggy clothes. Hell, they profile the hippies in their huge Soundtribe Sector 9 shirts at Red Rocks in CO, because they probably are hiding drugs in their oversized shirts and cargo pants.

  • haha – they spelled “athletic” wrong

    it’s more cultural than racial, no? there’s nothing that forces a particular race of people to dress exclusively one way or another.

    hmm, does anyone know if hip-hop or go-go clubs in DC ban cowboy hats and boots? or button up shirts with popped collars? I’d like to see the sign that bans stereotypically “white” clothing!

    • You will see that when people wearing cowboy boots are killing eachother in senseless crimes in record numbers.

  • no timberblands at clubs has been pretty much standard for years, as well as no red/blue dew rags, sportware, no baggy pants, etc.

    Mind you, this is at clubs where you have majority black clientele. The clubs that get mostly white clientele, in my experience either dont have a dress code, or have a “dress to impress” dress code. Drive by Ibiza or Fur and look at their dress code. Pretty basic, they subscribe the the philosophy that says “when people go out, they want to feel glamorous, and see pretty people”. I was on a panel at the WMC a few years ago and that was the general consensus of the industry folks. Unsaid, is that when you are all dressed up you unconsciously feel better about blowing $12 on a cocktail.

  • Where have you been? This has been the norm for as long as I can remember. Or are you just pretending to be naive for sake of conversation? I remember these restrictions as far back as the mid 90s.

  • This is racism and classicm.

    They don’t want black or people who live check-to-check in their establishments.

    it’s prevalent though.

    Some places have gone as far as not to serve hennessy or patron in their establishment because they think it’ll bring in black people.

    Axis Bar on U Street used to do that. Saki as well. Saki may be the most racist establishment i’ve ever been to in Adams Morgan.

    I arrived once with 40 black howard students for their free open bar, then once we were they, they said ‘that morning’ they established that they would start charging at 20 dollar cover. Obviously, they didn’t want us there.

    We still paid the cover, but i witnessed the person at the door taking the money from white people and giving it back.

    I’ll never be at that spot again.

    These places don’t want people that have been here all of our lives in their establishments because we represent too much of the old DC.

    • I’d still argue that the club owners wouldn’t mind a black patron who wore a popped collar, spoke like a news anchor, and owned a business. It’s the culture they’re against, not the race.

      As for the old DC, do you mean the DC from the 60s through the 90s? I think we all would be well-served by forgetting those years. Sure, all of DC wasn’t like this, but those years are known for crime, drugs, poverty, declines in education, and declines in health. Prior to that, Petworth and Columbia Heights were vibrant, mixed-ethnicity neighborhoods of down-to-earth people. Most residents worked hard, bought a house, and secured a little slice of the American Dream. In the late 60s, the place self-destructed. After that, somebody thought public housing would be a good idea. 20 years later, notice where the shootings take place and the police position their flood lights at nice…right in front of said housing. I’m not sure the gentrifying DC we have today is the answer, but it’s better than ubiquitous strife and hardship.

      I spoke to an older black man in NE today who said he left his house to his son and moved to South Carolina to find a nicer place to live. Now he’s going to move back to DC the neighborhood is finally turning around. He likes that young people are buying houses and fixing them up. He’s no yuppy. He probably doesn’t care much for Starbucks. He just wants things to be the way they were before DC self-destructed.

    • Did you write about this on Yelp? If not, I believe you should!

      • Definitely would be a damning yelp review! I wonder how much the business would have to pay yelp to remove it? Or if yelp would keep it at the top of reviews if they refused to buy advertising?

      • I didn’t write about this on Yelp, but my friends stay clear of this place because of this incident.

        Perhaps I should though. I believe Saki has changed management since, too. Who knows, perhaps attempting to save face?

    • OLD DC? You mean the 3rd world murder rates?
      When is the last time a shooting involved people dressed in khakis and a sweater?

    • you’re an ass.

  • Listen to the ads for clubs on WPGC or WKYS which are marketing to a largely black clientele. They all say similar things about dress code.

    Timberlands have been part of hip hop culture since the 90s. Just listen to Biggie’s first album or take a look at the cover of Mobb Deep’s the Infamous

  • I guess these guys are Anti-american since they don’t allow military personnel dressed in camouflage.

  • This has been the norm for years, since I was at GW in the 1990s. Nothing to see here.

  • so sniffy but they can’t spel.

    while we’re on dress code, would someone please tell me what the deal is with these young guys going around with their jeans hanging below their butts? are they advertising their wares?

    • they are hustlers. That’s a word meaning gay prostitute. Google the term hustler or hustla and you’ll see all kinds of websites about it.

  • OK so I am totally uninformed and therefore incompetent to comment on this BUT wouldn’t it be more classy to state what IS allowed and of course there is someone posted at the door to see that the right dressed people enter.




    • wouldn’t work since someone’s interpretation of evening wear might be different than someone else. If you are specific on what is NOT allowed, there will be no questions or arguments at the front door.

  • It doesn’t sound that extreme.

    Anyone dressed in office casual can walk right in with those rules.

    Even jeans, a button down shirt and sneakers.

  • Singling out “Timberland Boots” is not because they are Timberlands, but because there may not be an easier, more convenient way to otherwise describe those kinds of boots.

    Banning “boots” would eliminate some ladies’ winter footwear, some of which borders on classy. Banning “work-style” or “construction-style” boots just seems silly, as 99% of the people who would wear ‘Timberlands’ to a club are not working construction any more than their Range Rovers have ever touched mud or turf.

    As said earlier, the ‘rough and ready’ look had been co-opted by hip-hop culture for well over a decade. It seems like that’s all the owner is trying to keep out. He could’ve done it more simply with a “dress to impress” rule, specifying that no one from the NBA or Caterpillar will be in the club, and that it’s the bouncer’s definition of “impress” that matters.

  • you mean speLL! haha .. please tell me what the deal is with these young morons wearing chemicals in their hair to make it look like they are in a wind tunnel.

  • The picture of the dress code is from Heaven & Hell (the hiddeous purple of the building didn’t clue you in?), which has long been owned by Mehari, a gentleman who is an immigrant from Eritrea…

    • Mehari is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’m not a fan of Heaven & Hell, but the bartenders and DJs are chill.

  • Screw race, screw class, screw boots, screw hoodies. Do they realize how difficult it is to go completely logo-free these days? I’ve made it my life’s work and it’s damned near impossible. Mark of the beast(s) is fukkin’ everywhere. I expect to see armed stormtroopers inspecting everybody at the door of this place. DEATH SQUAD! DEATH SQUAD!

    • I’m with you on this one, friend. I do not buy clothes that have a conspicuous brand name or logo on them. Shopping has become pretty difficult.

  • Looks discrimination against hipsters and thugs.

  • Another thought while my comment awaits moderation due to phonetically misspelled profanities:

    The list of requirements at The Saloon, on the other hand, are extremely reasonable. In their case, it’s just brutal honesty, which is very very awesome.

  • Also people need to be aware and stop putting on blinders, the long white shirts symbolize a cocaine or crack dealer. That’s what they mean. It never fails to puzzle me how every black person on my block talks about that as fact, how every crew on the corner has one guy in a white shirt who’s holding, but yuppies want to pretend it can’t be true.

    • I s’pose I mostly fit the definition of a “yuppie” and don’t have blinders on necessarily, it’s just that it doesn’t affect me enough to get all worked up about it. It’s sad that people are f-ing up their lives, yes, and we should do a lot of childhood intervention to give kids other options while helping their parents do the same. But when I see the usual “transactions” go down, what exactly am I supposed to do but shrug and keep walking

  • Pubs in the UK have banned people wearing “football colors” (soccer shirts/scarfs etc) from entering to stop fights breaking out – especially on Saturdays after the matches.

    Amusingly, many pubs also ban people wearing the distinctive Burberry’s plaid as this is the label of choice for football hooligans and thugs.

  • so true. I remember having to go all the way home to change into \dress shoes\ so I could get into The Ritz (i think was the name), which was a predominantly black club.

    sneakers into bars/clubs have become a recent thing. Must be due to fashion trends.

  • I think the charges of racism with these rules are a bit racist.

    African Americans are not one monolithic group, even a particular individual will wear many types of clothing — just like everyone else.

    Anyone in office casual attire can get into that club and you know what? African Americans dress in office casual too.

    I don’t buy the classicism rant either.

    You can go to any big box store and get a button down shirt with a pair of khakkis for about $50 if you look.

  • People calling this ‘classism’ may have a point, but when 99% of the people in that class are of a particular race, does that not become something else? When a particular policy hits one race and not others, what else do you call it?

    • I don’t agree with your 99% number here (which you changed to 100% in your last sentence, by the way).
      But to answer your question, no, I don’t think it ‘becomes’ racism just because a set of conditions predominantly affects one race rather than another, as long as those conditions are based on some reasonable thought process, that is.

    • I think dcdude has a really good point. And I don’t agree that saying these rules may be kind of racist is racist in it of itself, any more than bringing up race relations is racist. Why? You can argue (and i’ll agree) that “race” really is a messy, man-made thing that gets mixed up with ethnicity and there really aren’t any “pure”, totally distinct, races other than the human race. And every individual is an individual. But really, racism and discrimination are alive. And bringing it up for frank discussion should not be considered racist. Nor should wondering about a policy that seems to discriminate against a specific group that just happens to be majority black, or majority white, or majority whatever, at least in this neighborhood or city.

      Anyway, I know this establishment, because a while back I went out there to celebrate a friend’s younger brother turning 21 (I know, I know, 21 woooo! adams morgan wooo! annoying as hell wooo!) but this kid was really sweet, kind of shy, kind of a nerd. So we were just trying to get him out for once, just to dance a bit and have fun. But we were a group of 1 asian guy, 4 black guys, and a latina (myself). They gave us a hard time when we tried to go in (making us wait outside, while letting other people in). When we did make it in, they kicked us out within an hour, because one guy (the birthday boy, who is into the comics) was wearing a t-shirt with a freakin’ batman logo in the back, and they pointed out the dress code and said NO LOGOS, and very large bouncers “kindly” asked us to leave immediately.

      On a skinny white dude, it would have been totally cool ironic hipster wear. The rest of the guys were wearing polo shirts, jeans, button-downs, nothing too baggy. There were plenty of people violating their dress code in far worse ways than we apparently did (and plenty of other all-male groups of friends). Yet the door man and bouncer were visibly nervous about letting us in, having us there, and were just looking for an excuse to kick us out.

      I was so sad that day 🙁

      • This is exactly my fear. Policies like this allow the clubs to get rid of anyone they deem ‘undesirable’ — however they choose to define that term.

    • When 99% of the people that commit murder with a handgun are of a particular race what do you call that?

      Oh.. when it comes to that you will quickly change the blame to poverty or something else right? You can’t have it both ways. The fact remains that an overwhelming proportion of crime is caused by thugs (regardless of race) and thugs dress like described in this sign (regardless of race).

      • If you’re implying that criminal behavior is due to someone’s race, then I call that racism. Just like policies that adversely effect members of one race and not others are probably racism, thinly veiled. Think of it this way. If suddenly, DC gangs suddenly started wearing popped collars as a symbol of gang affiliation, do you think the clubs would suddenly start throwing out Georgetown students? Probably not.

  • You misunderstand. First don’t take my 99% figure too seriously I have not done any empirical studies. All I’m saying is that a vast majority of people who align themselves with the hip hop culture are black. But more importantly, I’m NOT saying that ALL black people (i.e., 100%) align themselves with the hip hop culture. All I’m saying of the people who do, most of them are black. This is an important distinction. But on your point regarding a reasonable thought process, I cannot find one here. If the owners are concerned about violent behavior, why not target the behavior, and not exclude an entire class of people.

    • “All I’m saying is that a vast majority of people who align themselves with the hip hop culture are black”

      I grant that the following may be beside the point of the present general discussion, but this statement is patently false. Have you ever been to the suburbs, dude? White teenagers “appropriating” black urban culture is pervasive. I grant there aren’t too many people like this who live in DC, but I suspect a fair number of them are the kind of people who would come to Heaven and Hell on the weekends wearing timberlands if it were allowed.

      • Maybe you’re right. As I said, I haven’t done any empirical studies. But in all likelihood, it’s not the white suburban kids that are getting hassled.

    • Fair enough.
      A fair line of reasoning on this might be a track record of a cross-section of people (not race, but a *type* of person) causing trouble in their joint. I mean, how many times do you have to call the cops or break up fights involving wannabe thugs in wife-beaters, baggy pants falling off their ass, a stupid Ed Hardy hat, and Timberlands before you just decide it’s a hell of a lot easier to just not let them in?

      Not saying this is true in this particular case. I’m just proposing a fair, reasonable logic path (albeit hypothetical) that is not racist in nature.

      • See my response to Anonymous above about popped collars. Chances are, the white kids wearing popped collars wouldn’t get hassled. So really, what you’d be doing is judging people based on the color of their skin. It comes back to race.

        • But you’re presupposing that the management or owners are racist (by assuming that whites dressed this way would likely not get hassled) and using the sign to reinforce your assumption… so, the accusation of racism is not about the sign, but about the presumed actions of the bar against some patrons (black) but not others (white).

          in actuality, if the sign is enforced across the board, then it is by definition blind to skin color. That is a big ‘if’ of course.

          • I’m not presupposing anything at all. See Shinyhappy’s experience above. It happens. The problem is that these signs give clubs license to discriminate on whatever grounds they want — even on race — and get away with it.

        • The fact that racism exists is undeniable. Your assumption that this establishment would welcome whites dressed a certain way but keep out blacks dressed in the same manner is indeed presupposing, Shinyhappy’s anecdotal experience (at a different joint) aside.

          • You acknowledge that racism exists, but have no problem with policies that allow such racism to go unchecked. EVEN IF not all clubs enforce these policies in a racist manner, does it not trouble you that those that do, can can easily use these signs to hide behind? You can turn a blind eye to it if you want. I guess that’s precisely the point of the sign. It allows us to pretend it’s not happening. And I read Shinyhappy’s comments to mean that her experence was at THIS establishment, not somewhere else.

          • “You acknowledge that racism exists, but have no problem with policies that allow such racism to go unchecked.”
            Please don’t assume I’m OK with racism of any kind (including black-against-white racism, by the way).

            My point is that the policy in and of itself is not racist. It’s weeding out a cultural sub group regardless of race. And I’ll say again that if it’s applied consistently and across the board to all people, then it by definition cannot be racist.

          • I stand corrected on ShinnyHappy’s experience being here and not somewhere else. My apologies.

          • I’ll leave you with this example. Think of the literacy requirements for voting that some States tried to implement during the Jim Crow South. Certainly, not all illiterate people in the South were black, and not all black people were illiterate, but the intent of the policy, and more importantly, its effect, was to keep black people away from the polls. Was the policy racist, even if, when applied evenly, it would also preclude a few white people from voting. I think we both can agree that it was.

        • Oh I’ve seen plenty of Popped collar types not allowed entry into 18th st lounge many many times. So it’s ok for them to get discriminated and not the thugs?

          The same way ESL doesn’t want the type of behavior that usually comes with the popped collars, the establishment in question doesn’t want the baggage that tends to come with the clothing described.

  • I dont have a problem with this sign. But Lucky Strike will never receive any of my business because their sign. No white tees, chains? This is a bowling alley, not the Ritz. They are clearly trying to keep out a race of people. What the are MC colors? From their website:

    For example the following are not permitted:
    – Athletic wear, sweats or sports jerseys
    – MC colors
    – Excessively baggy clothing (Tuck-ins are not permitted)
    – Sleeveless T-shirts
    – Plain white T-shirts (short or long sleeve)
    – Construction boots
    – Headgear
    – Chains
    – Ripped or soiled clothing

    • MC = Motorcycle

      “Motorcycle colors” are leather vests with club/gang affiliation patches on them. That’s a pretty wide net to cast since there are everything from law enforcement MC clubs [Blue Knights] to the obvious Hells Angels 1%’er types.

      • But there is what, like one outlaw motorcycle gang in the DC area. When was the last time you saw Pagans west of Bladensburg? When was the last time you saw Boozefighters north of 395? I still think it’s an awfully strange comment because I NEVER see one percenters here except rolling thunder.

    • @DC Thinker:
      “No white tees, chains? …They are clearly trying to keep out a race of people.”

      I’m tired of people tried to make it about race. White tshirt or chains could just as easily be one of the douche bags from ‘The Jersey Shore’. Or some white guy. Or a white lesbian. Or a green guy. Whatever.

      Unless you can say that ONLY a certain race of people wear some excluded item of clothing, then it’s just NOT about race.

      • this is a really naive argument. See dcdude’s really good example of the literacy requirements for voting during the Jim Crow South.

    • Does that mean a 9-year old girl with massive orthadonture will be denied entrance at the door? My 9-y/o self would have burst into tears and eaten a box of Girl Scout cookies.

  • these clubs used to play “alternative” music years ago when i was going out. for the most part that was what the college crowd listened to. there seemed to be more of an appreciation of this genre among white people. now, i’m guessing, most young people want to hear hip-hop, which blacks, whites, and most other races seems to appreciate. so, voila, you get a bigger diversity of people in these clubs.
    but, i think these rules are trying to address aggression issues and inappropriate behavior in the clubs.

  • I do not patronize establishments with dress codes. My money spends just as well at the bar down the street.

    And the ladies in that dress code enforcing establishment…I wouldn’t date you anyway. Your priorities are all wrong.

    • I’m sure the ladies in that place are quite sad to hear that they’ll be denied your lovin’. Because you sound like a lot of fun.

  • The sign plainly says, “says no ghetto blacks in the club, sorry, but if you are black and are a member of the Georgetown elite (or whatever the hell that club is called), by all means enter.

    • The sign also says, no trashy redneck white folk.
      Eliminating a class (mind you not a race) Is not necessarily a bad thing, it helps raise up the neighborhood to new standards, promote a safe enviroment etc.
      Stop making this a race issue if i had a bar, i wouldnt want little thugs coming in my place either.

      • Exactly…no ghetto blacks. I see what the sign says, I’m black, not a fan of 98% of the establishments here anyways, but see it clear as day. I’ve not seen too many of DC Proper whites dressed in the garb listed on this poster and if you do, they don’t live in the District, they live in Maryland or Virginny out in the burbs where they can portray “thug life”.. so I can only speak at to what I’ve seen. U

        Unfortunately a few of the neighborhoods here in the District, that may not be the most delightful to be in, have a certain look about (styles of dress and class) them along with crimes taking place like shootings, robberies and drugs(the sad thing is it’s mostly youth involvement). Even more sad, it seems to be predominately in the black communities. Do the math. Therefore, ghetto black, stay back, affluent Georgetown Black…you’re in like Flynn. I don’t see Howard students really hanging tough in Adams Morgan anyways.

        • You touched on something here, though, SCB. You’re right that most DC-living whites don’t fit this clothing description, but Adams Morgan on the weekend is a Mecca for the suburban white thug-wannabes you’re talking about who DO dress like that. So, no, maybe not the white guy who lives in Glover Park, but quite likely the bunch of white a**holes who wanna come down from VA or MD, get drunk, puke in gutter, and fight.

          At any rate, your argument of racism doesn’t fit your own words: “Therefore, ghetto black, stay back, affluent Georgetown Black…you’re in like Flynn.”

          How can you explain that letting one black guy in but not another is a racist policy? Sounds more like class to me.

          • No argument from me….I don’t believed I wrote anywhere above that it was a racist policy…but let me double check. I believe I stated facts based on observing this fine and dandy city. A lot of posters jumped on the racist bandwagon. I don’t think Ghetto/Affluent Black is racist and if that came off as such then my bad. But we can go on and on about this….from “there is a difference between a “n” and a black everything under the sun. I think we are in agreement about class however, but my comments were not about a debate of this establishment’s racist policy. I would hope this establishment doesn’t have a racist policy. That would just be quite sad.

          • Fair enough. I stand corrected if I misrepresented your point. I read so many of the posts about race that I may have accidentally attributed that to you. Sorry ’bout that.

            I hope this place isn’t racist either…. although I never go there anyway. I’ve thoroughly outgrown that whole scene!

  • Those stories of clubs using these policies to deny entry, charge extra covers or kick people out arbitrarily based on these dress codes are really shitty.

    I don’t like clubs with dress codes at all, especially high end ones like Marvin that just use them to keep their upper class clientele sheltered from the “riff raff” of lower classes.

    The mega clubs that are diverse and don’t kick people out for no reason are more justified having dress codes.

  • No headgear? So folks with orthodontic problems are discriminated against?

  • just want to say i am impressed by this level of discussion…right on folks

  • anon…yes, i know how to spell spell…that was a JOKE. it looks to me as if they made a nice, long list so they would have plenty of options for keeping people out.

    but…no HATS? gee

  • blatantly directed message. no question.

  • Why do they even need all those details on the sign? At the bottom, it says “we reserve the right to refuse entrance.” That’s all you need. If I owned a place, I’d have the rules clear, but I’d share them only among staff, especially the bouncers.

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