When Dining Out, Save the Baseball Caps for the Stadium

Last Saturday night, my husband and I dined out at one of our favorite Italian restaurants on the Upper East Side. As we were finishing our main courses, our waiter, someone who has helped us numerous times, said he wanted to treat us to dessert. “You are my favorite couple,” he said. “You are always so elegantly dressed and so accommodating and kind.” We were, of course, touched and a little overwhelmed. But as I glanced around the restaurant, I understood. A table of four in front of us included two couples, all dressed in sweats. The men wore baseball caps. And those men weren’t alone. Glancing around the restaurant, baseball caps sprang up like early tulips on Park Avenue. When did baseball caps become acceptable attire for men indoors? Many years ago, we dined at Elio’s, an eatery still favored by celebrities and New York powerbrokers. As we entered and stood in the bar area, Elio himself came over and, before we could act, told my son to take off his baseball cap.

Elio died in 2016. I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched the two men with baseball caps, what he would have done in this situation. Dressing down has become the norm, not only in restaurants, but in many other venues in New York City, places where it was once considered a faux pas to turn up in jeans. In 1987’s Moonstruck, Cher’s character, Loretta, attended a performance of La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera, decked out in a red dress and took away the breath of tux-clad Nicholas Cage’s character’s. Now when we go to the opera, there are more people dressed in workout wear than couture. 

Let me be clear, this isn’t about class. Often the casual outfits people sport when they attend cultural events cost more than a nice dress or suit. And there are places where a casual outfit is appropriate – pizza places, sports venues as well as sports bars, and pubs, for example. But often what we wear affects how we act, it conveys an attitude that we care about those around us, and respect those who are serving us.

The pandemic sent people into their homes to work and getting dressed for the workplace became a thing of the past. Many people are still in that mode, wearing casual wear for work and play. This isn’t a generational thing. Older people as well as young people have ditched dresses and jackets for hoodies and jeans. 

But we may have reached a turning point. Silicon Valley tech leaders, who for a long time dictated what success looked like with hoodies, have aged and are now opting for suits over sweats. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal documented the transition to better dressing now being embraced by Meta’s Zuckerberg as a message to the next generation of tech entrepreneurs. “Buy the suit, not the hoodie,” the article concluded.

If sweats and hoodies are abandoned, will baseball caps follow? Doing some research on the internet, people are divided on whether hats need to be removed when being indoors, in restaurants, theaters, or even private homes. For many, Emily Post continues to be the final arbiter, listing restaurants and coffee shops as places where men’s hats should be removed. There are many, however, on the other side who believe times have changed and wearing a hat indoors, no matter where or when, is fine.

With our country being so divided, taking sides about when it’s proper to wear a hat indoors is perhaps a place too far. Still, I draw the line at baseball caps in a restaurant or other cultural venue. Save it for games at Yankee Stadium. 

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (705 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.