Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dress Codes of Clubs

Yesterday an English language daily which has a fairly good circulation carried a double column front page report about a gentleman in dhoti being denied admission to an elite Chennai club. The newspaper devoted 2 columns x 20 cms space to this piece!

The facts as reported are: an ‘honorary advisor’ to a Government of India department was invited by an organization to a function it was holding at the club (name not mentioned in the report). The man turned up clad in a dhoti but was refused admission because it was in violation of the club’s dress code. He went to a shop, bought a pair of trousers, wore them and was allowed in.

Then comes the ballyhoo. The man writes to the Chief Minister. And he tells the press, “The behavior of these clubs is nothing but a reflection of their continued slavishness to our former Western masters”, and adds for good measure, “English language dictionaries say that the dhoti or veshti is formal attire”.

One can understand the man’s ego being hurt. Now, I was also an honorary advisor to the Government of India, on national disaster management policy, about nine years back. I too was once denied admission to an elite Chennai club, most probably the same one as in this case, for violation of dress code. I went there for lunch wearing a round neck T-shirt, and trousers of course. The offending piece here was the T-shirt. So, the ban is not only against the dhoti.

I know at least two reputed clubs in Kerala, which allow dhoti, but not folding it up. The point is that a club, unlike a restaurant or a town hall, is a private association of people and they the members, decide how it should be run. They set the rules and regulations.

To be fair to the newspaper, it also presents the view of a city lawyer that the clubs are entitled to prescribe a dress code. She said, “It would be difficult to challenge this in court.”


Also see:

Some Clubs of India


Ramesh Gandhi said...

There are so many stories like this - it's surprising that the members who probably bring people in as guests don't warn them about the rules. MF Husain was famously denied admission to a Bombay club because he was barefooted. At the Punjab Club in Lahore, where I was entertained once, men had to wear suit (i.e. matching jacket and trousers) and tie to dinner throughout the year... it seems like a throwback, like pretending to be your colonial (ex) rulers -- but it is their business, after all.

Unknown said...

I agree with Nancy that hosts should warn their guests about dress code and it is the business of the clubs concerned.

In most cases, clubs didn’t find any compelling reason to modify the dress code. They are also aware that a bit of snobbishness could be useful sometimes.

To underline independence, India went on a rampage of pulling down statues and renaming roads. In US, 170 years earlier, freedom was cemented by changing Basic English, evolving baseball from cricket and so on.

Today, more Indians wear western dress (number and % of population wise) than during British days. Business offices insist on employees wearing trousers and ties not because of any colonial hang up.

I think free India has attained sufficient maturity even to permit ‘Royal’ prefix to a turf club or yacht club. That is taking history in stride.