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Miss Manners: Dress code quandary: Are flip-flops shoes?

Dear Miss Manners: In a restaurant where there is a sign that states “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” why are people allowed in to eat wearing sandals or flip-flops? You know, the flip-flops that we used to wear when we went to the swimming pool.

I see people all the time wearing flip-flops in restaurants. I thought the sign meant if you do not have shoes on, you will not get served. But I see now that most restaurants do not have that sign up like they used to.

Gentle Reader: Do you have any idea what it is like to establish any sort of dress code nowadays?

Employers direct their workers to dress professionally, in terms of whatever the particular profession happens to be. Hosts beg their guests to dress up for their important occasions. Schools issue rules banning vulgar and bigoted outfits. Businesses try to establish a tone they expect their customers to follow.

And what does it get them? Code violators who consider themselves to be fighting – sometimes with lawsuits – for the noble cause of freedom of expression.

It appears that only clubs with rough bouncers are able to inspire people to dress symbolically for the activity in which they are engaged.

So Miss Manners doesn’t wonder that those who write such codes back away from battles over strict enforcement, especially over such hair-splitting questions as what constitutes a shoe. Perhaps if they notice they are losing customers who want a more dignified – or less smelly – atmosphere, they will act.

Or they could just hire a toughie to stand at the door, pronouncing people “tacky” and turning them away.

Send questions to Miss Manners at; to email,; or to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.