Right this minute, 3:30 on Wednesday, June 18, I’m supposed to be speaking on a panel at Harvard Business School Publishing’s “Meet Customers 3.0 Conference: Mastering the Changing Relationship Between Customers and Brands,” in New York. Instead I’m in my hotel room a few blocks away, upset but reflective.
Why? Because on arriving at the venue of this event I was turned away. It seems that jeans – even dark, neat jeans paired with a yellow collared shirt and navy Calvin Klein sport coat – are not acceptable attire for the club. Jacket and tie are required of all gentlemen, inclusive of conference attendees and speakers.
I’m left trying to decide what to feel. Should I be embarrassed? Am I an uncultured ass for wearing jeans to a conference at which I was speaking, particularly one in New York, and at the Met Club? Or am I rightfully indignant? Have I been unfairly shunned for attire which in my experience – as an ad guy in this city, long time tech executive in others, and 3-time CEO – balances my personal preferences with the need for a certain level of professionalism?
On the one hand the conference is at The Metropolitan Club, which one can readily discern requires jacket and tie. On the other, advance materials for the conference feature a sub-head called “Attire,” under which appears, “Recommended attire is business casual.”
So which is it? Am I an ass, unfit to walk the halls of power, or a 21st century exec, wronged by a 19th century institution?