It was a normal Saturday in Dublin, the kind you see later that evening emblazoned with gifs and maybe a Spotify track on Instagram stories, or perhaps gleefully plan a week in advance to make sure you get through the week.
There was a brunch in L'Gueuleton on Fade St, shared with a gaggle of friends and the first sunny afternoon in ages working as the incentive for a few cheeky drinks after in a nearby pub.
"I’m not normally a pub-goer", says Andrea Horan, who runs prominent salon Tropical Popical beloved by Saoirse Ronan with her sister Michelle, as well as The Hunreal Issues. All the same, "I don’t leave town to socialise", she adds, so she followed her group of friends to Kehoe's Pub for drinks.
Wearing what she refers to as her "uniform" - a sheer "glam top" with a pair of Adidas tracksuit bottoms - Andrea passed on her order to her friends, who went to the bar.
"They went to the bar and they were like ‘Sorry ladies, you won’t be getting served today’", she says. "The gentleman said ‘We don’t serve people in tracksuit bottoms’. One of the girls I was with was also wearing a printed legging and she was like ‘they’re gold!’"
The man at the bar - who identified himself as the manager - clarified that it was Andrea, in her Adidas bottoms, that was the problem. "And that was the end of that."
RTÉ Lifestyle reached out to Kehoe's Pub for comment but they refused to do so, as they "do not comment on customers".
No clear-cut answer
Andrea tweeted about the incident the following day, attracting over 100 likes and a slew of comments dissecting whether what happened was motivated by class, gender stereotyping or city centre practice. This was made all the more difficult, however, as Andrea herself flagged that when it comes to being shunned due to social standing or gender, she and her group of friends were the most unlikely people to be targeted.
My uniform is a see through (glam) top and a pair of Adidas. #kehoesPub refused to serve us (a group of v successful in their own industries women- not that that should matter) because I was wearing tracksuit bottoms. I feel like we need to have a conversation about this.— Andrea Horan (@AndreaHoran) April 27, 2019
Flagging herself and her friends as "a group of v [sic] successful in their own industries women - not that that should matter", what prompted discussion was precisely the fact that there was not a clear-cut answer for why she would be refused service.
"I thought they were joking. We were not messy, we were sober, we were polite, we were professional."
Her outfit was typical of any young woman heading out for the day with friends but, crucially, is what Andrea is known for: "I wear athleisure nearly every day, but I wear a lot of jewellery, I wear a lot of accessories. I wear glamorous, for want of a better word, clothes so I had a mesh animal-print top on, so if you were in a club it would be a going out top.
"I go to restaurants to socialise most of the time, and I hate getting into the description of a high-class sort of venue but I would eat in the top restaurants in the country in my tracksuit bottoms and never have a problem."
Each venue is responsible for setting dress codes and enforcing them, with the majority of pubs and bars in the city centre now adopting a looser approach to dress as fashion continues to shift. When it comes to these policies, Andrea doesn't believe they are unreasonable, but says "what I do think is unfair is why they have that policy."
More than this, she insists that she is not demonising any one establishment, but questioning the presence of what she feels to be outdated dress codes in Dublin pubs at all, something she has never encountered in Ireland thus far.
Casual the new formal?
"If we look at it from a fashion sense and a fashion perspective, the policy is smart dress, but who decides what 'smart dress' is? If you look at the way fashion has gone in the past, denim would have been considered working class and suitable for manual labour and it wouldn’t have been included in smart attire. Whereas jeans are actually what 95% of people in the pub were wearing."
Fashion is a central part of socialising and nightlife, whether we're aware of it or not. The jeans and a nice top combination is enshrined in our culture, with the "glam top" already occupying a position of sartorial status. White socks with runners are still a risk.
However, Dublin fashion is fast adopting the athleisure trend typical of Instagram, with vintage tracksuits and shell jackets as desirable an ensemble as leather jeggings or a shimmery mini dress. When you have figures like Kim Kardashian West shooting cover stories for major magazines in Yeezy leggings and Queer Eye's Tan France inspiring ever more purchases of the perfect white trainer, how can you deny that casual is the new formal?
Who makes the call?
More than shifting fashion trends, perhaps, is the difficulty of who decides what is and isn't appropriate for a pub.
"You have brands like Vetements, Versace, Givenchy, and Y-3 that are making these pieces to be worn from the boardroom to everywhere", says Andrea, adding that enforcing strict dress codes "seems very reminiscent of a time when this was how we judged people".
In application, such dress codes can completely override logic, such as one person who replied to Andrea's tweet:
The Saturday of Halloween my friend was refused into a bar for wearing tracksuit bottoms and trainers.... we were dressed as the Spice Girls.... she was Sporty Spice— Abby Jenkins (@AbbyKateJ) April 28, 2019
However, class and class stereotyping are at the core of this discussion, she says. "To call out that kind of dress is [from] a position of privilege."
"If you looked around, people were wearing Patagonia jackets, which are outdoor hiking jackets. Why is that any better? It’s exactly the same pursuits that tracksuit bottoms were made [for], but a Patagonia jacket seems to be looked at in a different matter. It definitely felt like it was a class profiling thing.
"If we’re going to be a city that’s going to be cosmopolitan, if we’re going to try to be this global place, but we’re still going back to the mindset of the 70s where it was aesthetic over actions that we were judged on, it feels like we’re living in the past."
More complex still, casual wear has entered the corporate world as a uniform of sorts, suggesting authenticity, reliability and a no-nonsense approach to work that has come to be emblematic of companies like Facebook, Google and more.
In March of this year, Goldman Sachs relaxed dress codes for its 36,000 employees in favour of casual looks. Welcomed by new chief executive of the US investment bank, David Solomon - a seasoned banker and DJ, no less - the move was in direct response to "changing nature of workplaces generally in favour of a more casual environment".
"Goldman Sachs are looking to what fashion means to people now", Andrea says, "and the class divide is coming down within that and that casual wear is worn by some of the wealthiest people in the world - they're not flaunting their wealth or flaunting their class."
With dress codes, she says, "you’re getting into a position where you’re making snap judgments on people based on their fashion, whereas if you’re not going to be representative of where fashion is, what are you actually calling it on?"
For Andrea, the absurdity of the situation struck her the most: "Personally I just thought it was absolutely ridiculous and coming from a position of privilege where I haven’t been refused entry into a pub since I was 15 or refused to be served, I was like ‘this is absolutely absurd.’"
However, she notes that the experience of being refused service because of what you're wearing can be distressing.
"If I was in a position where that could have been done in public, it could have been really embarrassing, or if I was someone who was in a group that perhaps wasn’t so understanding, or if I was on a first date or if I was with a group of colleagues. It undermines me as a person, based on what I’m wearing."
Doesn't treat people like adults
"I think Dublin nightlife has many, many issues and that it doesn’t treat people like they’re adults and that comes down to how they’re told how to dress, what time they have to go home at, at 2:30am - that is an absurd time for any European capital city. It controls how we drink, it controls our clubs. We don’t have any clubs in the city, everything is on a different license.
"Everything in our night economy - and I use the word night economy very importantly because it is such an untapped industry - is very closed down in terms of how we allow our residents and our tourists to be treated once it gets dark.
"Why do we suddenly lose any sort of autonomy about the decisions that we’re making about our entertainment, about how we spend our free time, how we spend our money just because it’s dark"
"As a city and as a country, we need to mature in look at how policies are made and look at it in a mature way, excluding dress code. Having a smart dress code does not ensure that you’re going to have smart clientele. We need to start treating adults with respect."