The days of wearing tuxedos and gowns to the symphony are long gone
The days of wearing tuxedos and gowns to the symphony are long gone

While sitting down to write a review of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert the other week (which was epic!), my personal Facebook stream lit up about the show. It had nothing to do with the performance. Instead, it had everything to do with how people came dressed to see it.

With the initial post taking concert-goers to task for wearing “trucker hats”, “Lululemon tops” and “outlet mall t-shirts”, the always civilized Facebook reactions were swift.

“Pathetic for sure!”
“Lululemon for the symphony!! God. Really?”
“Vancouverites need to brush up on their fashion and class.”
“Terrible and disrespectul.”

Wading into the fray, I suggested that with many arts organizations in our city struggling to find an audience, perhaps we shouldn’t care how an audience dresses. Instead, we should be thankful they show up at all.

Which got me to thinking, just how important is our choice of attire when attending the symphony, theatre, or the ballet? Do our choices show disrespect for the artists if we don’t dress up? Does our enjoyment, or the enjoyment of those around us, increase or decrease depending on what we wear?

As someone who has the opportunity to see many shows each year, I never once gave a second thought to what my fellow audience members were wearing.  It never crossed my mind that how I dressed would somehow be interpreted as a sign of respect or disrespect to the artists.

Maybe it is my own laid-back Vancouver style, but I am simply glad people are choosing to see a live performance.

So, I say bring on the jeans, the t-shirts, and the baseball caps. If you’re comfortable in your yoga clothes, and it means you are willing to spend good money to see the VSO, Ballet BC, Vancouver Opera, or one of the many theatre companies in town, I welcome you with open arms.

And if you decide that putting on a suit and tie, or that smart little black dress is how you want to show up, I’ll welcome you equally.

As one person responded on Facebook, the sign of respect for the art and artists doesn’t come from what you wear. It comes from showing up, giving the performance the attention it deserves, and in your reaction to it.

Look for me in the line-up. I’m usually the guy in jeans (and a hat). I won’t care what you’re wearing. I will care though if your phone goes off during the performance.