Fashion: You're not well dressed without a sick-striped tie: Roger Tredre wonders why most posh hotels think any old jacket is better than none

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Indy Lifestyle Online
ALL is quiet at Claridge's, in Mayfair, on a mid-morning in mid-January. The cloakroom attendant takes my coat and gestures me towards the salon, where I order a pot of tea. The man I am meeting is late, but I am expecting him to be late. For Alexi Campbell, an Anglo- Greek actor currently playing the role of Claudius in a new production of Hamlet, is planning to enter the hotel without a jacket and tie. And at a posh place such as Claridge's, this can make for difficulties.

But the cloakroom attendant doesn't bat an eyelid. Campbell has barely removed his coat before the attendant is gliding forward to inform him: 'You'll be needing a jacket, sir.'

The attendant runs an expert eye over Campbell, disappears briefly into a back room and re-emerges with a Burton's grey chalkstripe jacket that looks like the top half of a suit. Styled in the right way, it might look reasonable enough, but it does not make for an agreeable match with Campbell's brown corduroy trousers.

'And you'll be needing a tie, sir.' The attendant produces a wooden hanger with a couple of dozen of the most hideous ties in London. With confidence, he plucks a wide striped number from the hanger. 'It goes perfectly with your waistcoat, sir.'

Well, maybe it does, but the effect is far from pleasing. The tie is decorated in alternating swathes of yellow, beige and dark brown stripes - the colours of sick, marshalled into some semblance of design. It is true, however, that the yellow vaguely echoes the yellow of the actor's tattersall check waistcoat.

Does a man necessarily become better dressed because he is wearing a jacket and a tie? The top hotels of London clearly think so. From Claridge's, we moved on to the Savoy, where Campbell was dressed in a 100 per cent polyester, air-hostess-blue jacket. At the Dorchester, in Park Lane, he received the best offer: a smart wool double-breasted blazer from the Hotel Clothing Co Ltd. Neither the Savoy nor the Dorchester insisted on a tie, but then it was still morning, when the rules are relaxed.

Campbell, an actor who prides himself on his dress sense, thought the codes of the top hotels were ridiculous: 'Men have been restricted by the need to wear a kind of uniform for most of the century. It's about time things loosened up a bit.'

The Regent, a new hotel opening in Marylebone Road next month, is doing just that. In its first advertising campaign, the hotel openly boasts that it does not impose dress codes on its guests. 'Dress codes are old hat,' says Wolfgang Nitschke, general manager. 'We didn't feel they had any relevance to the way men dress in the Nineties. Our guests can dress either formally or casually.'

There will, of course, be some who will lament the gradual passing of traditional standards of dress. But for Campbell, who recalls the Claridge's sick-stripe tie with horror, the final passing of those days will come not a moment too soon.

Alexi Campbell is appearing in 'Hamlet' at the Museum Theatre, Russell Street, London WC2, until 13 February. The Regent hotel, 222 Marylebone Road, London NW1, opens on 15 February, 071-631 8000.

(Photographs omitted)