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Dress coded

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Literary scholar and culture secretary Chris Smith is critical of elitist events such as black-tie galas at the soon-to-be-reopened Royal Opera House (why has that disgusting crush bar been left in place, destroying the front facade, by the way?). Perhaps he should read George Bernard Shaw's letter to The Times of July 1903: 'Evening dress is cheap, simple, durable, prevents rivalry and extravagance, in the part of leaders of fashion, annihilates class distinctions, and gives men who are poor and doubtful of their social position (that is, the great majority of men) a sense of security and satisfaction.' Perhaps Mr Smith would prefer social stratification on the basis of expensive collarless shirts, rather as inner-city American youths grade each other on the cost of their trainers.

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