Q: My husband just came home from a business dinner attended by approximately 20 people. The occasion involved people from two companies dining with a speaker who’ll be addressing both companies tomorrow. Here’s the issue: Does a suit jacket stay on, or can if come off during dinner? My husband had never seen this done before, but the principal owners in his company took off their jackets during the meal and others followed suit. (The speaker kept his suit jacket on throughout dinner.) Is this a new custom?
A: There’s nothing wrong with the principal owners opting to doff their suit jackets during dinner. While men generally leave their jackets on during a meal, there are circumstances ranging from the weather or the temperature in the room to the lead taken by the “boss” or host when it’s perfectly OK to take off a jacket at the table. Whoever is running the dinner meeting should set the tone, however. Once the principal owners took their jackets off, it was fine for others to follow but a “subordinate” wouldn’t take off his jacket if the principal owners still had theirs on. As for the speaker, it may be that he felt it was in his professional interest to leave his jacket on.