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Setting the Dress Code for a British Secret Society

I’ve previously written about the existence of another “Nick Butler” in the United Kingdom who happens to have a similar email address as me, and more specifically, how that led to a member of Parliament emailing me by mistake … and then (jokingly?) offering me a bribe. Well, a few months ago, I received yet another email intended for the other Nick Butler. This email wasn’t from a member of Parliament, just from some guy named Clive. It turns out Clive had some business to discuss. The topic? The dress code for a British secret society. 

This is amazing. Let’s dive right in and dissect this entire email, shall we?

I am responding to your letter  concerning dress codes. My comments on the 5 points raised are these:

It was at this moment I knew I was about to read one of the greatest emails I’ve ever received.

1. It would be useful to list non-acceptable clothing

Simple suggestion. Right to the point. Well done, Clive. ​

2. Male members may be excused ties but not jackets before 6.00pm. After 6.00pm both ties and jackets should be worn

Members? So this is legit. We’re ramping things up quickly. Also, I love the thought process here: “Before 6pm, men may be excused ties … BUT NOT JACKETS! And after 6pm both should be worn, we’re not animals!”

3. Hot weather guidance should be at the discretion of the Secretary as now but ties should be worn in the evening even in hot weather.

The Secretary?!?! Now it’s clear to me that there’s an organization involved. There are bylaws. Someone nearby has a copy of Robert’s Rules.

4. The guidance for ladies seems appropriate.

Clive doesn’t seem eager to weigh in how the women members should dress. I can only imagine the hoops they’re jumping through after 6pm.  

5. Members who flout the rules should be refused entrance. If they persist the staff should identify them and an appropriate letter sent from the Secretary, with the ultimate threat of withdrawing of membership for persistent non compliance.

Clive took this from 0 to 60 REAL quick. We’re going to kick people out for not putting their ties on after 6pm? Jesus Clive, it’s just some cloth. Also, it sounds like Clive’s a bit of a tattletale. Ratting them out to the Secretary for loosening their ties after an evening cocktail? Settle down.

Alright, so this is fantastic. Based on the subject of the email and knowing this was definitely meant for the British Nick Butler, I Googled “Athenaeum” (pronunciation unknown) and it turns out the Athenaeum Club is a British private members’ club in London that was founded in 1824. They have a really nice building in London where members can meet to discuss, I assume, very British things? You know, things like DON’T FORGET TO INCLUDE YOUR COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF BRITISH STEREOTYPES IN THE FINAL DRAFT, IT WILL BE VERY HUMOUROUS! HUMOUROUS INDEED! 

Wikipedia even has a list of 135 past Athenaeum Club members, all of whom have their own individual Wikipedia page, so you know these were important people! Well, except James Robert Forbes, whose name is listed incorrectly so his link is broken — I think it’s actually meant to be Robert James Forbes. I’m too lazy to edit the page, so if you’re reading this and feel like fixing it, the Athenaeum Club will forever be in your debt. 

Anyway, back to the email. Last time this happened, it was a Lord of Parliament and I didn’t want to impersonate the other Nick Butler, because that seems like maybe it could be illegal? But this is just a guy who seems overly strict about what people wear after an arbitrary time … so I decided to have a little fun.

​After having a few drinks and in consultation with some of my friends, I responded to Clive with the following email:


Thank you for your response. I believe your comments are fair, and I agree for the most part. However, to the fifth point, do you believe this is strict enough language?

I worry members will not understand the full gravity of the rules. The tenets of our dress code illustrate the true nature of our position as gentlemen (and gentlewomen!). Is escalating this to the Secretary enough? I defer to your judgement.

What other options may be available to discourage non compliance? Let us not spare the rod! 

Nick Butler

I was hoping I could exert some influence over the dress code, and it seemed like Clive really wanted to be strict, so I leaned into his heavy handed mentality by suggesting an even more strict punishment for those who dare challenge my rules! Also, I tried my best to seem British. Spare the rod? Who says that! 

Unfortunately, I never heard back. That either means Clive silently agreed with me that even stricter rules were necessary and has kicked out countless men for disobeying my rules, or he realized I’m not the Nick Butler he was looking for, and he deleted my email and reported me as spam. 

​Either way, it’s after 6pm, so I need to go put my tie on. Cheers! 

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