It appears that writing is all about making lists these days.
So, having recently covered Tips for Surviving a Goldman Sachs Internship and Attending a Sporting Event With Your Boss, my latest attempt (by request) is a fresh, succinct, and definitive guide to dressing like an investment banker.
The genesis of this post is simple; American men dress like s—.
It doesn’t matter where you look, from the endless stream of bright-eyed but hopeless-looking students vying for the ever-shrinking number of analyst positions on Wall Street, to the haggard, white-collar, middle class masses traipsing their way from airport lounge to departure gate, while getting Hilton Reward Points rich and Chipotle fat.
So, here we go…
- No brogues, wing-tipped, or square-toed shoes.
#1: He’s really wearing square-toed shoes…
#2: Wait, it’s intern season already?
- Stick with loafers; they’re more comfortable and convenient. And the conventional wisdom that they lack the formality of traditional lace-ups has long-since expired.
- If you aren’t confident in your innate fashion sense, keep the shoes black when wearing a suit. There’s no need to attempt hazel Bottega Venetas and a matching belt with a monastral blue suit. In most cases, you can’t pull it off.
- Prada and Gucci; start and end there. Decent $US700 shoes will last you 3-4x times longer than something you pick up from Bloomingdale’s for $US300. Do the maths.
- Cedar shoetrees are an absolute must. They absorb moisture, stiff-arm the signs of ageing, and otherwise materially extend the life of your shoes.
- Don’t forget to get your housekeeper a decent shine kit for Christmas. And make sure she uses it.
- Unless you are married to a Sloane Ranger or studied Classics at Cambridge, leave the pink Richard James socks at home. It’s not Ladies’ Day at Ascot.
#1: Most Brits aren’t gay, but their socks are.
- Calvin Klein or Giorgio Armani makes some great calve-high plain black socks that never change with the season. And just as Michael Jordan insisted on a new pair of shoes every game, you need to keep the socks fresh.
- Buy at least 20 identical pair every six months.
#1: I wear a brand new pair of socks every day. That’s probably my only indulgence. That, and watches… And wine.
- The ‘no socks’ look is disgusting, and is actually a stated violation of many corporate dress codes, particularly for banks.
No cuffs and no pleats; pleats are for guys with gunts (front asses).
#1: Dude, cuffed pants are for limo drivers.
Belt loops are optional. If you have a decent tailor, rock the side tabs.
#1: Did you forget your belt today?
#2: I don’t need one; did you forget to get your suit tailored?
Actually, side tabs are rather convenient if you are a junior banker. You’ve got less time for the gym and spend many a lunch and dinner hunched over your desk. Throw in the boozy nights out and extravagant client dinners and it’s a recipe for looking like 2011 Alec Baldwin.
- This is pretty obvious – nothing garish or obnoxious, and this includes those ridiculous monogrammed silver buckles that all boys in Greenwich get for their 14th birthday.
- A few years ago, we had a 1st year analyst walk across the trading floor with a Gucci ‘G’ belt buckle. “Hey bubba, I didn’t know The Gap made belts,” bellows out a trader. “Um, it’s Gucci,” the kid snaps back. The words are barely out of his mouth before he realises he’s being mocked in front of half a dozen guys and just made it a lot worse. That was all it took; the kid was never able to earn even a modicum of respect after that, and ended up leaving the firm less than a year later.
- No suspenders, period. Who do you think you are, Matt “GG” Defusco?
- The infamous blue shirt and white collar is acceptable, as long as the shade of blue isn’t too deep and accompanied with a power tie. This ode to Gekko works much better today in a light pink, baby blue, or lavender shirt, and without a tie.
- Skip the monograms… Unless your initials are D.I.K.
- No shirt pockets or collar buttons. This isn’t a 1994 Brooks Brothers catalogue.
- Make sure your shirts are tapered appropriately. If you want to see how ridiculous ‘blousy’ looks, go back and watch some old Seinfeld reruns.
- Have new shirts made every year and donate the old ones to Career Gear, a great non-profit that provides interview clothes to low income individuals.
- French cuffs are fine, provided that the cufflinks aren’t straight out of the Donald J. Trump collection.
- And if you sweat, wear a damn undershirt, you slob. Besides, a $US50 t-shirt will save numerous $US200 dress shirts from your disgusting armpits.
It’s all about the Windsor knot, with the perfectly symmetrical triangle. A half or full Windsor are both fine, depending on the thickness of the tie and the spread of the collar.
MD#1: Handshakes and tie knots. I don’t have time for someone that can’t master those basic skills.
- Skip the dimple that creates that obnoxious crease; you’re not Al Sharpton.
- Sorry interns and analysts, no Hermès.
#1: Don’t show up to an interview in a Hermès tie. I don’t give a f*ck if you can afford it, you have to earn it.
#1: Hermes ties are like Air Jordans for white people.
Everyone has a favourite tie, but don’t wear it every damn week.
#1: There’s nothing pretentious about keeping a tie journal. It keeps me on a solid 10-12 week rotation.
- You can’t go wrong with two-button, notched-lapel, and single-breasted. Skip the three-button suit altogether.
- Absolutely no double-breasted herringbone. It’s gone and never coming back. Sorry, David Letterman.
- Avoid the peaked lapel, unless it’s on a single-button, casual suit.
- In terms of colour, keep it to various shades of grey and navy, with a few varieties of pinstripes. That’s all you need.
#1: Is that a brown suit? The back office is in Jersey City, pal.
- No need to go above 160 per inch thread count. Between the abrasive Herman Miller chairs and the drunken nights out, they don’t last.
- And it goes without saying; buy as many suits as you can reasonably afford.
- But don’t waste your money buying off-the-rack at Barney’s or Bergdorf; go bespoke.
#1: Gucci suits are like Corvettes. They’re a great way of telling people you didn’t always have money.
- It’s a cliché because it’s true; the most expensive suit is the one you wear the least.
#1: I spent $US2,000 on a suit I don’t need or like, just to impress a sales chick I don’t find attractive.
- If you’re not in the US, lose the khakis.
- Sweaters over a collared shirt? For the most part, no problem.
#1: Why do people wear wool if they know cashmere exists?
#1: There is no such thing as turtleneck weather.
Stick with Polo shirts; no one cares to watch you inevitably mime golf swings.
#1: Nothing says douchebag quite like wearing an Augusta golf shirt when the Masters are on.
- I saw an Associate get picked off for sporting a new Daytona the week before bonus. A quick “if you want watches to matter, go work at Morgan Stanley” wiped that smirk right off his face.
#1: Wearing a Rolex is like driving an Audi. It says you’ve got some money, but nothing to say.
Thanks to Hank Paulson, Nike running watches and Livestrong bracelets were to 2004 what Lloyd’s stubble beard has been to 2012-13. There are quite a few senior guys that still wear a Nike sport watch, intentionally, or even no watch at all.
#1: Not wearing a watch is the new Patek.
Forget all about Hublot. It’s a great way to tell people that you’re an idiot who has more money than taste. Hublot was a second-rate brand with third-rate craftsmanship until about 15 years ago when they arbitrarily doubled the price and started paying celebrities and sport figures to wear them. It’s been a marketers wet dream.
#1: Hublot put the ‘whore’ in ‘horology’
- Pocket squares are for washed-up, unemployable ex-bankers, turned CNBC guest pundits, i.e. a guy who takes himself far too seriously and has a massive chip on his shoulder.
- Wedding rings, watches, and cufflinks are the only acceptable form of jewelry for a man. Unless the Dalai Lama gave you that bracelet, leave it at home.
#1: In New York, don’t trust a banker with a pocket square. In London, it’s a pinky ring. And in Asia, don’t f–king trust anyone.
Like Ambien and red wine, the wrong fashion combination can become a disastrously lethal cocktail of Larry Kudlow-esque proportions.
MD #1: A double-breasted suit and a blue shirt with a white collar? Was it a rough night in the water bed?
#1: Plaid shirt, bow tie, and pocket square is the douchebag trifecta.
Finally, “an architect is only as good as his builder, and a fashion designer is only as good as your tailor.”
There you have it; head to toe. These tips won’t exactly get you laid at Soho House or on the cover of GQ; but on Wall Street and in business, you can’t go wrong taking this advice.
Just don’t go out and break the law or get scapegoated… Ask any juror, Fabrice Tourre’s ‘fabulous'(?) and expensive-looking fashion sense was a coffin nail come deliberation time.