Over the years, Wall Street has tried over and over to change its image as a workplace mainly for straight white males who come from the same families, went to the same schools, and share the same views on everything from fiscal responsibility to the greatness of The Gipper.
To shake that image, there are clubs that are supposed to support inclusiveness among minorities already working at banks, and initiatives to recruit underrepresented people from different walks of life.
But sometimes, banks are a little tone deaf as to how to make themselves seem open to people who are different from the traditional Wall Streeter. It’s been a two-little-steps-forward-one-gigantic-step-back kind of movement.
And at this moment, I can say confidently that JP Morgan just took a step in the wrong direction — in fact, it’s an embarrassing direction.
Vineyard Vines’ logo is a happy smiling pastel whale
Here’s what happened: The bank recently announced that it would move to a business casual dress code. On the one hand this is obviously great for people who want to work in a less stuffy work environment. On the other hand it can be a confusing designation. What is business casual exactly?
Well, JP Morgan has decided to help its employees figure that out by setting up a Vineyard Vines pop up store at its New York headquarters for the completely, utterly, miserably, tragically confused adults who don’t know how to buy a pair of decently fitting khakis.
Apparently this is just in case all you have in your wardrobe aside from suits is a bunch of old Grateful Dead tee shirts from your “experimental” phase at Wesleyan.
From the Wall Street Journal, which had the great honour of breaking this story:
“…that may only be the start of a broader apparel push at the biggest U.S. bank by assets. J.P. Morgan is slated to open pop-up shops at its New York, Wilmington, Del., and Columbus, Ohio, locations later this year, said Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Lemkau.
These will feature J.P. Morgan specific items — think a fleece vest with J.P. Morgan branding or a custom Vineyard Vines tie with the bank’s blue octagon logo…”
JP Morgan should be trying to forget about whales
In case you’re not familiar with Vineyard Vines, it is in no way a neutral brand like say, Theory or Banana Republic. It is a brand that comes locked and loaded with a message: It’s the preppiest brand for the preppiest preps in prep town.*
Let me break it down for you: Vineyard Vines is the brand that puts grown men in whale patterned pants. You can get crabs too, if you’re lucky. It also aggressively uses pink and green as a legitimate colour combination for men and women who are legally allowed to drive and vote.
Vineyard Vines’ aesthetic is not for adults. It’s for children’s pajamas. At the very most, it’s what clueless dad-bros wear to the beach or pool because their wives just figured “well, I’m here grabbing cute shorts for the kids, might as well grab him a new pair of trunks.”
It is the most grotesque example of preppiness. It is clothing for people who ask other people where they “summer.”
If you want to picture someone in them, picture Greg Marmalard and his fellow Delta Tau Chis in Animal House. Picture Carlton Banks. Do you want to dress like Carlton Banks? The Fresh Prince sure didn’t.
But what’s more important than any of that bad taste, is that Vineyard Vines is for people who all want to look the same — obnoxious pastel coloured drones. And that penchant for uniformity is the very reputation Wall Street is trying to battle.
If JP Morgan is telling its employees that this style is “appropriate” for work, then it’s telling its employees (whoever they are and wherever they’re from) that this is the kind of lifestyle they should emulate at work. It’s telling them that the bank isn’t changing with its workforce, it’s telling its workforce to bow down to the awkward tradition of who runs the bank.
But whatever, can’t wait to see you bros drinking at Snafu in your Vineyard Vines JP Morgan ties.
Oh, and did I mention that Vineyard Vines is a JP Morgan client? Well it is.
*We should note that the author of this post loves herself a polo shirt. Loves. But not from Vineyard Vines. Just, no.