For the most part, you can tell how senior a banker is just by looking at them.
But you need to know what to look for.
“Banking is such a particular and exclusive culture that it’s very common to spot fashion trends within the industry – especially within the larger banks,” says Jessica Cadmus, founder of The Wardrobe Whisperer, a company that curates closets for high powered professionals.
“But timing is everything. It’s very important not to be too showy or too aggressive at a junior level when the goal is to demonstrate a polished humility in both attitude and dress.”
In other words, newbies can’t dress like their bosses. If a junior person wears something a little above their pay grade at their firm, you can bet that they’re going to catch some classic Wall Street ribbing.
For example: Used to be that if a junior banker wore a pair of Gucci bit loafers, he (sorry, we’re just addressing the men today) could expect to be called out for it — subtly and with a side of embarrassment.
And in Michael Lewis’ classic Wall Street book, ‘Liar’s Poker’, Lewis explains that no one under a certain rank, under any circumstances could wear suspenders on the Salomon Brothers trading floor.
As for the rest of us civilians, there are a few brands and styles that can tip you off to a person’s rank, you can check them out below.
Every single bulleted brand isn’t going to hold true for every single Wall Street man, of course — as some people will never care about looking fresh as much as they should, sadly — but this will give you a good idea of how the system works once guys have a decent wardrobe foundation.
To get that foundation, Cadmus first evaluates her customers’ closet needs and personal style, then take them shopping for the basics.
“To start from scratch and get the basics including 3 suits, 15 shirts, 2 Blazers, 3 shoes, 2 belts, 3 trousers, 10 socks, 5 ties it costs approx $US15,000-$US20,000 inclusive of my discounts. Add 30% exclusive of my discounts. It can cost a lot more if we need to do bespoke but most of my clients can wear off the rack,” she said.
You have to pay the cost to look like a boss.
Associate Level (2-4 years into banking, probably spending around $US2,000/year on clothes):
- Brooks Brothers suits, shirts, ties, and shoes
- J Crew suits, shirts, ties, and shoes
VP Level (4-6 years or post MBA, probably spending around $US5,000/year on clothes):
- Thomas Pink shirts
- Thomas Pink ties
- Paul Smith ties
- Burberry ties
- Tag watches
- Starting to see Apple watches
- Theory suits
- Cole Haan shoes
Managing Director level and higher (8 years or more, probably spending $US6-$US12,000/year on clothes):
- Ferragamo shoes
- Ferragamo ties
- Hermes ties
- Zegna suits and ties
- Canali suits
- Rolex or Panerai watches are most prevalent with Patek Phillipe rising
- Bespoke suiting by Asian or British tailors