Is Business Formal Dead?

WhiteHat's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,001

"Khakis? I'm gonna be wearing a suit like ... 90% of the time. I'd rather have 6 suits and 1 pair of khakis. And nice dress shoes. It's impossible to have too many nice black dress shoes. The pointy ones, definitely. Or they'll make fun of me."

The phone call I had with my dad in the airport coming home from school last year. We had planned on going clothes shopping before I got shipped off to New York, as I was desperately under-equipped for the job, given my expectations of what I'd need.

Looking back, I'm glad he told me I was taking things a little too seriously. By the time I moved out to New York, I had 2 suits. 6 pairs of dress pants, of which only two were black/gray. One pair of formal dress shoes, three pairs of casual dress shoes, a mix of brown and black.

Turns out I only wore a suit once... on my first day!

And every meeting I ever went to with analysts from other firms, I found the same thing. Khakis, button-downs, rolled up sleeves... Wearing a full suit is reserved for formal events and out of town conferences. Even meeting with management teams was a business casual affair. So it made me wonder... is business formal dead... or perhaps slowly dying?

From what I've heard from friends elsewhere, things are mostly a bit more relaxed in terms of dress code in asset management, some hedge funds, and other buy-side shops. Most of the firms I've been interviewing with seem to become more and more casual, and I have yet to have an on-site that featured business formal employees.

I'm interested to see if people have noticed a similar trend, and if the situation is the same in banking or other more client-facing jobs where you might have a surprise visit from someone that requires you to be business formal at a moment's notice. Keeping a suit in the office was a safe way to make sure I never ran into that problem, but how many firms are really requiring employees to be business formal on a daily basis? Is it slowly going away, even from the more formal shops? Do you think it should?

Looking forward to your thoughts, monkeys.

Comments (61)

Oct 10, 2012

From an interviewee perspective, the only place I saw consistent business casual was IBs, and even this wasn't 100%. Everywhere else was slacks, dress shirt and no tie. Some had jackets and some did not.

I did not see any Khakis though. I think for common finance jobs, the norm is now business formal but stripped of the tie, and the jacket is left usually on your chair/hanger during the day.

Oct 10, 2012

At most of the BB's its business casual. I personally go business casual everyday at one of the BBs but never wear khakis, always actual suit pants.

I believe Barclays still requires a tie in FO

Oct 10, 2012

I actually got into an argument with a friend over this. I was interviewing at a firm in Brooklyn (that was not a bank) and I was one of the only interviewees who showed up in business formal. Everybody else looked like they were working for Eminem's road crew. I didn't get invited back, and was annoyed that I seemed to be the only one who knows how to dress for an interview in that group...

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

Oct 10, 2012
In The Flesh:

I actually got into an argument with a friend over this. I was interviewing at a firm in Brooklyn (that was not a bank) and I was one of the only interviewees who showed up in business formal. Everybody else looked like they were working for Eminem's road crew. I didn't get invited back, and was annoyed that I seemed to be the only one who knows how to dress for an interview in that group...

I know for an interview I would never even consider showing up in anything less than a suit. That's surprising to me that so many showed up that way. Once on the job, in and out f the office that's a totally different story. I know where I am it is very casual and no one ever really wears a tie unless it's for a specific occasion.

Oct 10, 2012
Addinator:
In The Flesh:

I actually got into an argument with a friend over this. I was interviewing at a firm in Brooklyn (that was not a bank) and I was one of the only interviewees who showed up in business formal. Everybody else looked like they were working for Eminem's road crew. I didn't get invited back, and was annoyed that I seemed to be the only one who knows how to dress for an interview in that group...

I know for an interview I would never even consider showing up in anything less than a suit. That's surprising to me that so many showed up that way. Once on the job, in and out f the office that's a totally different story. I know where I am it is very casual and no one ever really wears a tie unless it's for a specific occasion.

Yeah, obviously once you get the offer you can follow their dress code, but for me I'm the same way--business formal in all cases. No exceptions unless they specifically, personally say otherwise.

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

Oct 10, 2012
Addinator:
In The Flesh:

I actually got into an argument with a friend over this. I was interviewing at a firm in Brooklyn (that was not a bank) and I was one of the only interviewees who showed up in business formal. Everybody else looked like they were working for Eminem's road crew. I didn't get invited back, and was annoyed that I seemed to be the only one who knows how to dress for an interview in that group...

I know for an interview I would never even consider showing up in anything less than a suit. That's surprising to me that so many showed up that way. Once on the job, in and out f the office that's a totally different story. I know where I am it is very casual and no one ever really wears a tie unless it's for a specific occasion.

If you're going to an advertising, tech, startup, etc gig, it's perfectly normal for you to show up in much more casual attire.

Apr 2, 2014

The opposite happened to me at an information session at my school this year. The invitation to the event said business casual. The only people who wore business casual were me and one of the MDs from the firm, every single student at the event other than me wore a suit. needless to say it was overwhelming.

Apr 3, 2014

Anytime you are invited to a place where you are the guest, especially when interviewing, kick the suggested dress code up a notch. You can always take off a tie or jacket, but if you don't have it and everyone else does it will be harder to go find one.

Oct 10, 2012

I know for us business casual doesn't even exist unless attending an event or presenting to clients. Khakis and button up.

Oct 10, 2012

the AM I just interviewed at is business formal every day - every job.

Oct 10, 2012

business formal's dead, it's locked in my basement

    • 1
Oct 10, 2012

PWMs look freshhhh in their square-toe shoes and green Macy's suits.

    • 2
Oct 10, 2012
BTbanker:

PWMs look freshhhh in their square-toe shoes and green Macy's suits.

I just bought a new custom suit today, as a matter of fact. I was talking with a guy I know the other day and mentioned that my tailor was going to be in from Hong Kong and that if he wanted to have any suits or shirts made I could hook him up. He asked me how much a new suit cost and I told him around $600 depending upon material. He about fell out. He told me that he's never paid more than $200 for a suit and gets his at the Men's Wearhouse. Just as his wife walked up to us I told him, "If you're wearing a $200 suit after your First Communion, you've failed at life." Needless to say I haven't heard from him since, lol.

It's hard for me to imagine going to any kind of meeting and/or interview in anything less than business formal. Come to think of it, back in the day most of us wore our suit and tie all day long.

Oct 10, 2012
Edmundo Braverman:
BTbanker:

PWMs look freshhhh in their square-toe shoes and green Macy's suits.

I just bought a new custom suit today, as a matter of fact. I was talking with a guy I know the other day and mentioned that my tailor was going to be in from Hong Kong and that if he wanted to have any suits or shirts made I could hook him up. He asked me how much a new suit cost and I told him around $600 depending upon material. He about fell out. He told me that he's never paid more than $200 for a suit and gets his at the Men's Wearhouse. Just as his wife walked up to us I told him, "If you're wearing a $200 suit after your First Communion, you've failed at life." Needless to say I haven't heard from him since, lol.

It's hard for me to imagine going to any kind of meeting and/or interview in anything less than business formal. Come to think of it, back in the day most of us wore our suit and tie all day long.

haha, even $600 is on the low end for bespoke suits, but it's still probably better than spending $1,500 at Brooks Brothers or Ralph Lauren.

Dec 18, 2012
BTbanker:

PWMs look freshhhh in their square-toe shoes and green Macy's suits.

Hhahahah. PWM dress code is the worst

Oct 10, 2012

Same thing. Wore a suit/tie first day, business casual ever since. Button up with either khakis or suit pants. I could realistically get away with a polo shirt and sometimes do. Not very often though.

Oct 10, 2012

Work for a top REIT - business formal every day. You get used to it I guess.

Best Response
Oct 10, 2012

where do you all work that permits anything less than business formal? Sure, I don't have to wear a tie every day, but the suit is definitely expected.

    • 2
Oct 10, 2012

I second the getting used to wearing suits daily. Wore business formal every day as a consultant but industry is a whole new ball game. While business casual is the norm, you do see some people who only wear polos & khakis. Be prepared to get asked if you have an interview or some other joke if you're wearing a tie or coat.

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Oct 10, 2012
WhiteHat:

"...black dress shoes. The pointy ones, definitely. Or they'll make fun of me."

I only have one comment for this entire thread: the pointy ones? WTF?

Oct 10, 2012
prospie:
WhiteHat:

"...black dress shoes. The pointy ones, definitely. Or they'll make fun of me."

I only have one comment for this entire thread: the pointy ones? WTF?

as in not squared.

Oct 10, 2012
BTbanker:
prospie:
WhiteHat:

"...black dress shoes. The pointy ones, definitely. Or they'll make fun of me."

I only have one comment for this entire thread: the pointy ones? WTF?

as in not squared.

gotcha, completely agree in that case

Oct 10, 2012

In most real estate related investing/finance roles business formal is expected all the times... unless you own the firm, in that case I've seen everything from bespoke three-piece suits to a guy who runs a multi-billion dollar portfolio who wore a tight black T-shirt, dark denim jeans and black boots to a meeting with our PE firm.

Apart from the odd eccentric, it's business formal for all of the business people. You'll occasionally get someone who takes their tie off if he knows you well and you're meeting at his office.

Also, the architecture guys have their own look, all black, dark rimmed glasses, pouty lips (even the guys), etc...

Oct 10, 2012
Relinquis:

Also, the architecture guys have their own look, all black, dark rimmed glasses, pouty lips (even the guys), etc...

Haha uh, are you sure this isn't a european thing? Wow.

Oct 10, 2012
prospie:
Relinquis:

Also, the architecture guys have their own look, all black, dark rimmed glasses, pouty lips (even the guys), etc...

Haha uh, are you sure this isn't a european thing? Wow.

Haha... maybe i exaggerate, but there is definitely a "look". Check out this link/photo...

Oct 10, 2012

I always thought sell type jobs only wore suit because it's always safer to be over dressed than under when meeting with clients. Then buy side is whatever the top wants. I've personally only worn a tie once the past 6 months and that was because the financial adviser of one of our HNW client came to the office to discuss allocating more of the client's assets to our fund. Besides that, business casual M-Thr and jeans Fridays.

Oct 10, 2012

Literally just got back from a superday. Came in wearing a full suit, by the time lunch rolled around I was pressured to not only take my jacket off, but take my tie off too. Blown away.

Oct 10, 2012
WhiteHat:

Literally just got back from a superday. Came in wearing a full suit, by the time lunch rolled around I was pressured to not only take my jacket off, but take my tie off too. Blown away.

For what?

Oct 13, 2012
asiamoney:
WhiteHat:

Literally just got back from a superday. Came in wearing a full suit, by the time lunch rolled around I was pressured to not only take my jacket off, but take my tie off too. Blown away.

For what?

An HF

Oct 10, 2012

I work at a large asset management firm. Business casual is the norm, tie (no jacket required) if we are meeting an important client, and jeans on fridays. Of course, it's west coast so it's a totally different animal from the Boston/NYC/London/HK world.

Oct 10, 2012

In banking, anything less than a full suit an a tie grants you a "talk" with HR or an angry look from your D or MD.
In VC, I am not sure what the hell this dress code is. Some days I go in jeans, heels, blouse and a jacket and it is completely fine. But I prefer to be in business casual. Dress skirts/pants with a button down or a blouse.

On client meeting days we are business formal to the hair.

Dec 18, 2012
Disincentivy:

In banking, anything less than a full suit an a tie grants you a "talk" with HR or an angry look from your D or MD.
In VC, I am not sure what the hell this dress code is. Some days I go in jeans, heels, blouse and a jacket and it is completely fine. But I prefer to be in business casual. Dress skirts/pants with a button down or a blouse.

On client meeting days we are business formal to the hair.

Your bank was brutal. I worked at two BBs and both were business casual, and in the summer, if there was no chance of a meeting, it wasn't a problem to wear a polo shirt and khakis. Even for client meetings, I'd sometimes just go suit and no tie.

I've never gone into a VC's office and had them dressed formal.

Oct 10, 2012

I hope not. I actually prefer BF to BC.

Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.

Oct 11, 2012

No clue what you're talking about. In Houston it's white shirts and ties everyday, maybe a (light) blue shirt on Friday's ever now and again.

Dec 18, 2012
Stringer Bell:

No clue what you're talking about. In Houston it's white shirts and ties everyday, maybe a (light) blue shirt on Friday's ever now and again.

The E&P firm I worked for was always business casual. Most of the bankers I know in Houston (BB, MM and boutique) are business casual as well unless they have a client meeting. Main difference between industry guys & bankers is industry guys wear khakis and polos/button downs, and bankers usually wear slacks and more formal dress shirts.

Oct 11, 2012

My office is pretty much polo/sweater/button-down with slacks. Our main office is pretty casual too. I think the West Coast is really chill in general though. Buddies in buy-side gigs more often have the casual dress codes, but banking friends and most ER guys I meet are suit and tie guys.

Guys I know at Shaw go to work in jeans. Kinda jealous.

Oct 12, 2012

Work at a big custody bank here in KC. As late as 1998 the dress code was suit and tie, females were not even allowed to wear any type of pants (business dress/skirts only). Since then...business casual except for Friday when you can wear jeans. Anytime we meet clients outside of the office, its back to suits.

There are also rumors of a potential move back to stricter dress codes in the future.

Oct 12, 2012

Work in AM and have a very casual dresscode...jeans and a polo is kind of the baseline that can be worn anyday of the week and you see jeans all the time but probably button downs more often than not.

Oct 13, 2012

HFT is mostly jeans/dockers and a T shirt/Polo shirt. Or you know, you can wear Bonobos if you want to.
Hell, on a really really warm day, I actually went to work in gym shorts and a T shirt. The heads of the desks though generally wear button down shirts, either with jeans or with slacks.

I'm currently volunteering at an NGO outside the US and even though it's volunteer work, I'm expected to wear pants+button down every day.

The Exception is, of course: HFT groups at banks/big hedge funds. Citadel is business casual to formal. Goldman is obviously formal. And when you interview, of course, a suit and tie is the norm.

Oct 13, 2012

I started my finance career at a bb in nyc and it was business casual, with slightly more relaxed rules for friday.

Went to full suit for a bit. Then back to biz casual.

My current bank also in NYC is same. People wear a suit / tie if they are meeting clients.

Buy side is definitely not business formal. You'll see a little bit of everything on the buy side, from very fashionable dress (non suit) to people who look like random dudes off the street in jeans and frumpy shirts. Of course there is always an exception to every rule.

In sales those guys wear suits a lot. But they get to go home early. Ib in a suit sucks ass working til 2am in a goddamn tie.

Oct 13, 2012

IB FO: We are business casual every day (no jacket, no tie) and I regularly roll in wearing khakis. Clients meetings are always business formal and I keep a jacket, tie and laundered white shirt in the office for emergencies.

However, I do shine my shoes on the weekends. I'll also put on a tie if I went out the night before and want to distract the senior folks from my blurry eyes.

Oct 13, 2012

Weird, am I the only one that would like to work in a suit everyday? I'm working in corporate finance and am looking at FP&A positions that are basically polos and jeans and I hate doing the button up shirt and slacks (at my work it's collared shirt and slacks), because if I wear a tie and a sports coat to be a little more formal, everyone looks at me funny. Maybe it's just a west coast thing because people here are so laid back when it comes to clothing, it's incredible.

Oct 14, 2012

It isn't dead. Just drop the jacket when pounding your keyboard to Nirvana.

Dec 18, 2012

Way back in the day, we wore suits, then ties & jackets, then khaki's & button-down, then polo's. When I left, 'business casual' had deteriorated to somethink akin to bar/beach casual. Clothes don't make the professional; however, only 1 opportunity to make a first impression.
Home office now - polo & shorts; just in case the weather cooperated for a quick 9

Dec 18, 2012

I wear a suit and tie everyday. Monday through Friday. Whether I am at my aligned office or my client site. The large majority of my firm's clients are federal contracts. Government employees at GS9 to GS15/SES tend to wear BF daily, so we follow suit. I would say that the culture of wearing BF versus BC is partly dependent on the general culture of the client and your firms role in daily interactions with them. I do know some consultants that are ~100% client site who rarely wear BF down at a few military commands. Unless they have team meetings or have a need to come into a firm office.

Dec 18, 2012

I am an analyst in private banking at a BB, and we wear full suit/tie every day. You get used to it after a while I guess. I can get away with taking my tie off once everyone besides analysts are out of the office at around 7ish, but that's about it. And even then once my boss came back in to grab something at 8ish and gave me a weird look because I had taken my tie off. I guess you never know when those damn 8pm client meetings might sneak up on you out of nowhere....

I would agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

Dec 18, 2012

I had an intership at a PE firm in NYC, everyone was BF Mon-Thus, BC on Fridays (unless meetings).

Dec 18, 2012

Satellite office: I can do you one better. I have worn a button down shirt twice in 6 months. First day, and once when I was going out immediately after work. I love it.

Dec 18, 2012

REPE, jeans and a polo.

Dec 18, 2012

Maritime Group, bathing suit and goggles.

Dec 18, 2012

Khakis are classless. I only stick to suit or dress pants.

Dec 18, 2012

Would never ever wear khakis at work (BB- sales and trading). Usually its dress pants and button down or i'll throw on a suit (no tie). Feel more professional when I'm in a suit, just my opinion.

Dec 18, 2012

at my bank full suit all solids no patterns

Dec 19, 2012

dress pants button down barring any type of meeting with clients or portfolio execs

Dec 20, 2012

no pants

Yeah, not bad for a City College boy. I bought my way in, now all these Ivy league schmucks are sucking my kneecaps.

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