Casualisation of Office Dress Codes

It seems ever since 2008, the finance industry has loosened up their dress codes dramatically. No longer are power suits and red ties the norm. Now it seems to be all Midtown Uniforms with gray Patagonia vests. What are your opinions on the loosening of office dress codes?

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Comments (36)

Jan 3, 2019 - 12:49pm

This puts Finance several decades behind the curve: most of Corporate America started to shift from Suit & Tie to Business Casual in the '90s. While it's normal for a rigidly hierarchical industry to maintain fashion discipline, there's a risk of being disconnected from your clients. Which of these guys is "Dressed for Success?"

Current mix for US full-time males is ~10% Suit & Tie, 20% Business Casual, 50% casual, 20% uniform (not just military/law enforcement: think of the guys in blue shirts at Best Buy)

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Jan 11, 2019 - 7:59am

idk if Zuck is the best role model here bro. I'm gravitating more towards martin sheen from west wing or the guy in the top right.

suit & tie = run a country, have the most interesting son in the world as well as a son who was in mighty ducks

casual = be hated by all of your neighbors in hawaii, lose trust of millions (if not billions) of citizens, be subpoenaed by various parliaments and governments for misconduct, have an aura of narpyness around you at all times

yeah I'll keep my tie on

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Jan 11, 2019 - 11:38am

.Zuck is not really my fashion role model. I think putting on a dress shirt and slacks (if not a suit and tie) serves as a "business uniform" puts you in the right mindset and tells you that its time to kick ass (or grind on Excel models and PowerPoint slides!)

My soul is highly leveraged
Jan 11, 2019 - 4:35pm

thebrofessor You're making it too personal: the images are examples of dress codes, not individual role models.

Here's the point: up through the Mad Men era, Corporate America had a unified dress code: men who ran companies and the country wore Suit & Tie, and worker bees who wanted to emulate them went to work in their grey flannel suits.

Today, only a small fraction of working men still wear the Suit & Tie Uniform. Outside these settings, some groups no longer view the Uniform as a market of authority, they view it a sign of cultural cluelessness.

Granted, they may cut some slack for "those Suits from Wall Street" if that's how you want to roll, but you're clearly setting yourself apart.

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Jan 11, 2019 - 1:06pm

Theres a WSJ article that breaks down the progression towards more casual dress codes on wall street titled "How the Fleece Vest Became the New Corporate Uniform".

Basically: "...The midtown uniform appears to have taken hold post-2008, when many financial firms loosened their once-strict suit-and-tie dress code. The message was: We know your salary is down, but at least you get to dress casual on Friday! "The payouts regressed, so just like every industry that has payment difficulties, they find other ways to satisfy employees and dress is one of the easiest ones," said a 35-year-old stock trader in New York City, who also asked to be anonymous. He was on the floor during the 2008 recession, and described how the sport coats and wool slacks gave way to vests and cotton chinos in its aftermath."

Jan 11, 2019 - 2:26pm

I'm personally a fan. Wearing a suit makes a lot of sense if in person client interactions are a part of your day to day. I do feel a lot more confident wearing a suit when interacting with clients or am at a conference. Day to day in the office where I'm sitting at my desk and only seeing people internally? I really do not get anything out of wearing a suit. I like the balance where a suit is encouraged and appropriate in certain situations but completely unnecessary in others. I also like the days where I can show up in a t-shirt and jeans, put on headphones and just focus. I think the contrast makes the days that you are wearing a suit more special/unique so you're more energetic for whatever important thing you are doing that day. Otherwise, wearing a suit every day just seems exhausting.

Jan 11, 2019 - 4:38pm

A number of consulting firms have relaxed the "day in the office" dress code one notch further to allow denim every day. Are you seeing any signs of that in finance as well?

Jan 11, 2019 - 4:57pm

That's already fully in effect on the West Coast: business casual M-Th, jeans and polos Friday

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
Jan 15, 2019 - 9:09pm

I grew up as a farm kid and believe that clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for the job win the day. When I started in S&T early in my career I wore khakis and a button down or polo almost every day, and that was fine. I moved into IB and more or less did the same, unless there was an important suit up meeting or if I was traveling to Europe, which I did a lot. Europe is suit only. Seemed to work fine.

When I moved to a tech focused boutique IB I was jeans and button down or t-shirt every day because our clients didn't want suits showing up at their office because it would freak out the engineers.

Since starting my own company in healthcare, I wear jeans, button down and a jacket for "fancy" events and almost never wear a suit outside of very rare occasions. I like being comfortable and never will be with a tucked in shirt.

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Jan 15, 2019 - 11:16pm

Eh just don't wear jeans, that's for BO slaves as consolation prize. Not needing to wear a suit all the time is nice though.

Get busy living
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Jan 16, 2019 - 12:55am

I'm of two minds on this. While at home, I'm essentially a nudist, so I can appreciate wanting to be comfortable. But I'm only really home to sleep during the week, and I like to sleep naked because I roll around enough that pajamas get uncomfortably tight and disheveled. And it's not like I'm going to put pants on to take a piss in the middle of the night or grab a bottle of water from the refrigerator, so I'd say I'm naked at home 90% of the time or more.

At the office, I have to be fully clothed about 99% of the time. I've been pushing to lower those figures, but we're just not there yet as a society. My office fortunately has floor to ceiling stalls so no one can see what you're doing in there, and I've taken full-naked shits a couple of times just because I felt like it. Otherwise, I'd say the number should be as close to 100% as possible.

I explain this because I like being comfortable as much as anyone (probably more) and still think a suit and tie is important for a number of reasons that trump my comfort. Firstly, people treat you differently when you're wearing a suit. You don't see Mark Zuckerberg showing up to Congress in a hoodie, do you? And as his company begins to get regulated, he's going to be adopting a more mature look as part of his re-imaging and PR campaign. Why? People really do perceive you differently in a suit, and when it matters he deigns to don one for the good of his company.

Secondly, when you first start your career, you act differently when wearing a suit. You might not think so, but you do. In aggregate, you do. It's essentially a uniform--a point I have argued to my accountants for years to no avail. You don't generally ensconce yourself in Savile Row when meeting friends, so wearing a suit alters your mentality slightly. You see this all the time in people unaccustomed to formal wear. Put a pleb in a tux and he acts a bit better. It's awkward because he's not used to acting that way, but it's a small step towards professionalism.

Finally, once you can afford some decent suits, they're actually pretty comfortable. My suits are objectively more comfortable than my jeans, and I buy nice jeans. I guess an un-tucked shirt is more comfortable than one that's tucked in, but it's definitely sloppier. It's a small amount of extra effort to tuck in your shirt, and if you're not regularly wearing a blazer to work, you can't go to a lot of private clubs for drinks after work without going home to change. I don't foresee the Core club altering its dress code in the near future, and you really don't want to miss out on those invitations early in your career just because you're under-dressed.

One final thought--my father just retired from his second career and greatly misses wearing a suit everyday. It made him feel like he was part of society in a way he no longer does. One day, you won't have to do it anymore. Are you really going to look back fondly on all those times you wore sneakers and Birddogs to the office?

Jan 16, 2019 - 3:18pm

You put it phenomenally " One day, you won't have to do it anymore. Are you really going to look back fondly on all those times you wore sneakers and Birddogs to the office?"

My soul is highly leveraged
Jan 16, 2019 - 4:24pm

Good summary of the social norms of specific groups, rather than universal rules. When testifying before a bunch of suits on Capitol Hill, Mark Zuckerberg followed the "When in Rome..." rule.

On your point about acting differently, it depends on the social norms you've absorbed about the outfit. Psychology experimenters found that subjects performed better on a test of diligence while wearing what they were told was a doctor's lab coat. When a different group was given the identical coat and told it was a painter's smock, they showed no improvement.

Bottom line: how other people feel about you based on what you wear, and how you feel about yourself depends on social norms, which vary a lot across industries, regions, and teams. The best approach is to develop a good sense of situational awareness.…

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Jan 16, 2019 - 1:45pm

Business casual to me strikes the perfect balance of comfort and professionalism. No need to wear a full suit at my desk crunching numbers or on a job site walking through dirt and mud, but wearing a t-shirt and jeans and a hoodie just feels wrong too.

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