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 (34)

Dec 27, 2018

Hi TallWhenStandingOnWallet, hope I can help. Do any of these links cover what you're looking for:

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You're welcome.

Jan 2, 2019

its lit

Funniest
Jan 2, 2019

Loosened dress codes make me almost as angry as kids on my lawn.

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Jan 3, 2019

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)

Jan 11, 2019

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
thebrofessor:

have the most interesting son in the world as well as a son who was in mighty ducks

This is fucking gold!

Jan 11, 2019

.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"...it 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

@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.

https://www.businessinsider.com/peter-thiel-hates-...

Jan 11, 2019

apologies my sarcasm wasn't more obvious, I'm 50% serious contributor/50% troll. a fake president from west wing is not a role model for me.

I get the trend to more casual settings, but certain industries do command a more dressed up look. I look at it like this: for my job, what's the upside/downside of going casual? if I'm presenting to a large potential client and asking them to entrust millions of dollars with me, do they want to see me looking casual? absofuckinglutely not, at least outside of california and florida (even florida is a stretch). my business is a serious one, so people want the perception of me taking myself seriously (though my WSO history proves otherwise), and there's no better way to make a first impression than to come in dressed to the 9s. in my business, it's expected.

now, does that mean I go to a client I have in SF who I've known for 10y in my best suit? nope. I lose the tie and dress more like the guy in the upper right, but I think a blanket assumption that anyone who wears suit & tie is culturally clueless is.....well.....clueless.

sorry bro terrabrova, agree to disagree.

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Jan 11, 2019

You're showing great situational awareness of the impression you're making: experienced Wall Street hired gun out of central casting. This is the sign of Wardrobe Mastery ;-)

My early career in consulting and my tour of duty in Private Equity was in a different role: working for months along-side senior executives to define and execute profit-improvement initiatives. In that role, showing up looking like a member of the team made more sense.

No "one size fits all" in either dress codes or suits.

Jan 16, 2019
thebrofessor:

if I'm presenting to a large potential client and asking them to entrust millions of dollars with me, do they want to see me looking casual? absofuckinglutely not, at least outside of california and florida (even florida is a stretch). my business is a serious one, so people want the perception of me taking myself seriously (though my WSO history proves otherwise), and there's no better way to make a first impression than to come in dressed to the 9s. in my business, it's expected.

This sort of seems self-reinforcing. If you're Ken Griffin, no one gives a shit if you show up in suit and tie or a diaper - you have the credentials such that people will trust you. Track record is all that matters - anyone making investment decisions based on how sharply someone is dressed is a moron. I understand that for someone with no track record, you take refuge in dressing well, but I think that can backfire as well, if you come across as trying too hard.

I think it would be interesting to see two people give the same pitch in different clothing. I imagine it wouldn't make much difference as long as it's a competent deal/story. I understand that you believe that others are looking for someone to be dressed well, and so you internalize that, but I'm not sure it's always true. If I meet someone who I think is intelligent and has a good idea behind them, I don't care what they're wearing. You can make an argument that someone dressing comfortably is more likely to be effective and efficient than someone who isn't happy with what they're wearing.

As others have said about when and where in time wearing a suit & tie was considered a fashion must, I think a large number of people who expect that as a matter of course are not particularly innovative or intelligent folks.

Jan 16, 2019

the spirit of what you're saying is true, competence should trump all else. but let me ask you a couple of questions

  1. are you worth $10mm? if so, let's talk, I'd be curious to see what you think. your preferences are one thing, but I'm playing to the average. the probability I come off as a try hard in a suit when presenting to a potential client is very low, whereas I'd guess the probability I come off as sloppy if I'm not dressed well is higher (albeit still probably low). for me, that's not a favorable risk/reward tradeoff, so I wear a suit.
  2. if all you do is hire based on track record, do you really need to meet in person anyway? if what you're saying is true, all you need to do is get a spreadsheet of different options and choose the best one. I've got news for you, that's not the way the business world works, at least in my experience.
  3. what's easier to change, the psychology of millionaires and corporate execs, or your attire? I'm not arguing the fact that putting on a suit and tie doesn't change my competence or lack thereof, I'm simply saying psychologically, I need to have my attire not be a hindrance to the success of my practice, and the easiest way to do that is to dress conservatively.

also, on your ken griffin comment, I've met hedge fund execs, they've presented at conferences my firm puts on. they always wear suits, regardless of track record.

this was not meant to say everything you're talking about is bullshit, quite frankly, I wish our psychology would change, I hate wearing ties, I hate dress shoes (aside from the look), and I wish I could get away with a golf shirt and 5 pocket pants every day including meeting with clients. maybe some day, but idk man, I'm not willing to sacrifice business success just because I want to be more casual

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Jan 16, 2019
thebrofessor:

the spirit of what you're saying is true, competence should trump all else. but let me ask you a couple of questions

  1. are you worth $10mm? if so, let's talk, I'd be curious to see what you think. your preferences are one thing, but I'm playing to the average. the probability I come off as a try hard in a suit when presenting to a potential client is very low, whereas I'd guess the probability I come off as sloppy if I'm not dressed well is higher (albeit still probably low). for me, that's not a favorable risk/reward tradeoff, so I wear a suit.

I mean, I think there is "sloppy" and casual. I think if I went in to pitch someone on a deal (in real estate, and I acknowledge that is a more casual industry) in jeans and sport jacket, no one would blink twice as long as I had my shit together. Perhaps this is unique to my experience, but if I meet with someone in a slick suit and tie, I'm more likely to view them as trying to sell me something about themselves rather than their idea/project/whatever. If I went in covered in mustard because I ate a hot dog on the way in, or was wearing clothing 5 sizes too small, that might be a different story.

2. if all you do is hire based on track record, do you really need to meet in person anyway? if what you're saying is true, all you need to do is get a spreadsheet of different options and choose the best one. I've got news for you, that's not the way the business world works, at least in my experience.

I'm not saying people aren't important; obviously compatibility and fit are extremely important, perhaps as much or more so as experience. But if I'm hiring, I'm hiring the person and not the suit. I'm far more interested in a confident, intelligent person who has the courage to wear what they want over someone who thinks I won't look past what they're wearing. As you yourself have kind of alluded to above, many people (and I don't mean you, necessarily) think that wearing a suit grants them an additional legitimacy or respectability - that's an attitude I would be (and am) extremely leery of.

3. what's easier to change, the psychology of millionaires and corporate execs, or your attire? I'm not arguing the fact that putting on a suit and tie doesn't change my competence or lack thereof, I'm simply saying psychologically, I need to have my attire not be a hindrance to the success of my practice, and the easiest way to do that is to dress conservatively.

I have no insight into your career/business, so I'll defer to you of course. I just think that your attitude, as I mentioned before, is a little self-reinforcing. You think your clients want you to look that way, and you conform to it. Which is, as you say, fine and maybe even safer than the alternative. But I think your perception of what is safest is being reflected through the lens of your own preconceptions, and perhaps not reflective of the reality of what a corporate executive wants.

Jan 16, 2019
Ozymandia:

(in real estate, and I acknowledge that is a more casual industry)

I think we just found the source of disagreement. I couldn't agree more. I rarely see RE guys dress like PWMers

also, just to check my gut feelings/attitude, I perused some files I've obtained from consultants whose job it is to poll the wealthy and their opinions on advisors. overwhelmingly, wealthy investors prefer a suit when selecting an advisor, so there you have it.

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Jan 11, 2019

Saw an interesting r/showerthoughts post the other day.

"A man wearing a suit in a room full of T-shirts is likely the boss. A man wearing a shirt in a room full of suits is likely the boss"

I'm all for Business Casual (Shirt and Pants with occasional tie).

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Jan 11, 2019

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."

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Jan 11, 2019

I thoroughly enjoy the relaxed dress code. When you are sitting in the office for 15-18 hour days grinding, being comfortable is key.

Jan 11, 2019

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.

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Jan 11, 2019

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

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

Jan 11, 2019

Back in the day at Bain & Co SF we had Suit & Tie M-Th and business casual Fridays. Nobody ever got anything done on Fridays. Does productivity still match dress code?

Jan 11, 2019

Well, I'm not sure bankers ever set the benchmark in terms of productivity. I'm a former management consultant turned banker and it's different when you charge by the hour versus your MD/Partner can squeeze your entire week and weekend.

Same work gets done, maybe spread out a bit more and fewer false deadlines.

That being said I'm on WSO at 2 PM.

Jan 12, 2019

I got to wear leggings to work today at a top BB, so no complaints from my end!

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Jan 13, 2019

It's a wonderful thing and I hope it continues/accelerates.

Jan 14, 2019

My soul is highly leveraged

Jan 15, 2019

Good perspective on the range of potential styles: one answer does not fit all.

Jan 15, 2019

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.

Jan 15, 2019

Dress codes were invented by dudes who were afraid their Skechers would get outshone by the guys wearing the freshest Js. Or something like that.

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Jan 15, 2019

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.

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Most Helpful
Jan 16, 2019

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?

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Jan 16, 2019

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

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/clothes...

Jan 16, 2019
Jan 17, 2019