It started with an email. Last March, Goldman Sachs sent its global army of stockbrokers and shareholders a memo — a brief message telling workers that they no longer had to wear a suit when the came into the office. It took just a few lines to do it, but the brand loosened its necktie on a buttoned-up, decades-old dress code.
At the time, we expected bankers to breath a great big sigh of relief (which should have been easy, now they didn’t have those Double Windsors pressing on their windpipes). But, no. One fiscal year on, and money men are hotter under their collective collars than ever.
“This is the right time to move to a firm-wide flexible dress code,” still echoes the memo that launched a thousand gilet purchases, citing the “changing nature of workplaces generally in favour of a more casual environment”. It made sense. It was sensible. But then, it added: “All of us know what is and is not appropriate for the workplace.”
Oh, dear. Oh, no. How Goldman had overestimated its own employees. Because not all of them did know what is and is not appropriate for the workplace. Not by a long shot. They may be smart, tinkering with stocks and shares all day in their glassy corner offices, but bankers are notoriously not the most stylish bunch of people. They struggled when it was just casual Friday – but what to do now everyday is casual Friday? It’s a problem — especially if you’re hoping to make a name for yourself in the industry. But worry not — we’ve digested the dress codes for five financial institutions around the world and decoded what get-up is certain to get you a job in banking.
Deutsche Bank’s dress code calls for smart suiting
Let’s start big. Deutsche Bank is one of the biggest investment banks in the world, with a presence in 58 countries and almost 150 years of experience under its well-buckled belt. And what a smart belt it is — for Deutsche Bank still maintains a fairly formal dress code, with “jeans and T-shirts and open sandals not considered appropriate”. Instead, well-ironed trousers or suits are required, with a well-ironed shirt with sleeves unrolled and buttoned down.
So, a suit it is then. And, even if you wouldn’t be required to wear a suit every day, you should still be putting your best foot forward in an interview (we’ll get to shoes later). There are some great tailoring options, too. Paul Smith has created a suit that is remarkably crease-resistant. For a little more money — you’ll be earning big bucks soon, don’t worry — opt for a midnight blue style statement from Ermenegildo Zegna. Or, for a nod to banking’s most stylish era, why not dig deep for this subtly pinstriped, 80s inspired number from Tom Ford?
Paul Smith Grey Soho Suit
Ermenegildo Zegna Midnight-Blue Suit
Tom Ford Grey Atticus Pinstripe Suit
At Barclays and Morgan Stanley, they’re keeping their shirts on
But a suit, as you should know, is nothing without a good white shirt. These days, many banks don’t even enforce suits in the office. Morgan Stanley, for example, advises its workers to wear just shirts and chinos — which means that the shirt is the most formal garment employees are required own. It’s the same at Barclays, who “do not tolerate jeans, flip flops, trainers or T-shirts” being worn at the bank’s headquarters in Canary Wharf, but also don’t push formality.
As we said, we’d still throw on a suit for your interview. But, when you get the job — because you will, won’t you? — you’ll probably find you can dial down the formality a little. So it’ll pay to invest in the best button-down you can find. That means a crisp pale blue or white, structured-collared, timelessly sophisticated, plush piqué shirt from Turnbull & Asser, Emma Willis or Beams F.
Turnbull & Asser White Cotton Shirt
Emma Willis Blue Slim-Fit Shirt
Beams F Cotton Oxford Shirt
Credit Suisse still has formalwear all tied up
Did you know that Credit Suisse was one of the least affected banks during the global financial crisis? Now, we put that down to wisdom, experience and tradition. Speaking of, one of the most enduring office rules at the Zürich-based firm is that ties are still very much on the table. They may not be everyday accessories, but the company’s dress code clearly states that workers are “required to wear ties if [they’re] meeting with clients”. Only for your big meetings then; and a job interview is certainly that.
Of course, there are rules. Pulling on any old necktie won’t make you look like an instant professional. Instead, allow us to make some suggestions. Firstly, no bows — that goes without saying. Go for a mid-width 6.5cm tie in a block colour, and in a material that won’t come off too shiny. Try Drake’s linen offering or a silk-cotton blend from Hackett. Alternatively, if you really want to try a pattern, Gieves & Hawkes do a mean British repp stripe.
Drake’s Navy Linen Tie
Hackett Silk-Cotton Twill Tie
Gieves & Hawkes Teal Textured Tie
At UBS, waistcoats are having an unexpected moment
Another Swiss company, UBS is a big-hitter even in the world of banking. Experts in wealth management, asset management, and investments, its bankers know a thing or two about authority and, with it, power dressing. Interestingly, the multinational’s dress code reveals it to be a fan of a rarely seen stitch of formalwear; the waistcoat. “A waistcoat can also be worn,” the official Code of Conduct reads. “If you have decided to wear a waistcoat, the bottom button must be left undone.”
Wise words. But what waistcoat should you be wearing? Of course, it should match your suit, but many brands seem to offer this third piece of a three piece as an afterthought. Instead, look for a suit that has been created with its waistcoat in mind, such as Richard James’ Mayfair offering, or this Prince of Wales Check piece option from Hackett. Alternatively, if you’re keeping things understated, you could do a lot worse than this Pierre Cardin option, in charcoal twill.
Richard James Mayfair Waistcoat
Hackett Prince of Wales Check Waistcoat
Pierre Cardin Charcoal Twill Waistcoat
Standard Chartered has your footwear all laced up
And, finally, we come to Standard Chartered. Unlike the Swiss above, we Brits have a firmer hold on our banking dress codes — stiff upper lips and stiff, starched shirts all around. The London-based company’s Code of Conduct is full of tasty dress code tidbits, among them: “Avoid lighter shades of dressing, as they tend to look dirtier”; “Sleeves should not be rolled up”; “Attire should not be gaudy or fluorescent”. It sure sounds like Standard Chartered know what it wants.
And, when it comes to shoes, what it wants is “proper polished black or brown leather shoes, with proper plain socks either matching to your trousers or shoes”. It sounds simple. But the key here is buying the best shoes you can afford. Footwear is seen as a mark of taste and integrity in banking, so it pays to spend a little more than you usually would. It doesn’t get much better than Crockett & Jones Alex Oxfords in a soft black, or Edward Green’s Chelsea shoes in dark oak. And, to keep those ankles away — and Standard Chartered happy — a pair of Emma Willis’ fine cashmere socks.
Crockett & Jones Alex Oxfords
Emma Willis Cashmere Socks
Edward Green Dark Oak Chelseas