- Apr 11, 2006
- Reaction score
Originally from Reuters UK:
Thoughts ?No brown shoes for "peacocks" of banking
By Jane Merriman
LONDON (Reuters) - The sartorial secrets of a "rainmaker" in London's financial markets are subtle, expensive and still mostly a male preserve.
"Rainmakers" are the most successful corporate financiers in the City, the ones who persuade big companies into the kind of mega-mergers which bring a deluge of cash for bankers, brokers, investors and traders.
Like most things to do with the ultra-discreet "City" no one will go on record to tell you exactly which shoes, shirts and suits will mark you out as the money world's ultimate insider.
But those who follow the dress code for the City of London's top circles suggest that these bankers care deeply about what they wear when trying to impress clients or rivals.
"They are like peacocks really," said one woman investment banker, who works in the City, one of the world's biggest financial hubs. "I think they care more than women."
Details that would go unnoticed by the uninitiated are crucial for sending the right signals to clients or competitors.
A top City corporate financier, for example, will keep a special bespoke suit just for important board meetings.
He will model himself on the old-style British merchant banker, whose pedigree would include Eton, Oxford or Cambridge universities or a senior regiment of the British Army.
To convey this he will wear a handmade grey or dark blue single breasted suit, classically-cut shirt with double-cuffs and non-flashy cufflinks, a Hermes tie and black lace-up shoes.
"Shoes are absolutely black, that is very much City of London," said Christopher Modoo, tailoring buyer for Ede & Ravenscroft, London's oldest tailoring firm that made coronation robes for Queen Elizabeth II and where a bespoke suit starts at 2,200 pounds.
"Certainly not brown shoes or you'd get fired," joked another investment banker, who recalled a colleague once being sent home for wearing brown shoes.
And definitely not loafers.
"They are slightly capital markets, eurobonds, I would say," said one investment banker.
If it's raining, which it often is in London, the corporate financier is likely to carry an umbrella made by Swayne Adeney Brigg, Royal umbrella-makers, which sell for about 160 pounds. But never a golf umbrella.
A bespoke suit, for example, will not have a belt, while a serious merchant banker would not be seen dead in a shirt with a breast pocket.
For breast pocket read "casual shirt," several bankers said.
There are also issues with white shirts.
"There is a slight snobbery that white shirts are more for juniors," said Modoo. "It says: 'He's just left college and he wants to dress safely so he wears a white shirt.'"
Coloured shirts are the fashion in finance.
"They are really into pink. It makes them all look perkier and less sort of grey and hungover," said the woman banker, hinting at the heavy socialising after office hours.
And while bespoke suits may be sober on the outside, bright red or turquoise satin linings often provide the flash of plumage which hints at flamboyance.
Ede & Ravenscroft do coloured linings for City suits, but the fashion now is for slightly more subtle, iridescent silks.
"We do coloured linings but we go for more discreet colours...we have moved away from the screaming bright reds," said Modoo, who said this was a reaction by customers after some mainstream fashion brands "hijacked" coloured linings.
Corporate financiers would never want to be mistaken for the traders, who tend to dress more brashly.
Traders are known for being bold on pinstripe suits, garish cufflinks, luxury watches such as Brequet, that can sell for as much as 60,000 pounds, Gucci belts and pointy shoes.
Top investment bankers also want to distinguish themselves from hedge fund managers and private equity executives.
"An investment banker looks ultra-chic - like a smart gentlemen - while the private equity guys wear the wrong shade of grey suit don't they," the woman banker said, adding that to the top-drawer corporate financier this suggests an arriviste.
Although male bankers have hard and fast rules to guide them, some complained that the fashion strictures for women appear to be a choice between two unhappy stereotypes.
"People always criticise them if they wear boring suits because they look too masculine - then they say they are being flirty if they wear very showy, feminine clothes," one man in corporate finance said.
"Men can just hide in this uniform."