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What no one told you about the investment banking dress code

Banking is a people business.You might think it’s about the numbers, but it’s not. It’s about what people think about you and what you think about them. Perception becomes reality.

In a world like this, the way you dress conveys multitudes about you. Don’t treat it lightly.

During nearly two decades in banking, there are three simple rules I’ve learnt about banking dress code. One rule trumps them all, and it will very rarely be articulated: under no circumstances must you be prettier than your boss.

I’ve seen plenty of interns specially transgress this. They show up with Hermes or Ferragamo ties and Tod’s loafers. Their futures (unless they happen to be children of very important clients) are almost always limited. Never dress better than those above you. It’s one of the CLM’s in finance – Career Limiting Move.

Keep your look clean, polished, professional. But don’t go too far towards looking like you could be an extra in a movie. Looking poor or disadvantaged isn’t a bad strategy. It shows you are hungry and hard working. I personally shoot for an understated Don Draper look.

Secondly, keep it old school.

This isn’t Milan; you aren’t on the runway. Don’t bring out the latest fashion and don’t be trendy. I’ve had guys come in with roll-up jeans on casual days. You want to keep your stuff traditional and simple: dark suits, white shirts. You can break out the Gordon Gekko suspenders when you've made a couple of hundred million.

The thing is that it's very easy for people to stop taking you seriously if you dressing like a super model or pretending you are Mark Zuckerberg.

This applies to weekends too. Weekends are when you might be the office with your MD. But if all she sees is a grease ball in a T-shirt smelling like last night’s party, you just committed another CLM.

Lastly, its not what you wear, but how you wear it. People don't remember outfit details: they remember generalities and they remember your general demeanor. You can be wearing a low-key suit and a well-tailored shirt, but it will get you nowhere if sit all hunched-up, or talk so that no one can hear you.

What I Learnt on Wall Street is an education focused business founded a group of Wall Street veterans from the best firms determined to help the next generation. 

AUTHORWiLowWallStreet Insider Comment

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