New year, new you. It’s 2020 and your wardrobe has needed a shakeup since popped collars went out of style. Maybe you want to dress like a banker or fit into your corporate office culture better. As usual, Queen City Nerve stays in these finance streets, so we are proud to present the definitive guide to finance fashion.
First off, your job title matters, but be aware of other unspoken rules. Corporate dress code policies vary from place to place, but in general, each company has stereotypes. Bank of America is known for being a more formal place compared to other companies.
Boutique investment banking or private equity shops tend to be full of fancy people, and with the high salaries (generally) come the expectations for high-quality clothes, while an employee in the back office of a firm can get away with department store dress shirts on a daily basis.
If you’ve heard the expression, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” then you get the idea behind the finance culture. Image is everything in finance. How you style your wardrobe matters. What threads you have on as you order your food from the falafel cart at Trade and Tryon will speak volumes to those around you about just how much respect they should give you. Khakis are for people hitting up Charlotte Country Club or their job as a 5th grade teacher, not for a meeting with your commercial real estate client to bang out a $100+ million deal.
If you are a social climber with big career aspirations, we recommend becoming good friends with the good folks at the local suit shop or boutique. Or maybe you work at a fintech shop, so you wear whatever fashion-forward nonsense that makes sense only in the startup world.
So, we’ve established that your clothing matters. How else can you express to the barista that you work a ton of hours and are paid well? How else can you silently signal to folks on the Blue Line that you live in South End and are heading to Sycamore for a networking event?
May I suggest the following:
Socks: For the gentlemen, plain-colored socks are, to put it nicely, trash. Your socks should have fun patterns or be colors that show you have a fun, clever personality. Finance is usually full of folks expecting you to put your head down, fit in and make money. This is your chance to be infinitesimally different from your other coworkers.
Dresses/skirts: Look, ladies, good luck figuring out what your antiquated corporate dress code means. Since this column is written by a guy who has no interest in even satirically telling you what you should or shouldn’t be wearing, I’m just going to skip over this potential landmine.
Fleece/Q Zip/Puffy Vests: Want to look like you went to go camping but stopped halfway? Throw on one of these bad boys and keep your core overheated while your arms stay cold.
Khakis: Contrary to the joke above (sorry teachers), khakis can work depending on the day. They can pair nicely with a blue blazer and strong opinions about the commodity markets. Avoid wearing to formal events or on days that are not Thursday or Friday.
Jeans: Good for casual Fridays, or if you work in IT.
Suits: It’s hard to go wrong with a smart suit regardless of gender. Blue, black and grey with a white shirt are always acceptable. For the gents, a strong tie/pocket square is what helps you stand out in this department. Don’t forget — this is the world of finance, so leave the wild shirt/tie combinations at your fraternity formals where you left them.
Shoes: The fancier the better. Make sure they match your clothes. If you wear mismatched clothes/shoes, just go ahead and move to Asheville to start your new life with people who don’t care about the important things like fashion and image.
You are now all caught up on the cutting edge of finance fashion. Go ahead and run over to the Jos A. Bank by Founders Hall and shop the good deals with confidence.
Go get those slacks tailored knowing that pleats are out, but high cuts that show off your dope socks are in. Go get that money while you look like a J. Crew model who is overly confident that pastels will never go out of fashion.
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