The Real Wall Street Dress Code

Over at the Wall Street Journal’s FINS career site, Julie Steinberg has written a helpful piece for the incoming first-year investment bank kids who want to dress for success.

I’ll go a step further; here’s what this summer’s Wall Street freshmen should wear if they want to dress for reality

If you’re coming in as an investment banker, you will really only need a pair of pajamas.  You’re not ever leaving and will sleep in the office more nights than you could possibly imagine.  My friend Curtis once worked at one of those Nazi banks, forgot which one, they worked him one weekend until blood was pouring out of his nose.  There have been stories about rookie bankers catching naps in utility closets just to show how many hours they can work.  The truth is this is a part-hazing, part-barrier of entry thing.  None of the work a 23-year-old banker wannabe is doing at 1 am means anything, it’s just projects for the sake of projects.

If you’re beginning as a trader wear a fleece vest over a button-down shirt.  That way I know what you are when you’re standing on line in front of me at the Jiannetto’s pizza truck outside of JPMorgan on Park and 47th.  When there are too many of you trader types ahead of me I’ll look at my phone and say something like, “Oh no, not another Flash Crash!”  You’ll all run and I’ll get my two grandma slices that much quicker.  By the way, the fleece vest over a button-down shirt thing originated at SAC.  Stevie likes to keep the room freezing cold to keep traders alert so every trader you see in that uniform is imitating that, whether they know it or not.

If your path is sales trader or institutional brokerage, be sure to wear something that will adequately conceal a wire.  You’ll be spending much of your day talking to your buy-side and hedge fund clients and sharing information left and right.  There are some conversations that the bugs in your phone won’t pick up so for these, the Justice Department asks that you make sure to have some kind of recording device on you at all times.

Prospective sell-side analysts should pretty much come in with a brown bag over their heads, eyeholes cut out of course.  You will spend the next decade blowing people up with nonsensical calls like “overweight” or “strong neutral”.  Your price targets will be based on discounted cash flow analysis which doesn’t really mean anything in the actual supply and demand-based stock market.  Getting used to hiding and wearing a bag to cover your shame is probably a great idea, start early.

The private wealth management and financial advisory trainees should wear suits.  And with those suits I’d recommend a stop watch instead of a wrist watch, preferably one with a clock that counts down to zero.  Set it to begin counting down 90 days from now because that’s how long you’ll have to raise your first $20 million in assets.  You probably won’t hit this minimum but that $16 million you managed to scrape up will be handed over to the grateful 45-year-old VP when you’re let go this fall.  It’s the Circle of Life.

Hopefully this has been helpful.  Bon Chance, Class of 2011!




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