Sim, Oxford: I was wondering if you could assist me with your experience regarding sartorial issues, the yays or nays, within banking. I have heard from fellow interns that French-cuff shirts and heavy pinstriped suits should never be worn as they depict status, status an intern does not yet have, and are thus considered a faux-pas by people higher up the chain. Any truth in this and if so, any particular things to avoid?

I think the general guidelines on discretion guided by propriety, and to an extent the dignity of business, should be enough here Sim. It’s just that bankers get a bit more snippy and competitive about it.

If you’re going for a job interview, everyone knows you should be well dressed and smart without standing out. The same thing applies to your first job – or in this case your first internship. Dress as smartly or smarter than your superiors and wear nothing that draws attention.

So I would advise you to wear navy and grey suits, shirts that are white, blue or blue stripes, and ties that are solid colours or simple stripes/geometric patterns. Wear expensive suits if you have them, equally nice shirts and ties. But keep them sober, and finish it off with a nice pair of black Oxfords.

Avoid: braces, handkerchiefs, waistcoats, double-breasted jackets, trouser cuffs, bright socks, contrast collar or cuffs, ‘humorous’ ties, ‘humorous’ cufflinks, ‘fashion’ suits, and strong colours and strong stripes everywhere. They will all draw attention to your clothes rather than yourself, which is certainly not the aim of an internship.

The reason that some of these items of clothing become status symbols among bankers is that they are often flash and always competitive. Wearing a big, bold pinstripe suit is a way to demonstrate that you can get away with wearing it. Because you have attained such a level of success that it cannot be dented by wearing tasteless clothes.

While it is true that some of these items of clothing are more traditional and hark back to earlier days of banking, it is unlikely that this is the reason they are being worn. There will be exceptions, but these are often men over 50 who actually remember when most colleagues wore braces and white collars.

I would have thought French cuffs would have been alright, though, if all other advice is followed. It can be your little indulgence.

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Good question and an equally good, and useful, answer.

My only points of disagreement are small. Cuffed trousers should be of little consequence, and if you feel naked without a pocket square, then it should be crisp white cotton or linen.

I like Chesing’s list. For an interview, I’d say no rings or other jewelry except for your wedding band, and a simple watch if you wear one, but I can’t imagine wearing anything other than a silk tie for an interview or internship.

One more thing: no bow ties until you’ve been on the job for a while, and only occasionally at that. You don’t want to be known as “the guy who always wears bow ties,” which will be your reputation if you wear one more than once or twice a month.

Wright's Words

Dear Simon,
After reading this post yesterday morning, I was deeply frustrated and, even perplexed. But I held my tongue.

I agree with the last commenter who insisted that one SHOULD stand out. For me – who has worked in a bank before (and utterly hated it!) – personal style is about expressing myself, never expressing the image of my work place; that is why it is my personal style. Though, I never again plan to work in financial services. And I believe that it is wise to have two styles, if needed: 1. work. 2. personal.

The foundation of my frustration with what you recommended to the future banker is that I believe that too few people dress to express themselves. Too many people just blend in with the sheep and wear the uniform pieces from the Gaps, Old Navy’s and the like.

Too many people resign themselves to wearing banal and bland clothes; and then of course those pieces don’t fit off-the-rack.

Be well,

Will Wright || public media stories focused on
politics, the media arts, and ethnicity.

Wright’s Words start conversations…

Wright's Words

Hello again Simon,
My ideas may have been vague. How about this: stand out both for having remarkable personal style and for professional excellence and wit.

I’m reminded of a co-worker who had been convinced that looking better than his boss would hurt him. I simply looked down and shook my head.

Be well,

Will Wright || public media stories focused on
politics, the media arts, and ethnicity.

Wright’s Words start conversations…


Silk ties?

Cuffed trousers?

I’m not sure why either are inappropriate for interviews. If not silk, what kind of ties? Surely not knit


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For an upcoming interview I suspect I’ll be able to pull off wearing a silk tie and tag huer quite aloof and get by.