Power Dressing Down


Have you seen The Wolf Of Wall Street yet? I’ve heard of entire City trading floors making block cinema bookings to revel in the excesses of Leonardo DiCaprio’s high-finance hustler Jordan Belfort.


They might be nostalgic for the junk-bond juju, the bonus bonanzas, and the narcotic intemperance (check out Leo and co-star Jonah Hill’s whacked-out-on-quaaludes scene for the best bit of physical comedy since Eric last slapped Ern), but they’re probably not casting a dewy eye over the clothes; as Belfort, Leonardo goes from junior-equity boxy, broad-shouldered off-the-rack double-breasted numbers to the Gordon Gekko-esque greed-is-good uniform of lordly chalkstripes, skull-and-crossbone-emblazoned braces, contrast-collar shirts, and chunky red or yellow power ties.

Today, post-Occupy, and post-taxpayer bailout, these clothes look like museum pieces – a visual shorthand for “fat cat” that someone would only wear if, post-trading, he was on his way to a late 80s/early 90s Big Bang theme party. Finance is a lot less brash, and so are its clothes – “From ‘Wolf’ to Sheepish Clothing,” as a recent piece in The New York Times put it. But that doesn’t mean that style is dead in the City. What we’re seeing is a new vision of formality that goes beyond buttoned-up or business-casual, where status cues are much subtler: sleek, slimmer-fitting suits, in solid blues or greys rather than stripes, with softer shoulders; and rakish little details, like a final working sleeve buttonhole stitched in a different colour, a contrasting melton undercollar, or even an electric-blue Spitalfields flower pattern lining. If you don’t have to wear a tie, accessories – paisley pocket squares, vivid socks – add a touch of individual dash, as do heritage-hip patterned shirts in chambray or Tattersall check (proving that the bespoke-casual look of media and advertising is now gaining a firm foothold in finance). And if you do have to wear a tie, skinnier knitted or cashmere options are definitely not sub-prime.


The Wolf Of Wall Street is probably not going to rehabilitate the pre-crash power suit, and neither should it. But the entire panoply of banker-pomp shouldn’t be thrown out with the Ponzi scheme, and there are signs that some staples of the boom-and-bust era are making a return, albeit in a more dialled-down, refined form: double-breasted jackets are back, fitted and flattering rather than billowy and brash; windowpane and Prince-of-Wales checks are looking vibrant rather than vulgar; and even pinstripes – minus the master-of-the-universe connotations – are looking fresh in softer, less boorish shades. So much so, that I might be tempted back into them myself – The Spaniel of Spitalfields, anyone?