As Wall Street workers trickle back into their Manhattan offices this summer, they are noticeable for their casual attire. Men are reporting for duty in polo shirts. Women have stepped down from the high heels once considered de rigueur. Ties are nowhere to be found.
The changes may be superficial, but they hint at a bigger cultural shift in an industry in which well-cut suits and wingtips once symbolized swagger, memorialized in popular culture by Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street” and Patrick Bateman in the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel “American Psycho.” Even as many corporate workplaces around the United States relaxed their dress codes in recent years, Wall Street remained mostly buttoned up.
Like so much else, that changed in the pandemic. Big banking firms, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, have realized that their employees are loath to reach for their corporate attire after more than a year of working from home dressed mainly in loungewear, or Zoom-appropriate shirts on top and sweatpants below.
Although banks haven’t sent out formal memos, their informal message is that returning employees should feel free to dress appropriately for the occasion — and that during a summer with few in-person client meetings, more relaxed attire is permissible.
This being Wall Street, casual doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, of course. Many of the sneakers, shirts, watches and other more laid-back accessories spotted in Lower Manhattan last week cost several hundred dollars or more.