drpeter

Senior Member
Maybe it wasn't a full fifty pages, but it was quite thick. It went into all manner of detail on professional dress for both men and women. It covered such details as how to look at the seams, pleats, cuffs, and fabrics when selecting dress shirts and suits; matching shoes and belts, acceptable leathers, colors, and shoe styles; selecting (and rejecting) suits; all manner of pronouncements on ties (acceptable and unacceptable colors, maximum number of colors in striped ties, acceptable and unacceptable patterns; grooming; watches and rings; and lots more.

It covered recommended brands of everything. In addition to Brooks Brothers and Norton Ditto, TCB sent a lot of business to Church's shoes.

The typical male Texas Commerce Banker was probably wearing a medium to dark grey solid color sack suit, a starched white broadcloth shirt with a barrel cuff or a white OCBD, polished but not overly polished black cap toes with a soft calf black belt (probably the one from Brooks with the leather covered buckle), navy blue Merino OTC socks, and either a deep red foulard with a neat pattern or a repp stripe with deep red, navy, and a thin yellow stripe. He wore a stainless and gold but not over the top Rolex and his gold wedding band but left his UT class ring at home in case he had to call on an Aggie. He always had a gold Cross pen. His hair was cut without being too long or freakishly short, had no long sideburns, and had no facial hair. The guys in International, for some reason, could have mustaches. Suspenders, anything "no iron," plaids (even tasteful grey POW), bit or penny loafers, gunboats (except for the old guys in Energy), and decorative rings were frowned upon.

As the GC/Secretary I was a bit of an outlier. I often wore blue OCBDs, grey POW suits, cordovan BB tassels with dark brown belts, a non-Rolex watch with a leather strap, and a signet ring with initials. I recall that by the mid-1980s the code was evolving as the CEO was wearing a lot of Hermes ties.
Fascinating! Again, I wish I could see that guide. I wonder it it is posted in some far-flung corner of the internet. You have truly opened my eyes as to how much detail a company would go into in order to ensure conformity to "sumptuary" guidelines in matters of dress.

This exchange reminds me of a man I met on a flight from San Antonio, Texas, to Chicago in the mid-eighties. I was heading back to Wisconsin after attending a scientific conference in San Antonio. I think I ended up sitting in first class because they messed up the seating in economy class (my university would not have supported first class travel for professors, LOL). Anyway, I was sitting next to an older gentleman in his mid-fifties, and we had a long conversation about all sorts of things. He was an upper-level executive for the Caterpillar Co., and he was wearing grey flannels, a blue blazer and a regimental tie, all very well-made, probably even custom-made, and burgundy cap-toe oxfords. I was in a Harris tweed jacket, grey flannels and a bow-tie, with burgundy penny loafers on my feet. At one point the discussion turned to clothes, and I said that I liked working at a university that had no dress code, so I could dress somewhat formally, or quite informally. I rarely wore suits at work, mostly sport coats and slacks, often sweaters. He laughed and said that if he turned up in his office wearing what he was wearing now (blazer, flannels, etc.) he would almost certainly be fired. I was astonished and asked him if they had a strict dress code and he said it was almost as strict as IBM's (navy blue suits, white shirts and dark shoes down the line, IIRC). Suits were absolutely required for executives. I wonder if Caterpillar insists on that sort of code now.
 
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TKI67

Super Member
Fascinating! Again, I wish I could see that guide. I wonder it it is posted in some far-flung corner of the internet. You have truly opened my eyes as to how much detail a company would go into in order to ensure conformity to "sumptuary" guidelines in matters of dress.

This exchange reminds me of a man I met on a flight from San Antonio, Texas, to Chicago in the mid-eighties. I was heading back to Wisconsin after attending a scientific conference in San Antonio. I think I ended up sitting in first class because they messed up the seating in economy class ( my university would not have supported first class travel for professors, LOL). Anyway, I was sitting next to an older gentleman in his mid-fifties, and we had a long conversation about all sorts of things. He was an upper-level executive for the Caterpillar Co., and he was wearing grey flannels, a blue blazer and a regimental tie, all very well-made, probably even custom-made, and burgundy cap-toe oxfords. I was in a Harris tweed jacket, grey flannels and a bow-tie, with burgundy penny loafers on my feet. At one point the discussion turned to clothes, and I said that I liked working at a university that had no dress code, so I could dress somewhat formally, or quite informally. I rarely wore suits at work, mostly sport coats and slacks, often sweaters. He laughed and said that if he turned up in his office wearing what he was wearing now (blazer, flannels, etc.) he would almost certainly be fired. I was astonished and asked him if they had a strict dress code and he said it was almost as strict as IBM's (navy blue suits, white shirts and dark shoes down the line, IIRC). Suits were absolutely required for executives. I wonder if Caterpillar insists on that sort of code now.
I have searched the internet for the Texas Commerce guide to no avail. There is supposedly a man at Texas A & M who helped write the company history who has a copy. The bank is now merged into JP Morgan/Chase.

I doubt Caterpillar is still so strict. Great story.

Texas Commerce was a multibank holding company before branch banking was allowed in Texas. I had a friend who was the President of a member bank down near NASA, a much more casual area. He got reassigned to the bank in Tanglewood, HW's old neighborhood and quite upscale. Our CEO had me take the guy to Brooks Brothers for a more formal look. I encountered him there a few weeks later, trying to return shirts because they wrinkled! He quickly adapted and would come to be regarded as an excellent dresser.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I know I've written about this before, I worked for the US headquarters of a Swiss Investment Bank in the late '80/early '90s. I don't believe there was a dress code written down, but there was a very clear dress code followed and enforced.

It was dark conservatives suits (basically, navy or grey), white or light blue dress shirts, conservative ties and black or cordovan-colored shoes. A few "rebels" would deviate a bit - a pink shirt, a light-grey suit - but they needed to be doing very well at their jobs. I worked on the trading desk, so you were measured by your P&L and, if you weren't very profitable that year/month, you didn't stray from the code at all.

In the summer on Fridays, you could wear tailored chinos (emphasis on tailored), a navy blazer, shirt, tie, pennies (or similar shoes). One young trader wore a pair of well-worn, not tailored chinos one time and they almost sent him home - he never wore those again.

As noted, no idea if this dress code was written down anywhere, but you quickly learned it and deviated from it at your own career risk.

I was told, prior to my arrival, they used to have everyone wearing their suit jackets all day, but the traders (sitting in front of a lot hot screens) fought and won that battle before my time. But even in my time, if you had to go to a meeting, on went the suit jacket.
 
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TKI67

Super Member
I know I've written about this before, I worked for the US headquarters of a Swiss Investment Bank in the late '80/early '90s. I don't believe there was a dress code written down, but there was a very clear dress code followed and enforced.

It was dark conservatives suits (basically, navy or grey), white or light blue dress shirts, conservative ties and black or cordovan-colored shoes. A few "rebels" would deviate a bit - a pink shirt, a light-grey suit - but they needed to be doing very well at their jobs. I worked on the trading desk, so you were measured by your P&L and, if you weren't very profitable that year/month, you didn't stray from the code at all.

In the summer on Fridays, you could wear tailored chinos (emphasis on tailored), a navy blazer, shirt, tie, pennies (or similar shoes). One young trader wore a pair of well-worn, not tailored chinos one time and they almost sent him home - he never wore those again.

As noted, no idea if this dress code was written down anywhere, but you quickly learned it and deviated from it at your own career risk.

I was told, prior to my arrival, they used to have everyone wearing their suit jackets all day, but the traders (sitting in front of a lot hot screens) fought and won that battle before my time. But even in my time, if you had to go to a meeting, on went the suit jacket.
I was in banking before blazers and tailored trousers were allowed. I would go in on Saturdays sometimes, but I dressed like a slob, being in my office, probably the whole Legal Department, alone. In the mid 1980s things got so busy that the CEO moved our Friday at 3:30 Administrative Committee to Saturday mornings. I showed up in khakis, an open collar OCBD, and a tweed jacket. Everyone else had their customary dark grey suits, white shirts, and perfectly knotted ties. Yikes!
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I was in banking before blazers and tailored trousers were allowed. I would go in on Saturdays sometimes, but I dressed like a slob, being in my office, probably the whole Legal Department, alone. In the mid 1980s things got so busy that the CEO moved our Friday at 3:30 Administrative Committee to Saturday mornings. I showed up in khakis, an open collar OCBD, and a tweed jacket. Everyone else had their customary dark grey suits, white shirts, and perfectly knotted ties. Yikes!
You get it then. It's amazing how important this stuff was until it wasn't. When I got to the Swiss Investment Bank in '88, the senior trader pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted to wear chinos on Fridays in the summer, I'd better go over to Brooks (it was a few blocks away) and get a couple of tailored ones from the fourth floor: "Don't get the pre-sized casual ones, you want the ones that are like dress trousers."

By the mid-90s, a lot of Wall Street was wearing Dockers or Gap chinos on Friday. By the '00s, they were wearing them everyday and now, whatever. But back before it all changed, dressing to the "code" mattered. I had one boss who liked shined shoes and would check and comment on yours if they weren't. You can bet everyone on that trading desk had shined shoes all the time. Another boss would give a simulated tug at his tie knot if your tie was getting a touch loose - people were always tightening up their ties on that trading floor.

It all mattered until it didn't.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
These discussions and thoughts on dressing for work reflect larger issues about conformity and uniformity. Personally, I recognize and understand the need for uniformity in dressing, the advantages of this principle being no better evident anywhere else other than in the military. But, being the kind of person I am, I also instinctively rebel against conformity, and dress codes in businesses are the example par excellence of conformity. What the dress code is saying, whether in business or in the military, is that we belong to an organization greater than ourselves in some sense, and we set ourselves apart from other similar organizations. This is more so in the military than in business where everyone seems to don gray and blue suits, LOL -- although distinctive styles, special ties, and so on can separate one business from another. With business, there is also the claim (at least in the past) that distinctive conservative dress can ultimately help advance the company's business.

Fortunately for me, the only job I ever had was in academia, where there are no rules for dressing unless you are a university or college administrator. Faculty usually wear what they please, so it gave me lots of leeway to wear my mix of tweeds, flannels, sportcoats and trousers, bowties and four-in-hands, etc. Even with all this freedom, I have noted that faculty often gravitate towards a sort of uniform, with tweed jackets, sweaters and navy blazers, khakis or jeans, and comfortable shoes. There's an old saying that goes roughly like this: When people are absolutely free to choose what they want, they often tend to make the same choice as those in their immediate circle of friends and acquaintances!
 

fishertw

Advanced Member
I was in a non teaching quasi faculty position for 35 years and dressed for whatever seemed on the calendar that day. If it was a day with the provost or Chancellor, suits, with Department chairs or faculty committees it was blazers or tweeds or Seersucker in summer. Actually chameleon like, I just needed to blend in wherever the day would take me. It did matter.
 

August West

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Maybe it wasn't a full fifty pages, but it was quite thick. It went into all manner of detail on professional dress for both men and women. It covered such details as how to look at the seams, pleats, cuffs, and fabrics when selecting dress shirts and suits; matching shoes and belts, acceptable leathers, colors, and shoe styles; selecting (and rejecting) suits; all manner of pronouncements on ties (acceptable and unacceptable colors, maximum number of colors in striped ties, acceptable and unacceptable patterns; grooming; watches and rings; and lots more.

It covered recommended brands of everything. In addition to Brooks Brothers and Norton Ditto, TCB sent a lot of business to Church's shoes.
I sure wish I had access to something like that when I started working (30 yrs ago). I learned though my mistakes, and trying to emulate guys I thought looked well put together.
 

Bermuda

Senior Member
I was thrilled when the principal of my school was wearing a tie and said he wants everyone to dress professionally in our Zoom meetings that we have to teach in now
 

blairrob

Senior Member
At the turn of the millennium I was an area manager for one of the big retail banks in Toronto as the casual Friday movement was really taking root. In an effort to maintain proper decorum (my words) and hold the line for you folks (because I try:)) I continually refused my branch managers request to implement it as a policy, even though it had spread throughout the country. Eventually my managers gathered together and appointed a spokesperson who came to my office and told me quite firmly that all of my team thought it was time to move on with this, that it was important to do so, and why they and their staffs felt that way. The Aurora had fired her shot and the Bolsheviks surrounded the palace. It was the only time in my career I received such strong push back. I caved. :icon_peaceplease: Sorry.

Over the years it has become the daily norm and most clients seem to prefer it. The plumber and the nurse coming in to negotiate a new mortgage feel more comfortable with this- in the past many were intimidated by the suits and saw it as a form of classism. In the days of easy money and a broad range of competitive options we needed to recognize the changing landscape and adapt or lose business. Today, many private banking and high value clients still feel uncomfortable when their seven figure investment accounts are handled by someone in jeans and a polo shirt, so the appropriate dress code is considerably different for them. Know your course and run the appropriate horse- the landscape shows far more dirt than turf these days.

I'm keeping my suits though I wear one infrequently. If I do show up at a gig that is not épée and see someone wearing a gold lame track suit I think I will be as comfortable in my clothing as he is in his. It is we who now are the seditionists and it's a role to relish and revel in!
 

drpeter

Senior Member
I was in a non teaching quasi faculty position for 35 years and dressed for whatever seemed on the calendar that day. If it was a day with the provost or Chancellor, suits, with Department chairs or faculty committees it was blazers or tweeds or Seersucker in summer. Actually chameleon like, I just needed to blend in wherever the day would take me. It did matter.
I understand. When I served as department chair and before that chair of the faculty senate, I wore jackets and ties most days. And there was a period when I attended UW System meetings and Regents' meetings in Madison regularly, for which I usually wore suits and ties because most people were similarly attired. I enjoyed wearing more formal clothes, and I also liked the days when I could go in wearing khakis and sweaters.
 

some_dude

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
A few quick comments:

1) When working in a large organization, the advice above (dress well, but in keeping with the general vibe) is absolutely, 100% correct.

2) I am fortunate enough not to work in a large organization, and to have considerable flexibility in how I can dress. I choose to dress in suits, or OCBD/wool trousers, every day, but that is my choice. I happen to like wearing suits, so I wear them. I also wear a panama hat in the summer and a fedora in the winter (and sometimes in the summer as well).

3) As a (now) older gentleman, there is nothing worse that you can do than to look like you are trying to be young, or recapture your youth. Dress your age, for god's sake.

4) Finally, I have noticed that a lot of cultural cues still show the suit wearer as being in a position of power or influence. Look at most movies and TV shows. It is my experience that this often carries through to real life-- my experience has been that, as a regular suit wearer among non-suit people, I am often regarded as smarter or more influential than I actually am.

One final, final thought. People notice how comfortable and confident YOU are. If you are comfortable in the way you dress, people around you will pick up on that and treat you accordingly. If you are self conscious and appear to almost be in costume or worried about how you are being perceived, that is when you may have issues.

If you are confident and comfortable with yourself, you can go anywhere in a suit and tie (or a track suit, for that matter). That's the key to all of this.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
A few quick comments:

1) When working in a large organization, the advice above (dress well, but in keeping with the general vibe) is absolutely, 100% correct.

2) I am fortunate enough not to work in a large organization, and to have considerable flexibility in how I can dress. I choose to dress in suits, or OCBD/wool trousers, every day, but that is my choice. I happen to like wearing suits, so I wear them. I also wear a panama hat in the summer and a fedora in the winter (and sometimes in the summer as well).

3) As a (now) older gentleman, there is nothing worse that you can do than to look like you are trying to be young, or recapture your youth. Dress your age, for god's sake.

4) Finally, I have noticed that a lot of cultural cues still show the suit wearer as being in a position of power or influence. Look at most movies and TV shows. It is my experience that this often carries through to real life-- my experience has been that, as a regular suit wearer among non-suit people, I am often regarded as smarter or more influential than I actually am.

One final, final thought. People notice how comfortable and confident YOU are. If you are comfortable in the way you dress, people around you will pick up on that and treat you accordingly. If you are self conscious and appear to almost be in costume or worried about how you are being perceived, that is when you may have issues.

If you are confident and comfortable with yourself, you can go anywhere in a suit and tie (or a track suit, for that matter). That's the key to all of this.
@some_dude , I couldn't agree more with everything that you have said. The point about dressing one's age is very well taken. And there is nothing that lends you authority and respect more than a blazer or sports jacket, even in these informal days. In fact, many in our forums here might recollect John T Molloy (the author of Dress for Success in the late seventies), who did several studies about the effect of clothes and dressing styles on the impact one has with other people in social and work settings, and who made the same point you are making now. Lastly, feeling comfortable in what you wear is very important. Like you, I enjoy wearing jackets and ties and suits and feel perfectly comfortable in them.
 

fishertw

Advanced Member
@some_dude , I couldn't agree more with everything that you have said. The point about dressing one's age is very well taken. And there is nothing that lends you authority and respect more than a blazer or sports jacket, even in these informal days. In fact, many in our forums here might recollect John T Molloy (the author of Dress for Success in the late seventies), who did several studies about the effect of clothes and dressing styles on the impact one has with other people in social and work settings, and who made the same point you are making now. Lastly, feeling comfortable in what you wear is very important. Like you, I enjoy wearing jackets and ties and suits and feel perfectly comfortable in them.
Molloy's book was a great deal of the basis for how and why I dressed every day for over 35 years. It made sense in the 70's ( I started working for Appalachian State University (Yes the one that beat Michigan 13 years ago this month) in 1976, and continues to be a valuable guide.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
Molloy's book was a great deal of the basis for how and why I dressed every day for over 35 years. It made sense in the 70's ( I started working for Appalachian State University (Yes the one that beat Michigan 13 years ago this month) in 1976, and continues to be a valuable guide.
Thank you for that affirmation. I read Molloy's book when it came out, mainly because I like reading about clothes and style, the history of clothes, fabrics and materials, tailors and cordweiners, etc. I was in graduate school then, and really could not afford to spend very much on clothes, although I bought some good clothes by carefully choosing sales and husbanding my clothes dollars (a navy worsted suit and a grey flannel suit, as well as two tweed sports jackets, dress shirts and trousers, a few neckties, and one pair each of black and brown cap-toe oxfords). I used some of Molloy's excellent advice in making my selections to start a basic wardrobe, and I shopped at men's stores where the assistants were very happy to discuss the fine points of material and style, and provide excellent advice. I still have the book somewhere.

I imagine your reference to the defeat of Michigan by Appalachian State is about football. I don't follow football much, having been raised in another country where my game was cricket. But that is a significant victory, since even I know Michigan is considered one of the premier college teams. When I was on a postdoc at Michigan State, the intense rivalry between MSU and Michigan was a constant refrain in conversations: Spartans vs Wolverines.
 
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