JPMorgan Chase's New Dress Code Would Be a Positive Indicator if This Were 2006

There will always be "suits" but there won't always be suits.


If you’re curious as to how the American workforce may look in 10 years, here’s an indication: Banking monster JPMorgan Chase is abandoning its long-standing, strict dress code. The company’s 235,678 employees will no longer be constrained by tight collars and even tighter neckties. When they don’t have client meetings, Morganites can henceforth rock business-casual attire.

The end of the suit may seem like old news, but the culture of banking is as averse to change as it is to scandal and moral accountability. Old timers will tell you that banking and swanking made a blood bond over a century ago: when Henry Poole started attracting bankers to Savile Row, then made the boat journey to America. They may also tell you that today’s news represents a rip in the fabric of our fiscal universe. But this shift in policy is not unprecedented. When the internet took off in the late nineties, banks started cutting employees some slack – which, no, wasn’t capitalized back then. When the economy went kaboom and everyone got nervous, bankers resumed wearing suits.

Still, don’t interpret the dress-downification of J.P. Morgan as an auspicious sign. Here’s the economic reality it represents: Careers in banking aren’t as desirable as they used to be. The banking industry is looking to the tech industry for advice on how to attract young talent. One way to attract young talent is to let them keep it chill.

Bankers in days of yore.

Library of Congress

Banking is the last vestige of that old world, a world in which you’d don a suit to go to the post office. Nowadays, more and more people are able to work from home, and more and more people own fewer and fewer ties. Given the internet, face-to-face interaction is less necessary. But it’s more important to maintain an air of legitimacy in banking, which involves large sums of money and — perhaps increasingly — risk. No one wants to take out a gargantuan loan from someone dressed like a pot dealer. (Especially one who doesn’t have a pot dealer).

Luckily for those who care about convention, the change will not be too noticeable. The new “casual” is about as casual as a private golf club. Thou shalt not wear flip flops, yoga pants, or anything that could be deemed distracting. But, the Wall Street Journal reports, “casual pants, capri pants, polo shirts and dress sandals are OK.”

Note: If a bank has a particularly chill manager, blue jeans may be permitted.

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