A brief history behind four of the financial workplace’s most popular garments
Undeniably, one of the most steadfast claims to culture lies in clothing. Whether one takes this statement in the micro or macro scale, such an assertion holds true throughout all parameter measures, fostering a sense of connection within a network the size of a country to the environment of an individual company. On that premise, our focus will lie in the historical and associative nature of a well-known world to many of us — the financial office.
A staple to the modern finance wardrobe, the fleece vest has become a characterizing element of any banker, advisor or analyst’s closet. However, this famed, relatively casual garment is not restricted to analysts and associates — indeed, many executives tout the piece.
So, what has driven so many finance majors to adopt it?
Patrick Kenger, a stylist for male clients often in the tech and entrepreneurial fields, states, “It’s the perfect middle-ground piece…You could have a button-up shirt and some dress trousers and throw that on, and it would look appropriate. They absolutely have a place in 2022 menswear.” After the 2008 financial crisis, much of Wall Street abandoned the suit in favor of a more approachable appearance. Consequently, formerly strict settings searched for an identifiable yet comfortable transition into a modern workplace wardrobe.
The vest, indeed, implies an easy-going attitude in an environment that can often be intimidating both internally and to the external world. It is argued by stylist Joseph Rosenfeld that the piece helps to “bring back attention back up to the wearer’s face”, whereas accessories such as ties bring the eyes downward. As much of the industry’s work includes face-to-face relations, it can be easily understood why these often Patagonia-labeled garments have become quickly adopted as the casual, defining piece covering the classic button-up.
The renowned staple for many has reigned for ages, with its prehistory dating back to the 17th century. Following the Black Plague, clothing culture shifted away from frivolous, colorful clothing to the more muted blacks, blues and greys of classic suits. The morning suit, the 18th-century predecessor to the 19th-century tuxedo, served as the base, with details serving for specific civilian jobs. In fact, detachable cuffs were a request of surgeons to avoid stains.
The cultural shift between the tailcoat and the modern suit took significant time, as the former’s wearers were strict supporters of its use. It slowly began to branch into the polished world with increased use, such as with early-wearer Italian Premier Vittorio Orlando at the end of WWI.
So where does this beloved adornment originate from? During the 30 Years’ War in the 17th-century, the French hired Croatian mercenaries who wore unique, traditional knotted neck scarves as part of their uniforms. As they were presented to King Louis XIV, he took a particular liking to the style, beginning to wear them at just seven years old around 1846. In fact, the French word for necktie, la cravate, credits these original creators.
The tie as we know it today holds its roots in the 1920s, where tiemaker Jesse Langford crafted the three-panel design that serves as the base for the numerous styles of today’s world.
Finally, this quintessential accessory dates back to as far as the 1500s, localized in the German and French areas. However, these early watches were often carried by hand or worn on a chain. In centuries forward, innovative, precise adjustments were made to the design of watches to increase its functionality — ranging from new spring-designs to advanced escapements.
It is indisputable why such a piece has continued its way into the contemporary world; the detail of such a craft embodies the essence and refinement that those in the business sector wish to convey, to both fellow colleagues and prospective clients.