As I mentioned in the piece about Savile Row, there is still little room for brown shoes in the City of London. With a lounge suit black shoes rule. Yesterday The Guardian had a story, which elaborates on the situation. English class society is lurking in the background, of course.
“In the City of London, it’s the ultimate sartorial faux pas. “Never wear brown in town,” runs the adage about what shoes the gentlemen of London’s financial district must eschew in order to escape the opprobrium of colleagues.
This unwritten rule works to the disadvantage of people from less affluent backgrounds, according to a study by the government’s social mobility commission.
The commission found that graduates with first-class degrees from elite universities are being “locked out” from jobs in investment banking if they commit the cardinal sin of wearing brown shoes. The same goes for those who appear uncomfortable in a suit, wear a loud tie, or lack esoteric qualities such as “polish” or “aura”.”
Not everybody approves.
“Jason Meyers, 43, whose design and construction firm counts several financial services companies among its clients, is aware of the rulebook but isn’t a fan. Referring to a pair of high-end shoemakers, he says:
“If you work in insurance they won’t let you through the door of [insurance market] Lloyd’s of London without a pair of black Church’s or Cheaneys.””
Foreigners must adapt.
“To those not steeped in the traditions of the London financial milieu, the brown shoe rule is an idiosyncratic quirk of Britishness. Frank van der Korput, 37, works for a Lloyds of London insurer and has had to get used to watching what he puts on his feet.
“In Holland and Italy, it’s fairly normal to wear brown shoes but here it’s like a little bit of history. The first time I came here I felt like being the Dutchman and just saying, ‘fuck it’ and wearing the brown shoes. It’s not accepted in London, not yet.””
Never wear brown in town.
A comment from a reader on The Guardian:
“It’s got nothing to do with elitism and everything to do with style.
Fucking morons with chips on their shoulders calling it elitism. If you don’t get style, you show a certain lack of awareness that exposes a weakness A*’s can mask.
Learn style – it’s important. You need to learn how to walk into a room and be taken seriously. It’s called presence and anyone can learn how to do it.
Now go and write some proper articles”
“The City’s lounge-suit code is one of the easiest to crack. Once you know it, and it’s easy to find this info online, it’s very easy to accomplish. Dress codes in other professions are less ritualised, and the result is confusion for many men, if not slovenly appearance.
1) A well-cut navy or charcoal grey single-breasted suit made of worsted wool. Two button or 3-roll-2. Step lapel (called notch lapel by the Yanks.) Side vents. Trousers have side adjusters rather than belt loops. Appropriately fitted. The mistakes? A suit fitted too large. Jacket too short and low-rise trousers – a fashion suit from TopShop or Zara. Trouser break too long – look at the top photo and just about everyone in a suit has this correct. Sleeves too long. Center vent.
2) Spread-collar double-cuff (called French cuffs by the Yanks) dress shirt in white or light blue. Simple cuff links. The mistakes? Button-down collar. Too short collar points. Single cuffs. Chest pocket. Gimmicky contrast stitching. Conspicuous monogram.
3) Silk necktie in the hues of blue or red with a subtle pattern. The mistakes? Loud colours. Bold stripes. Garish designs. Too wide or too narrow. Nylon.
4) No belt if your trousers have side adjusters. If belt loops, then one of polished black leather between 1 1/4″ and 1 3/8″ wide and a simple silver buckle. The mistakes? Too wide (1 1/2″+) or too thin (1”). Contrast stitching. Extra hardware. Matte, unpolished leather.
5) Navy blue or dark grey over-the-calf wool socks to match suit. The mistakes? Too short, so the shin is exposed when one’s seated. Colours and designs.
6) Black cap toe oxfords with blind eyelets made of full-grain calf-skin leather and a leather sole. Black sole-edge dressing. Correctly laced. The mistakes? Derbies. Loafers. Brogueing. No heel. Rugged “commando” treaded soles. Contrast stitching. Contrast welt. Patent leather. Embossed pattern. Corrected leather. Agatine eyelets.
Look back at the top photo you’ll see the fella in the foreground is a bit off, though presumably he found employment. The suit is a lighter hue of navy, the jacket too short, and the trousers are low-rise and too tight. He’s also wearing a belt. The fella on the left is put together better.
“If you work in insurance they won’t let you through the door of [insurance market] Lloyd’s of London without a pair of black Church’s or Cheaneys.”
Church’s was once a good shoe, but it was taken over by Prada, which introduced cheap, corrected-grain leather with a shiny finish. The maker describes its shoes having a “polished” finish on binder (or bookbinder) leather. This finish is like acrylic paint, and eventually it will begin to crack and peel; there’s no mending this. Scuffs and other marks can’t be polished out like with uncoated leather. If you’re going to spend the money, make sure you get value for it.”