The G20 has revealed a lot about bankers’ sartorial taste. It has shown uniformity and a complete lack of awareness of what ‘normal’ people wear.
As protests were announced for the day before the G20 meeting in London, City workers were warned to “try and look inconspicuous” and “dress down to avoid being targeted as bankers”. Protests were scheduled for everywhere from Grosvenor Square to Canary Wharf, the Bank of England to Trafalgar Square – so a large number of people was threatened with disruption and possible attack.
Unfortunately, bankers aren’t very good at disguise. As a columnist in local paper City AM put it: “What a feast for the eyes the streets of the City were – colourful, vibrant and loud. I am, of course, referring to the sartorial elegance displayed by bankers.” Not the protestors.
“Predictably there were some who believed the streets would be transformed into a country club for the day, and opted for the traditional chinos and tweed. At least, if nothing else, they fitted in with each other.”
Which was rather the problem. A man in a suit can be a clerk, a security officer, even a waiter. But a man in chinos, a tweed jacket and loafers is definitely a banker. Fortunately, there were no reports of bankers being targeted with violence. But if protesters had been so inclined, their targets could not have stood out more.
It got worse. “Reports soon started to come in regarding all manner of attire unlikely to go unnoticed by your average anti-capitalist protestor. On one end of the spectrum there were three-quarter length trousers, Louis Vuitton soap bags and St Tropez polo club-branded rugby shirts. On the other was the very well-groomed gentleman who was conspicuous as much for his reeking cologne as for his tassled brogues, pressed jeans and cashmere top,” said the columnist.
A colleague reported similar sightings. “It was hilarious seeing all the bankers in disguise on the train this morning,” she said. “With their perfectly ironed blue shirts, cufflinks and loafers you couldn’t really miss them.”
There were an admirable few that refused to be bowed, however (my father among them). Many cited the IRA bombings in London and said “I didn’t sneak and hide from that so I’m not going to do so now.” It was almost freakish how often that reference came up.
Equally, some bankers deliberately scaled up the traditional dress. City veteran Justin Urquhart-Stewart of Seven Investment Management proudly wore a pinstriped suit, bright red socks, red braces and no less than two red handkerchiefs. Even he conceded he couldn’t get away with a bowler hat, however.