Why Goldman Sachs’ New Dress Code Could Hurt the Luxury Footwear Market

For decades, Goldman Sachs’ hallways had been filled with its mostly male bankers outfitted in suits, ties and cap-toe brogues.

Now, the investment banking giant is overhauling its business dress code, addressing its more than 36,000 employees in a memo sent on Tuesday by new CEO David Solomon — who moonlights as a DJ — as well as CFO Stephen Scherr and COO John Waldron.

“Given our one firm philosophy and the changing nature of workplaces generally in favor of a more casual environment, we believe this is the right time to move to a firm-wide flexible dress code,” the note read.

Historically reputed as a white-shoe investment bank, Goldman became one of the few remaining Wall Street mainstays that favored a conventional workplace dress code, as rivals like JPMorgan Chase embraced more casual looks in their efforts to better resonate with younger recruits. (More than 75 percent of Goldman employees are millennials or Gen Zers.)

In 2017, Goldman eased the requirement for its tech division — with the exception of “short trousers.” The new policy also comes as banking behemoths compete with Silicon Valley businesses for fresh talent, with the latter recognized for their looser dress codes and casual work environments.

“For guys at Goldman, it’s always ties, shoes without buckles and suits without a pattern,” an unnamed M&A banker revealed to finance and banking job site eFinancial Careers. “For women, 90 percent wear dresses and high heels. A lot wear expensive shoes like Louboutins.”

It remains to be seen whether the new sartorial rule could potentially spell trouble for the luxury footwear market, or if a dip in one category would translate to gains in another.

Experts add that it could take time to see any material changes, if at all — as some employees may stick to their suit-and-tie uniforms and others may not be prompted to immediately shop for new clothing and shoes. It is also possible that new talent, who might have previously purchased luxury dress shoes upon earning their six-figure salaries, will now feel less inclined to splurge on high-end items — since the relaxed dress code wouldn’t necessarily require it.

“Goldman Sachs has a young workforce, so this is likely accommodation of the preferences of their employees, reflecting what we see impacting the fashion industry on a broader scale,” said Beth Goldstein, accessories and footwear industry analyst at The NPD Group. “We already see more comfort-oriented, casual styles driving luxury footwear brands, and I expect that to continue.”

As for the potential impact on high-end sneakers — as employees might reach for more relaxed options — NPD’s vice president and senior industry advisor, Matt Powell, said: “I don’t see much of an impact on luxury sneakers as these offerings are not made in broadly commercial numbers. My gut is that most of these Goldman Sachs employees already own sneakers, so I don’t expect a major boost to the business.”

Still, that doesn’t mean the company’s staff will swap their bespoke suits for jeans and sneakers anytime soon.

“We want all of our clients to feel comfortable with and confident in our team, so please dress in a manner that is consistent with your clients’ expectations,” the Goldman executives added. “Of course, casual dress is not appropriate every day and for every interaction, and we trust you will consistently exercise good judgment in this regard.”

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