Patrick D. asks: I understand that the movie Wall Street; Money Never Sleeps has the fashion business buzzing about what the actors are wearing, notably the characters played by Michael Douglas and Shia LeBeouf. I remember that the original Wall Street movie had a pretty significant effect on men’s clothing fashion at the time (1989?), but what about this sequel? I confess to taking advice from a gecko when it comes to my car insurance, but what if any fashion advice should I take from Gordon Gekko this time around?
Tom Talks: A fair question, even if you don’t work on Wall Street. The woman who designed the clothing for this Wall Street sequel is the same person who did the clothing for Michael Douglas in the original film, only this time she “did a little research” by observing how people on Wall Street actually dressed for work. Here’s what you can glean fashion-wise from Wall Street; Money Never Sleeps:
1) If you’re being incarcerated, wear something timeless on your first day in; that’s what you’ll be wearing the day you’re released from prison (even if no one is there to pick you up). Having a few classic suits in your wardrobe is a must, even if you work from a home office. None of us can plan someone else’s wedding (or funeral), but there are those events in life where we all need to wear something dark and dressy.
2) Men’s fashion has indeed changed over the last ten years (and certainly over the last nine years, if that’s how long you were in for). That oversized “relaxed fit” Italian suit with the big shoulders and the full-cut triple pleated trousers was all the rage when it was new, but so was the flip phone. In the movie, Gordon Gekko made a point to update his wardrobe as soon as he was “funded”. And the movie’s wardrobe designer had the suits for young Jacob Moore (Shia LeBeouf) tailor- made to the actor’s measurements (at $6500 a copy, no less) to reflect an ultra-modern look: 2-button side vented coats with a decidedly more tailored fit, with trimmer fitting flat front cuff-less trousers. LeBeouf’s suits oozed prosperity right down to the working sleeve buttonholes – the devil is in the details, right?
3) Even Wall Street has embraced the idea of casual dress in the workplace – but where and when it makes sense. Sitting at the desk or pacing the trading floor may no longer dictate coat and tie attire, but jeans and polo shirts may not cut it either. Every profession may have its own casual ‘uniform’, but you’d be wise to take it up a notch from the lowest common denominator in your own workplace. Upgrade the jeans and polo shirts to a dress trouser and collared long-sleeve shirt – necktie optional. You can roll up your sleeves and get to work, but you can always meet with a client or superior on the fly if you keep a spare jacket (sport coat or blazer) and necktie at the office. You can make a quick change and look like you came to work dressed for that impromptu meeting or client visit. We do recommend keeping a clean white shirt at the office, just in case a long day ends with an important late afternoon meeting or business dinner opportunity. Be prepared…
4) In the movie, the formal charity gala event at the Met (New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art) had virtually everyone in attendance dressed in their evening finest. No matter how “casual” your profession, or where you find yourself on the food chain at work, all of us need to be able to get properly dressed for an evening or black-tie event. Forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir, but make it a priority to own a dressy black or midnight navy suit or tuxedo (and consider updating your formal ensemble if it was purchased from a “rental fleet”) and keep a nice white cufflink shirt at the ready to use with a formal bow tie or cravat. We like the idea of a fly-front formal shirt with a point collar, French cuffs, and no pleats for maximum utility. Think about it: if your wife or significant other makes an effort to dress to the nines, you should dress like a ‘10’. There wouldn’t be a tuxedo rental industry today if this concept had no merit. And hopefully you’ve reached a station in life where you don’t have to rent nice clothing. Her evening gown won’t be a rental…
5) One interesting nuance in the movie is the correlation of the changes in the morality & wealth of the main characters with the changes in their dress. It is clear who is on the way up and on the way down. Like it or not, we are conditioned to make judgments about someone’s character, background, and ability by how they are dressed. While those judgments may at times miss the mark, few of us are in a situation where we need not give consideration to how we are perceived by others. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “eat to please thyself, but dress to please others…”