Excel at the Job Jun 15 2011

First-Year Analyst Dress Code

By julie steinberg

It's the middle of June, so if you're a first-year analyst, you're in your first few weeks of work. You've gotten the job, which means you knew what to wear to the interview, but how do you dress for future success? We break down the sartorial situation so you can look sharp without outshining your superiors.

Related: Flunking the Underwear Dress Code at UBS

For Men

If you are a sell-side analyst, you will be wearing a suit everyday. That means you need to invest in good-quality suits in a variety of colors. When building your suit wardrobe, start with a solid gray and a solid navy and then add a gray or navy muted pinstripe, said Jessica Cadmus, a former Goldman Sachs employee who founded Wardrobe Whisperer, a personal shopping/stylist consultancy.

She recommends a two-button suit with double vent, notched lapel and straight but tailored leg. Don't worry about buying an Armani suit -- you'll be fine with something from JCrew or Banana Republic if that's what you can afford in the beginning.

Plain-front pants are ideal. "For God's sake, don't be the guy who shows up with pleated pants," said an associate at a hedge fund.

When choosing a shirt, make sure to pick out dress shirts, that is, shirts without buttons on the collars. Shirts with buttons on the collar are called sport shirts and are considerably less formal. You should steer clear of French cuff shirts, cuff links and monograms, which are best left to vice presidents and above, said the hedge fund associate.

After you've chosen a shirt, make sure your tie and collar are proportional. Big tie knots like the Windsor should be worn with spread collars, and smaller knots like the Half-Windsor or Four-in-Hand should be worn with point collars. Bigger knots are preferred, said a first-year hedge fund analyst in New York City.

When you're low on the food chain, your goal is to blend in. That means choosing a basic blue, red or gold tie. Avoid the novelty ties until you advance, said Ron Ferguson, a concierge at Brooks Brothers. Once you do, you can wear ties with a golf-club or yacht-pattern, depending on your interests.

Make sure your shoes and suit go together. If you're confused about the color palette, this graphic might help. A pair of lace-up oxfords in brown and black, as well as pair of loafers in brown and black, will work. Make sure to match the belt to the shoes. At a firm like Goldman, Ferragamo shoes are a sign of "arriving," so don't pick up a pair until you're at least a managing director, a source told Business Insider.

You may be tempted to dress casually on Fridays when you see some of the senior executives stroll in wearing polo shirts and khakis. Don't do it, said an associate at a hedge fund: "They are making a magnitude more than you are, and are headed to their summer home after work Friday where such attire is appropriate. You are going back to Murray Hill."

The so-called "gunners," or competitive, overly-ambitious coworkers, may try to pull it off, but it makes them look foolish, the associate said.

Finally, choose your accessories wisely. A good watch is a status symbol, so associates can wear a Tag Heuer and vice presidents a Cartier. MDs are wearing Pateks these days, but analysts should stick to something like a Swiss Army watch to avoid looking too flashy, Cadmus said.

"Wear a good-looking and professional watch, but nothing too nice or you risk having a nicer watch than your boss or client," said a first-year hedge fund analyst. "You'd think this wouldn't be an issue, but you would be amazed how many guys show up on the first day of their internship wearing a $5,0000 Cartier or Montblanc watch."

For Women

Women will require the same basic suiting options: a skirt, jacket, pants and if you're a lucky, a matching dress. When choosing a skirt, make sure it's not too short -- even brands that claim to be for professionals can offer skirts that just don't provide enough coverage. It may not be the most flattering look, but keep the skirt slightly above your knees to avoid any Hilton/Lohan/insert-starlet-here wardrobe malfunctions. Don't think about rocking a red suit or dress until you're at the MD level.

An important thing to keep in mind is caring for the suit. It sounds counterintuitive, but you should avoid dry cleaning, Ferguson said. He recommends dry cleaning only once or twice a year because too many chemicals will damage the material and wear the suit out faster. Instead, hang up the suit carefully so as to allow it to air out, which is really all it needs, Ferguson said.

When you do dry clean, make sure to send both pieces together so as to maintain the consistency of the color.

If you're not sure whether to wear pantyhose, look at the women around you. Some ultra-conservative firms will implicitly require hose, so even if it's a hot, sweaty summer day, you should stock up if the women who work there are wearing them.

Shoes can lead to your downfall if you don't pick them well. You'll naturally want to avoid stilettos, but you should also invest in very comfortable heels.

"You're going to be literally running around the firm and through the streets," said one analyst at a bulge-bracket bank. "You're going to need to keep up with the men, and they don't want you to complain. Get yourself a pair of heels you can stand in all day."

To do that, you might consider some brands that partner with sneaker technology to result in shoes that are more comfortable than the average heel. Those could be a worthy investment, the analyst said (she purchased Cole Haan's Nike air heel in six different colors).

When choosing jewelry, you can't go wrong with a pearl necklace. Diamonds are generally considered more fashionable, Cadmus said. Just as Ferragamo marks the arrival for men, so too does David Yurman jewelry for women, so don't wear that ubiquitous ring until you can afford it.

You should also think carefully before choosing a handbag. Do not walk in with a Louis Vuitton or Birkin bag. Instead, stick to a nondescript, minimalist yet good-quality leather purse like a Furla.

For Everyone

The bottom line is to blend in with your surroundings and realize you'll have a chance to purchase flashier items as you move up the ranks.

"You have to know your place," said a second-year associate at an investment bank. "You do not want to be ostentatious or call attention to yourself. Do not upstage your boss."

Write to Julie Steinberg

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