An anthropologist in the City

Fascinating piece in the Guardian by a Dutch anthropologist who is doing fieldwork in London’s financial district. Excerpt:

As I said, it’s a captivating world, and often all too human. This is what a lawyer said about dress codes in the City. We were sitting in a restaurant called L’Anima, a soberly decorated place near Exchange Square, one of the largest clusters of offices in the City. He scanned the tables around him and said: “Mostly lawyers here, I think. I see no trophy wives or trophy girlfriends, no extravagantly dressed women. I see men who keep their jackets on, which is what we tend to do as lawyers – many lawyers would not want to be the first to take it off and most lawyers I know leave it on anyhow. Keeping the uniform intact makes you look solid. I see inconspicuous ties, which is also a lawyer thing. This restaurant serves very good quality food but the restaurant is not flashy, I believe only this week the Sunday Times called the interior ‘boring’. Boring is good, for lawyers. We sell reliability, solidity and caution. We want our presentation to mirror that. And we often charge hefty fees, so we don’t flash our wealth because then clients are going to think: wait, am I not paying too much?”

He then proceeded to compare this to the outfit of an M&A banker. These may dress in a very flashy way and drive very expensive cars. The reason is, they are selling companies for their clients, making these clients very rich. If an M&A banker radiates wealth and success, potential new clients will not think: am I paying too much? Potential clients will think: this guy has made other people very rich, he must be very good, I am going to hire him so he can make me very rich too.