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September 30, 2000

Store Boss Rips Apart Casual Clothes Policy

By Sanford Wexler

The Monday through Friday casual dress policy sweeping across trading desks is coming under fire from a clothing store that sells to Wall Street pros.

Moe Davidson, co-owner of Gorsart Clothes, in New York's financial district, says Wall Street pros used to wear a suit to work and "garbage" at home. Now garbage' is commonplace at home and at work, he complains.

Not uncommon in the workplace is the company chairman wearing a Polo shirt tucked into a pair of trousers, "with his belly hanging out," Davidson adds.

Changing cultural standards and fear that talent may bolt for higher-paying posts at investment boutiques where sneakers and tee-shirts are a common sight in the executive suites, is driving the dress-down trend. One Wall Street staffer had a view as negative as Davidson's, notwithstanding his potential self-interest.

Barbara Grillo, an assistant Nasdaq trader at William Blair & Co. in Chicago, feels that many of the female trading pros at the firm should take tips from the fashion experts at the Windy City's Marshall Field's. "I don't think the women look appropriate for the office whatsoever," Grillo said. "But I have pretty strong feelings about what's appropriate in the office and what isn't."

Most of the Street's top houses, including Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, have shifted their policy from casual Fridays to casual wear all the time.

Jim Toes, a trading manager at Merrill Lynch in New York, said the professional atmosphere is not compromised. "It hasn't changed our professional attitude at all," he said.

The casual dress code may spur a new market for elegant casual office clothes, however. PaineWebber has considered hiring a consultant from Brooks Brothers to advise their employees on casual dress etiquette and fashion in the office.