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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Dress code: Casual
Kings of casual wear: Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela and Bill Gates
Kings of casual wear: Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela and Bill Gates
By Jane Hughes in New York

Wall Street is undergoing one of the biggest revolutions it has ever experienced.

It is not in the way shares are traded, or in the number of hours people work but rather in the way it dresses.

Most of the big investment banks in New York's financial district have decided to allow their employees to throw away their ties, and to go to work in casual clothes.

End of the suit?
End of the suit?

When a subway train pulls into the station and disgorges its load of workers ready for another day on Wall Street they emerge looking, well, ever so slightly like slobs.

It is a far cry from the days of the pinstriped suit, the hat and the stiff-collared, starched white shirt.

That dress code was already eroding. However, in the last couple of months, it has been swept away.

It is on the frenetic trading floor of Merrill Lynch that the style revolution started.

First it was casual Fridays. Then it was casual all the time. A couple of months ago suits were replaced with things like T-shirts and cotton slacks such as chinos.

In the last few weeks, almost all of Merrill Lynch's rivals have gone the same way, fearing that they would lose employees if they did not keep up with the trend.

Retailers takes note

Wall Street faces a style makeover
Wall Street faces a style makeover
There is a frisson of shock at the impact of the new dress codes between the racks of tailored suits at Gorsart, a traditional gentleman's outfitter..

Neil Roberts has seen more style disasters walking into his shop in the last few weeks than he cares to count.

The change potentially spells financial trouble for Mr Roberts and others like him.

In other shops, the new rules are greeted as a whole new retailing opportunity.

Dressed in a jauntily casual grapefruit pink polo neck Jarlan Melleth from Brooks Brothers is running seminars to advise anxious employees on how to deal with the new rules.

He says he has seen panic in the eyes of some of those he has spoken to.

Some Wall Street traditions remain unchanged though, like lunch at Harry's Bar where there are ambivalent feelings about the new rules.

So perhaps predicting the death of the suit is still a little premature.

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