Suits were swapped for jeans and sneakers throughout London’s financial district today, as bankers heeded warnings to dress down to avoid the potential wrath of G-20 protestors.
“Only about 20 percent of people probably just refused to dress down. Everybody else is in jeans,” said Jesse Feldman, a banker at French investment bank, Société Générale. All week banks and investment firms located in London’s City neighborhood have been advising employees to not dress in regular business attire. “Staff are permitted to wear casual clothing — jeans/trainers — commencing March 30. Avoid briefcases/branded bags/computer cases: Put materials in rucksacks or carrier bags where possible,” U.S. bank, J.P. Morgan told employees in an email statement last week quoted on City news Web site Hereisthecity.com. Employees at Rothschild investment bank in London were told simply not to bother coming into work at all today. Among those who did commute to the office, bystanders said that the bankers are still easy to spot, conspicuously reading UK newspaper The Financial Times or dressing in a uniform business casual look. “On the tube this morning I thought it was ridiculous because all these bankers couldn’t have looked more like bankers trying to dress down,” Feldman told CNN. Instead of jackets, ties and Oxford shoes, polo shirts, khakis and loafers now fill the streets around the City and much of central London. “I saw two bankers wearing matching baby blue sweaters, tight jeans and Church’s — ridiculous,” Feldman added, referring to the up-scale brand of traditional English shoes. One Web site that covers news and gossip in the City has been tracking the banker backlash to the warnings. “It’s a mixture: people are falling into two types. The banks and the funds are certainly encouraging the staff to wear casual dress, but some are determined they won’t cower to protestors and are still showing up in suits,” said Vic Daniels, a spokesperson for Hereisthecity.com.
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On Monday, Bloomberg quoted one City professional, Graham Williams, 66, who said: “We’re not pansies … most of us have played rugby or boxed. “If any of those guys do get violent against us individually because we are wearing a suit, we will take action.” The site also offers humorous advice for bankers to respond to protestors by dumping “large blocks of ice” to “render them harmless,” and encouraging bankers to “find your inner G20 [sic] spot.” Despite the jokes, precautions proved valuable Wednesday as thousands of angry anti-capitalist protestors converged on the City for demonstrations to coincide with the G-20 summit.
By midday protestors had started smashing windows at a branch The Royal Bank of Scotland. Earlier in the day 11 people were arrested after being stopped in an armored personnel carrier. Thousands of police are continuing to patrol the streets in anti-riot gear.