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The Goldman Sachs dress code became strangely samey

There was a time when the Goldman Sachs dress code allowed for all kinds of micro and macro self-expressions. There was denim, there were colored socks, there were Yeezy trainers.

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More recently, however, Goldman seems to have taken a conservative path. Or at least that's how it wants to present itself to investors. The photo below of Goldman's three most senior executives (Waldron, Solomon and Coleman) from the recently released 2023 annual report suggests there's only one way to dress if you're a Goldman man with C-suite aspirations: blue suit, no tie, very pale blue to blue shirt, deal sleds. 

Since when did Goldman get so standardized? A detailed analysis of past annual reports suggests there were once a few more quirks. 

In 2022, John Waldron broke out with a pinkish shirt. 

In 2019, his second year as COO, Waldron actually wore a grey-brown suit and then-CFO Stephen Scherr appeared in his bold and stripey tie. 

A quick glance at Goldman's historic annual reports suggests ties once played a key role in differentiating one male senior executive from the next. In their absence, everyone has the same colored neck.

Even in the era of the tie, however, there was a temptation to take a lead from the CEO. Witness John Thain and Henry Paulson's similar ties in Goldman's first ever annual report from 1999. Back then, the main differentiator appears to have been facial expression, with John Thornton looking oddly mischievous. Thornton (far right) left four years later after realizing that Paulson didn't plan to anoint him CEO anytime soon. 

Back in the present, Waldron allegedly considered leaving Goldman last year, and was persuaded against it with a promise that Solomon might one day give the CEO job to him. For the moment, he's deferring sartorially to Solomon, at the very least. But if the brown suit reappears, it might be a sign.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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