Sartorial Balance Sheet | Discretion Unbound

Friday’s Times ran a photo of Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs, who’s perhaps the savviest, most well-connected money man in the country. The news was Goldman’s ice cold $3 billion third quarter profit, but what struck us was the sight of Mr. Blankfein leaving the last button of his suit cuff unbuttoned. Long favored by Italians all the way up the corporate chain of command, the deliberately unstudied style was embodied by Gianni Agnelli, the iconic head of Fiat. Though we’ve long felt that American CEO’s should learn at the Agnelli altar, the sight of Mr. Blankfein roused certain sartorial misgivings.


Part of Mr. Blankfein’s job, no doubt, is to reassure investors of the soundness of his strategy and prescience of his worldview. Is Mr. Blankfein so bullish that he is compelled to add a dash of flair to his suits, an outward sign of his market optimism? Or does this dandified element of his wardrobe represent a misreading of the public’s mood–a needless bit of self-satisfied swagger in an uncertain time? Consider the contrast with Warren Buffett, another paragon of investment success, who is having suits made on the cheap in China.

At one time, an unbuttoned cuff meant that your suit was handmade–no longer. While Mr. Blankfein likely gets his suits custom made, the workable buttonhole is now a staple of off the rack coats, a sight common enough not to raise concern among his well-heeled clients. Ultimately, Blankfein’s message is that when you run Goldman you are not beholden to pay czars or sartorial consultants: You confidently set the terms of the deal secure in the knowledge that you’ll profit from it. –DAVID COGGINS


Agnelli II

Comments on “Sartorial Balance Sheet | Discretion Unbound

    L.A.S on October 19, 2009 11:41 AM:

    Ahhh…the dishevled elegance of Agneli. I think it’s great that working button holes are making their way to the mainstream. I can’t afford to have my suits handmade and I’d rather my off the rack stuff come with details such as these so I can avoid making a trip to my tailor for something so easy for the manufacturer to do themselves. Also, read the Buffet article a while back and found it very intersting. Talk about a guy who knows VALUE is all aspect of life. Truly an inspiration, if not sartorially, but fiscally.

    Nan on October 19, 2009 11:55 AM:

    Does that really look like a bespoke suit to anyone? The shoulders look 2 inches too wide to me. Maybe Lloyd lost some weight due to the recent stress.

    J.P. on October 19, 2009 12:01 PM:

    I have to agree that Blankfein’s suit does not look bespoke. The shoulders are a bit big for him. I appreciate the nice detail of his unbuttoned sleeve, but I would hardly call him a dandy.

    Derek on October 19, 2009 12:16 PM:

    Unbuttoning the last buttonhole on a cuff used to be a nice trick to show quality, but even cheap suits these days have open buttonholes. It’s been copied by low end designers as a way to make a suit look better than it is to people who only rely on the simple giveaways. Now, instead of it signaling the quality of your suit, it just makes you look like a show-off.

    Derek on October 19, 2009 12:20 PM:

    Oh wow, I just realized all that was mentioned in Michael’s post. Too early in the morning. Carry on.

    EHS on October 19, 2009 12:21 PM:

    I could be wrong, but the Goldman guys don’t lean that way. They tend to wear the nice versions of the crap sack suits that most politicians wear. See Paulson, who had no trouble switching sides.

    LB is probably more likely to have a button fall off, and pretend that he is too busy to have someone fix it for him, than to be showing the Italian flair.

    But, more to the point, what is that great Italian word for being stylish but acting like you don’t give a shit? It isn’t ‘arruffato’.


    F.E. Castleberry on October 19, 2009 12:28 PM:

    EHS—I believe the word is “sprezzatura”. I think it’s nice that we really don’t have an English equivalent to the word.

    Todd on October 19, 2009 12:50 PM:

    I don’t know. Un-buttoned or not he’s slouching and he’s as rumpled as Randy Newman or Walter Mathau.

    Classics Patriot on October 19, 2009 1:07 PM:

    I don’t think that Mr. Blankfein is the kind of man who can pull off the sprezzatura look. It just isn’t his clothing personality (nor, in fact, is it mine).

    I like the cuff that’s showing, but the shoulders….

    jook on October 19, 2009 1:20 PM:

    In all his photos, Agnelli seems like a man who understands texture, pattern and fabric. I think corporate America (even at the very top) has a long way to go…

    EHS on October 19, 2009 1:30 PM:

    Mr. Castleberry,

    Thanks, that is what I was looking for.

    I don’t know, maybe we should have a word for that. There are, however, many German words that probably shouldn’t ever translate, into anything.


    mace on October 19, 2009 1:39 PM:

    The suit cuff may be Agnelli, but the countenance is pure Putin.

    pitboss12 on October 19, 2009 1:47 PM:

    I have to agree with Todd above. The Agnelli’s suit in the color pic allows him come across as a forceful corporate head with vision while Blankfein’s rumpled suit makes him look like some middle management drone wondering if there is any more free food left in the breakroom.

    Brian Miller on October 19, 2009 1:51 PM:

    Wow, his cuffs are the LEAST egregious thing about this jerk.

    WMB on October 19, 2009 2:00 PM:

    the Times probably photoshopped the button out. Seriously, I’d bet it’s bespoke…

    Kurt on October 19, 2009 2:38 PM:

    His PR people dressed him that way. These days PR is everything. If he dressed too well, his head would soon be on a stick outside the NYSE as a warning to other arrogant billionaire bankers.

    C on October 19, 2009 4:16 PM:

    Sprezzatura.. might be the most beatiful expression ever.
    There’s also the expression “La bella figura” that I think refers to more or less the same thing? “Effortless elegance”.
    Most Italians I’ve met in the industry also (rather effortlessly) admits “We’re just born with it”

    No matter what, I still think working buttons is a pretty detail.
    And how care’s how much or little you pay, the beauty in the eye of the beholder, yes?

    Monkini on October 19, 2009 4:42 PM:

    At the end is all about fit, and those wrinkled sleeves that look like an accordion appear too long, the shoulder pads too big. Fit and texture and quality are soooo difficult to master…

    The gimmicks are superficial (and sad and not original) unbuttoned cuffs, unbottoned collars in a buttondown, watch over shirtsleeve…

    Goon on October 19, 2009 4:43 PM:

    An undone jacket cuff button is OK for almost anyone. It’s when you starting strapping your watch over your shirt cuffs that you need to get checked for megalomania . . .

    marcel on October 19, 2009 5:38 PM:

    did anyone notice the watch over the shirt?

    Davidxvx on October 19, 2009 5:52 PM:

    Marcel: Agnelli always wore his watch over his shirt cuff.

    Olive on October 19, 2009 5:59 PM:

    I vote for the button falling off rather than intentionally leaving it off.

    Pigus on October 19, 2009 8:15 PM:

    Italian ‘style’ is naff. So is leaving your suit sleeve button undone.

    Nick on October 20, 2009 12:13 AM:

    I believe the Italian word we’re looking for is cafone.

    Jordan on October 20, 2009 6:42 AM:

    Cuff buttons aside. Look at his pis poor posture. A man needs to be able carry himself before I can ever judge his style.

    Charlotte K on October 20, 2009 7:36 AM:

    I think it looks sloppy on the creep. I fine him $3 billion dollars.

    Dot on October 20, 2009 9:00 AM:

    “Ultimately, Blankfein’s message is that when you run Goldman you are not beholden to pay czars or sartorial consultants: You confidently set the terms of the deal secure in the knowledge that you’ll profit from it.”

    Or that you’re just completely clueless and dress like you run your business. Secure in the knowledge you’ll profit from it? This is one of the clowns that almost killed Goldman Sachs. I vote that this is an accident, not intentional. There is a time for sprezzatura, and right now isn’t it.

    Tintin on October 20, 2009 11:31 AM:

    He’s got Purple Label written all over him. I’ll admit to leaving a working hole unbuttoned as well as owning Purple Label. But that was years ago when a friend in London told me both were vulgar. I dunno. I still like PL but have been buttoning my sleeves ever since.

    jake on October 26, 2009 7:22 PM:

    he should button his sleeve and his mouth

    the one i got on November 4, 2009 1:33 PM:

    Stop picking on Blankfein he is a great man. If he decides to do a fashion faux pas in your opinion than let it be. He does a great job at his job makes a lot of people money and thats all that matters right?

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