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