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Preparing for my first business trip to London for The American Lawyer four years ago, I sought advice about what to wear. I didn’t want to transgress any obscure but essential rules of British sartorial etiquette. So I did what any lawyer might do: I called up a law firm management consultant who sometimes worked in Europe. “Wear white shirts,” he said; that was essential to establish credibility. I dutifully packed two white shirts and a blue-striped button-down I thought was too natty to offend even the traditionalists. What did I see when I landed in London? Walking down Fleet Street to an appointment at the firm of Freshfields, every other man I spotted was sporting a French blue shirt. Clearly, the etiquette was more nuanced than my consultant friend appreciated. A year after that trip, I moved to London, and the issue became more pressing, so I decided to consult local counsel-one big-firm solicitor and a general counsel I’d known for several years. They chuckled at the white-shirt stereotype. Don’t worry about that, they reassured me. They were right. British lawyers, I would soon observe, have great latitude when it comes to shirts. Stripes are cool. Even what a New York friend calls “pimp pink” is fine. My legal-cum-fashion counselors instead cautioned me about shoes. Each, separately, gave the same advice: “Whatever you do, don’t wear brown shoes with a dark suit like the Italians!” How often do you get an opinion letter that is so unequivocal, I ask you? I was grateful. BUTTONED UP But their advice proved incomplete, for there were still some unresolved fashion issues, namely buttons. I only began to sense this was a problem when I couldn’t find button-down shirts in men’s stores. Further inquiries revealed that button-downs were considered an intrinsically casual style that had somehow infiltrated American business fashion. London lawyers wouldn’t think of wearing one with a suit. I cringed, imagining the condescending thoughts that must have run through the minds of the lawyers I’d met on my first trip when I showed up in my blue-striped button-down. While mastering the shirt thing, I also began cataloging the footwear habits of the English male, in the lobbies of firms like Linklaters and Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, and, at rush hour, on the tube. What I found was that it wasn’t just those sensuous, chestnut-toned Italian numbers that was a no-no. Even cordovan, that ubiquitous and sedate mainstay of the American lawyer’s wardrobe, was off-limits. A peek at the tony shoe shops like Church’s or Gordon Scott, and I saw that all the dress shoes were black. I also observed that laces were required. So much for my loafers. After six or eight months, I felt fairly confident that I was blending in. That changed when summer arrived and it was time to bring out my khaki twill suit. I’d never drawn so many flattering comments for a jacket and pants. But the compliments were born of novelty, it turned out. Scanning the streets at lunchtime and after work, I realized that my khaki was alone in a sea of grays and blues. I might as well have been wearing a stars-and-stripes lapel pin! I was advertising myself as a Yank at 50 paces! Still, I loved that suit. Next time, I vowed, I’d wear it with that blue-striped button-down and, for good measure, that pair of chestnut-colored shoes I picked up in Siena. John E. Morris, formerly an editor at The American Lawyer, is now assistant managing editor at The Daily Deal. He recently returned from a two-year posting in London. E-mail:

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