Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
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:

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.