If clothes make the man, Andrew Carter is a very well made man indeed. The bond pioneer, who recently closed his Boston investment management firm to become chairman and chief executive of Hyperion Capital Management in New York, is as fastidious about his clothes as he is about his investments.
His suits come from England's sartorially famous Saville Row or are made-to-order in Hong Kong.
He favors made-to-order bow ties, which he said look good and "don't get into your soup."
He has four blue blazers, one in each of his four homes, which he likes to wear during evenings at home. He puts on a shirt, bow tie, tweed jacket and slacks to have breakfast -- even when he's at home alone.
While Mr. Carter is obviously one of the more fashion-conscious persons in the pension world, he is by no means alone in his attention to apparel.
High-profile investment manager Gary Brinson, head of Brinson Partners, Chicago, was mentioned as another very sharp dresser. "He wears expensive suits very well," said one source. Mr. Brinson declined to be interviewed for this article.
The hat approach
Jean Head Sisco, former chairman of the National Association of Corporate Directors and chairman of Sisco Associates, Washington, who's been a director of 23 different companies since 1972, wears hats to match her outfits.
One of her first female bosses told her to wear hats with her suits and dresses "because men respect hats and they will never ask you to take notes or make the coffee if you're wearing a hat," Ms. Sisco said.
The casual look, meanwhile, has invaded the workplace. It is particularly noticeable in the hedge fund area.
Joan Zimmerman, of the recruiting firm G.Z. Stephens Inc., New York, said hedge fund dressing has become so casual that even blue jeans are common, replacing the traditional khaki casual wear. "What clients are paying them for is results, not appearance," she said.
But the trend toward casual is everywhere, said Peter Crist of Crist Partners Ltd., Chicago, an executive recruiting firm.
Mr. Crist emphasizes it is important for firms with a casual dress policy to communicate that to people who will be coming to their offices.
Noted Annette Calderwood, senior vice president, ABN AMRO Asset Management (USA) Inc., Chicago, "If you show up in a navy blue suit and tie and everyone else is in corduroys, you're going to stand out."
Standing out because of your apparel is definitely not good. "You don't want your clothes to be a distraction," she said, because "they can take away from the story you're telling" about your company."
In favor of dress codes
One style trend that's hard to miss: women wearing pantsuits. But at least one investment management firm is still formal when it comes to women's clothing. Federated Investors Inc., Pittsburgh, enforces a 1950s-ish dress code for female employees of skirts, dresses, nylons and pumps.
J.T. Tuskan, a spokesman for the firm, told Pensions & Investments, "The dress code has been in place for our organization since it was formed (in 1955). There is a dress code for men, too -- they must wear suits and ties, no blazers or sports jackets.
"This is our uniform," he added.
But the upper management ranks at Federated all wear pants -- no women are in senior management, although the firm does have some female portfolio managers.
At conferences sponsored by the Council of Institutional Investors, Washington, the attendees wear simple business attire, but employees of the council (all women) wear matching suits and dresses. Sarah Teslik, executive director, wants the assistants to be easily recognized and mandates the outfits, which are not terribly popular with her staff.
One person pointed out that several years ago a staff member was pregnant, and there was much fussing over finding matching outfits in both regular sizes and maternity clothes.
Plea for comportment
How people dress -- formally or casually -- is not necessarily a matter of money, Andrew Carter points out.
In first-class sections of airplanes, "you see a lot of people in sweat suits. What are they thinking?" despairs Mr. Carter.