Trading vests

The informant is Chinese American and he was born and raised in California. 

Informant: “My older brother works at a business firm in New York. He told me about this vest that all investment bankers wear at workplace. It’s called a ‘trading vest.’ The early American traders used to wear this vest. Back then, the trading floor, where they traded stocks, was really cold. So all American traders had their own vest with their own team name on it. The experience of the past has transferred over, and that vest became the symbol of investment bankers. They wear this vest even when the weather’s not that cold. I don’t know if the brand really matters, but most people wear trading vests from the brand Patagonia.

This is a case where a particular fashion item came to symbolize an occupation. The story of how the investment bankers came to wear the vest isn’t so fabulous. However, the experience of wearing the same vest gave them a sense of unity, thus helped them build a group identity. So when people saw a man wearing the trading vest, they would identify him as an investment banker. As time went by, the trading vest became an identification of investment bankers. Now, there is no practical need of the vest, because the trading floor is no longer cold. However, as a way of honoring the legacy and history of the past investment bankers, some people wear it. Also, people wear it just to feel the sense of belonging to the group of investment bankers. This indicates that investment bankers have high esteem for the job.