The office is silent, people are working away, typing away furiously on their computers. Everyone is buried deep in their work, trying to ensure all the deadlines for the day are met so they can head home and catch the last bits of sunshine (after all, summer is almost coming to an end here in London and people want to take advantage of what's left of the light). This is the scenario you would expect in most firms, at most jobs and none more so at an investment bank. Well, yes, on a normal day, this would be the setting in our office. Except on some days, we veer away from the normal, into the rather bizarre.
The typical image of an investment banker (these days at least) is of a slick salesman that will sell you or tell you anything to get the deal done. This is the wheeling dealing sleazy salesman you must be wary of because all he is doing is looking to make quick buck. These guys are sharp, they're well dressed, extremely savvy and they are the ones that you would envision huddled in a conference room discussing large, multi-billion dollar deals - the kings and queens of finance. Well, on a number of days they would be doing so... But as I said, sometimes, we just veer into the bizarre. And when these guys are discussing pockets... yes, you read right, I said pockets... you know that either (a) these guys have nothing better to do; or (b) it is something that actually really matters to them. Notice, I did say earlier that your typical investment banker is well dressed). After all, they have to spend all those 'fat cat bonuses' somewhere besides flashy cars and big mansions. I just never thought that shirts without pockets would be one of those indulgences. And I bet, neither did you!
To be honest, I never even really thought about my shirts. It's a shirt, it serves a purpose, which is to not show up at the office naked... If I liked the color and it fit, consider it bought... Of course it had to be comfortable too. But a pocket? Really? I never gave it a second thought. It was something that was there to put a pen in, or a quick business card, or some loose change. It wasn't (or was it?) a fashion accessory really. I never thought it accentuated or took away from the shirt really... that is until the heated discussion in the office the other day. A colleague insisted that only folks in IT (and similar back office functions) subject themselves to shirts with pockets (was he implying they had no sense of style? Was he just being demeaning? I have no idea, because again, I just never thought about it). And of course, on the other side was a colleague who insisted that was not always the case (this guy was of course defending his wardrobe that he professed comprised only of shirts with pockets, purchased from the ever reliable and dependable 'Marks & Sparks', as he called it). The conversation of course then took on more bizarre proportions as people were listening in. Neighbors and members from other teams were asked to weigh in. Challenges were thrown out - "Find me an MD or a senior front office banker in this entire building that wears a shirt with a pocket and I will wear one for a week... No make it, find three MDs who do this." A colleague who had just returned from the US chimed in, "All MDs in our US offices wear shirts with pockets." Sounds like the voice of authority, doesn't it? That should've settled it... But no, "This is London, not New York!" A sign of the slowing summer? Maybe. A sign of a superiority complex? Most definitively?
Of course, that was the day I was wearing a shirt with a pocket too. Should I jump in to the argument? Should I let them hash it out between themselves? I had nothing to be ashamed of. Surely a pocket is acceptable in most other parts of the world... No one ever questioned it when I wore a shirt with a pocket in either of India, the US or Singapore... and I worked at top notch firms in all these places too. Since when did London become the fashion capital of the world? Or did it just have a say on shirt pockets? Either way, I went home that evening and checked my wardrobe to see which side of the fence I sat on... Surely enough, every shirt of mine that had been bought in either of the US, India or Singapore had a pocket on it. Every shirt purchased in the UK, didn't. Does this mean that no one in the UK wears a shirt with a pocket or feels the need for it? I haven't reached a conclusion yet, but I did notice that if you are hovering in the areas of Canary Wharf or the City (where the finance bigwigs hang out), you will surely notice a dearth of pockets. I think they are acceptable and very much in vogue in other parts of the city... As if I didn't have better things to do, I now spend some of my limited time on the tube checking out men's chests and how they are adorned. I wonder if people notice me 'checking them out'.
I don't care either way. I am not going to change my wardrobe to adhere to a small section of what my pro-pocket colleague terms "pocket snobs", but then if I have to ever replace a shirt, it is going to have to be without a pocket. After all I am in the 'pocket capital of the world'... Or is it the 'no-pocket capital of the world'?
So, we come down to the vital question - to pocket or not to pocket...