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BNP Paribas: Dressing down à la mode

Recent visitors to BNP Paribas’ London headquarters have been greeted by placards in the entrance hall that urge staff to "Be smart".

Presumably clients would hope that they wouldn’t need such encouragement to use their brainpower but the notices in fact refer to the rules on casual dress in the bank. The placards are illustrated with depictions of what is considered smart-casual and what is considered no-go. Not surprisingly, a woman in a glittery halterneck and a man in jeans fail to make it through the security gate, while a woman in a sombre black outfit and a man in the regulation open-necked shirt and beige cotton trousers make the grade.

If there is one nation fully qualified to lecture the masses on style it is the French, and it is gratifying to see that BNP is not letting sartorial standards slip in the land of the shell suit. Although some traditionalists still view even dress-down Friday as the thin end of the wedge, it can surely not be long before smart-casual becomes the norm five days a week across the board. Gone are the days when it was just 25-year-old hedge fund managers who wore Hawaiian shirts and shorts to work; now tie-less collars are flapping all week across the Square Mile.

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