Financiers no longer believe greed is good – or at least they want to look as though they don’t. So Hank Paulson’s politically correct attire at the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission hearing on Thursday seemed to suggest, anyway.
Eschewing the traditional Master-of-the-Universe attire, as adopted in the past by bankers everywhere, including Goldman Sachs bankers who became Secretaries of the Treasury (which is to say: navy suit, white shirt, and red tie; braces or black belt optional), Mr Paulson opted instead for a notably gentle palette of sea foam green tie with what looked like little periwinkle florets, baby blue shirt, brown leather belt, and dark grey suit. Even before his official testimony began, it made for an interesting opening statement.
The tie was especially eye-catching, being almost the colour of money – but not quite (the colour of the memory of money?). Paired with the belt, which in banker-stereotype is usually relegated to weekends, Italians, or casual Fridays, the net effect was of a kind of personal soft-focus; a subconscious acknowledgement that despite his re-appearance on Capitol Hill, Mr Paulson has otherwise ceded the spotlight or the hot seat (depending on your point of view) to his fellow testifier, Tim Geithner, current Treasury Secretary. After all, Mr Paulson is an academic now!
On the other hand, the look also struck a certain blow for sartorial freedom from the vampire squid norm, demonstrating that just as Mr Paulson believes investors should not be overly reliant on rating agencies but should do some independent thinking, so, too, should his peer group do some dressing for themselves.
It remains to be seen if his audience takes his advice - whether on structuring regulatory legislation, or their wardrobes.