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UK Study Indicates Brown Shoes May Cost You a Job

Going on a job interview? You might want to rethink those brown shoes.

A study by the U.K.’s Social Mobility Commission showed that new candidates for financial jobs were much less likely to be hired if they didn’t follow elite social style rules, in particular, wearing brown shoes with a business suit.

The study explained that banks and financial firms in the U.K. choose applications who already “fit in,” being those who attended a small list of elite colleges, had the right behavior, the proper accent and wore the right clothes.

The Commission found that highly capable but less advantaged candidates (mainly those who were not from well-off families or attended prestigious colleges) where over looked compared to their better dressed counterparts.

As the Telegraph reported, the Commission found that wearing brown shoes with a dress suit was a principle factor affecting whether an applicant would be hired.

The Commission stated: “To provide one example, for men, the wearing of brown shoes with a business suit is generally, though not always, considered unacceptable by and for British bankers within the investment banking, corporate finance, division. Issues relating to dress may seem both superficial and relatively simple for individuals from all backgrounds to adopt. However, interviewees suggested that they do play a material role in the selection process, once again, as demonstration of ‘fit’.”

Among the candidates who did match the proper dress code, the study found a majority of them were selected from elite colleges in England like Oxford University and the London School of Economics.

Chairman of the Social Mobility Commission Alan Milburn said in the Telegraph, “Bright working-class kids are being systematically locked out of top jobs in investment banking because they may not attend a small handful of elite universities or understand arcane culture rules. It is shocking, for example, that some investment bank managers still judge candidates on whether they wear brown shoes with a suit, rather than on their skills and potential.”

While the study showed that many inequitable social barriers are blocking capable financial candidates in England, the easiest advantage a candidate can give themselves against their competitor is wearing black shoes to their interview.