How Clothes by Kabbaz and Flusser Caused the 2008 Crash


How Clothes by Alexander Kabbaz and Alan Flusser
Caused the 2008 Economic Crash

  Humor ... by Testudo Aubreii

Greg Smith, an executive director at Goldman Sachs, quit the firm in 2012 and excoriated what he says are its bad morals. According to Smith, Goldman’s culture encourages employees to hold clients in contempt and to think only about maximizing short-term revenues. His diatribe joins a long list of diagnoses claiming that US- and UK-style high finance suffer from a pervasive culture of short-term-only thinking and adulation of get-super-rich-super-quick schemes, aided and abetted by weak-kneed, co-opted, under-funded, and disrespected regulatory agencies.

Wall Street and City bankers of old, who had seen or been seared by what short-term-only thinking did in 1929, would have been appalled by the goings on.

Greg Smith Quits Goldman 

This got me thinking. A review of Michael Lewis's book Boomerang records that after Lewis published Liar’s Poker, his tale of widespread wrongdoing and short-term greed in 1980s Wall Street, he received a rash of mail from fans telling him that his book had inspired them to join the Street.

Similarly, after Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone made Wall Street, possibly intending the story of Gordon Gekko to warn people away from short-term greed, Douglas received a rash of mail from fans telling him that Gekko’s “Greed Is Good” speech had inspired them to try to get super-rich super-quick on Wall Street.

Gordon Gekko Greed Is Good speech

Greed Is Good Speech




I think some of the responsibility lies with clothes designed for Gordon Gekko by none other than Alexander Kabbaz, who designed and made Gekko's shirts, Alan Flusser, who made Gekko's suits, and Ellen Mirojnick ... the Wall Street costumer who hired them.

Specifically, I’m thinking of the ensemble they crafted for Gekko’s “Greed Is Good” speech:

Gordon Gekko's Clothes

Dressed To Kill! Greed Is Good Speech


Douglas is wearing a solid gray double breasted suit, a solid white shirt with requisite French cuffs and a medium spread collar, a black woven silk tie with white dots, and a white handkerchief barely peeking out of the breast pocket. As nods to 80's fashion, the coat's gorge is low, the shoulders wide, the chest draped, the cut one-to-button ... but all impeccably done within the bounds of classic style.
The shirt’s collar sits high on the neck, and the edges of the collar leaves curve to form a rounded shallow arch creating a more formal and sober look. The tie is knotted in a small and precise four in hand. Above all, no one piece shows any visible excess and all combine beautifully. We both see and do not see the ensemble ... what we see is Gordon Gekko magnified.   


Gordon Gekko Greed Is Good speech

It is this magnificent ensemble which caused the 2008 financial meltdown and the moral meltdown at Goldman Sachs which led Greg Smith to resign.

Why? It gives Gekko unparalleled authority. It makes his "Greed Is Good" message authoritative for the young people who were moved by the speech to try to make it super-rich super-quick on the Street.


Before the speech, we already know that Gordon Gekko is rich, powerful, self-made, and perceived to be successful. What he lacks - until the speech - is authority. Before the speech, we have no compelling reason to believe his basic message: [Short-term, myopic] Greed Is Good. Nor do those young people who were converted by the speech.
But when he dons this ensemble and begins making arguments appealing to the invisible hand, he acquires the requisite authority. We—and they—overlook the fact that the arguments equivocate between short-term, myopic greed and long-term, enlightened self-interest greed. For who is against a reasonable profit?


Gordon Gekko's Clothes

The Look of Authority!


It’s because of the ensemble that we are willing to overlook the equivocation. We want to believe him.

Had Gekko worn the flashy, non-"Conservative Business Dress" (CBD) clothing he wears at other points in the movie we would have held back. We would all have harbored doubts, and asked questions. So would the Gekkoites who helped run Wall Street smack into 2008.

But Alexander Kabbaz, Alan Flusser, and Gordon Gekko understood how CBD lends a man stature and authority.

And so the ensemble worn at the Teldar Paper shareholders’ meeting helped cause the 2008 meltdown. Without it, Gekko would have lacked the influence and prestige necessary to inspire the hordes of young fans to try to make it big quick - who cares how! - on Wall Street.

Gekko Horizontal Stripe Shirt

Not Quite ... the Look of Authority


Gordon Gekko's Clothes

Were it this Pink Stripe ...
The 2008 Crisis might have been averted entirely!

Of course, Mirojnick, Kabbaz, Flusser, and Douglas couldn’t have foreseen what happened: they couldn’t have known that all the conditions were in place to make Gekkoism the reigning ideology on Wall Street, so long as they put Gordon Gekko in that one authoritative ensemble.

They struck the match; but it was we who ran up and doused it with gasoline.


And so it goes.

Clothes don’t much matter, except when they do.

Editor's Note: And in this case, as Douglas' triumphant picture shows, they mattered!

 Michael Douglas Wall Street Oscar

Michael Douglas accepting the Oscar for his performance as Gordon Gekko