If clothes could talk, this particular array would exhale a cloud of cigar smoke, adopt an arrogant smirk, and declare: ‘Greed is Good!’
Wearing colorful braces, silk patterned ties, bright socks, expensive loafers, and gelled-back hair, groups of boisterous office workers stride through central London.
The men chain smoke, or carry brick-sized mobile telephones last seen in the possession of Gordon Gekko, the rapacious financier at the centre of the film Wall Street.
The women opt for fur coats, garish scarves, and striped ties chosen in apparent homage to Jules Van Patten, the money-obsessed, cocaine-snorting female banker played by Demi Moore in cult Eighties movie St Elmo’s Fire.
This very public celebration of City bonus culture took place shortly after 4pm on Monday outside the offices of Spencer Ogden, a recruitment and headhunting firm which specializes in the oil and gas sectors.
The company is among a wave of London businesses — including banks, law firms, stockbrokers, and hedge funds — organising fancy-dress screenings of Martin Scorsese’s latest epic movie The Wolf Of Wall Street.
Roughly 150 employees were asked to show up in ‘power suits and plenty of hair gel,’ according to Simon Taylor, Spencer Ogden’s development director, who described the dress code as ‘a bit of fun’.
They spent the next three hours watching Scorsese’s biopic of Jordan Belfort, a spectacularly corrupt American stockbroker whose appetite for sex, drugs, and money saw him dubbed: ‘The most debauched banker of them all.’
‘Our business is all about sales, and essentially so was Belfort’s,’ said Taylor beforehand. ‘So when we watch this film, we’ll basically see someone doing what we do every day; aside from all the illegal stuff, of course.
‘The sales techniques he used are the same. The way he taught staff to close a deal. The timing of when he spoke or kept his mouth shut. That’s why we are fascinated by Jordan Belfort: he was a hell of a salesman.’
Belfort was also a prodigious crook. Nominated for five Oscars, the film tells how he made tens of millions of dollars from illegal stock sales in the Nineties, spending most of it on yachts, cocaine, prostitutes, sports cars, and wild parties.
Given these famous excesses — of which more later — not to mention the fact that Belfort was eventually imprisoned for fraud and money laundering, most viewers regard The Wolf Of Wall Street as a cautionary tale.
Yet, in shameless disregard of post credit-crunch public opinion, a very different attitude appears to prevail in the City of London.
Here, as these pictures suggest, the spectacularly immoral Belfort, played in the film by Leonardo DiCaprio, is well on his way to becoming a folk hero.
So boundless is enthusiasm for his story that cinemas in London have trebled private hire prices for screenings of the film.
‘We’ve never previously seen anything like the level of interest that we’ve seen in this film,’ says Will Swannell, CEO of Hire Space, one of London’s leading venue hire firms.
‘There has been a flurry of bookings. The usual price for a movie screening is in the region of £1,500. For this film, the going rate has risen to £4,500. It’s straightforward supply and demand.’
‘It’s all a bit crazy,’ added an events manager at one City insurance broker. ‘The prices have sky-rocketed. I had to call a huge number of big cinemas before finding somewhere free.’
Highlighting the level of yuppie interest in The Wolf Of Wall Street was a viral email doing the rounds of City firms last week.
It noted that the release of Wall Street (1987) and its sequel Money Never Sleeps (2010) coincided with major falls in stock indices.
This week, by contrast, the FTSE has been on the verge of hitting an all-time-high. No doubt there were, therefore, happy faces in cinemas at The Barbican, Greenwich and Canary Wharf, as well as London’s West End, where finance houses held screenings of The Wolf Of Wall Street over the weekend.
It seems there were also wide smiles in Stockholm, where the Scandinavian bank Nordea booked out a 140-seat cinema, according to a report carried by Reuters.
Most City firms celebrating The Wolf Of Wall Street in London have been keeping a low profile, doubtless hoping to avoid negative PR.
However, those known to have held events include Sunrise Brokers, which invited clients to the upmarket Electric Cinema in Notting Hill, and FTI, a U.S. business consultancy which has hired out the Odeon in Covent Garden for 180 guests and 40 staff.
‘It’s a film about our industry, so of course everyone wants to see it,’ says one guest of Sunrise. ‘I’d estimate that 90 to 95 per cent of my colleagues have already been. It’s a hot ticket.
‘Despite everything that’s happened to the finance industry over the past five or six years, the City’s still a pretty brash place, and there’s huge nostalgia for the days of red braces and slicked-back hair.’
Many guests at private screenings of The Wolf Of Wall Street might have reflected on the ways that their working life imitates art.
The film centers on the raucous offices of Belfort’s firm Stratton Oakmont, where male staff outnumbered females by roughly ten to one, and where debauchery wasn’t so much encouraged as mandatory.
Scorsese shows, among other things, how Belfort spent tens of thousands of dollars each month hiring prostitutes for his 1,000 staff, who used cocaine, crack, marijuana, morphine, and the sleeping pill Quaaludes on an almost daily basis.
Office pets included a nappy-wearing chimpanzee, a Macaw trained to say “f*** off!” and a goldfish which ended up being eaten by an executive. At the end of trading days, employees would hold dwarf-tossing contents.
At Spencer Ogden, illegal behaviour is of course never tolerated. However — much like at Stratton Oakmont — staff are encouraged to work hard and play hard, in a devotedly eccentric environment.
Instead of a carpet, the firm’s main office is covered by astro-turf.
Punch bags hang from the ceiling to help relieve stress, and employees who close deals are encouraged to take celebratory bike rides around the floor.
Staff who hit sales targets for three straight months are meanwhile allowed to spend a week working from an office the firm keeps in Ibiza (‘and no, we don’t expect them to do very much work,’ says Taylor).
‘We are a professional environment. We’d frown on people coming in on Friday morning with cocaine all over their face. They’d be sacked,’ he adds.
‘So you can’t say that Jordan Belfort is a hero to us. But he is, perhaps, an anti-hero.’