Monday, August 31, 2009

The Scurdge of the White Shoe

In New York the term white shoes was used in the 1950s to describe large successful law firms which were predominately White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP). The fashion for suede white (oxford) shoes called white bucks, was one which enjoyed vogue particularly among the elite male Ivy Leaguers attending Yale and other top universities. In the rarefied atmosphere of university campus those with pristine clean shoes were considered the top tier of society others with grubbier bucks were more likely drones and workers. For a short time the term ‘terribly shoe’ was used to describe a wannabe social climber. As many of the elite became leading professional types working in family business in the influential district of New York the term ‘white shoe firm’ came to represent nepotism and privilege. By the 70s “white shoes” referred to any large investment bank and/or security firm. Later the term was used to describe dishonest traders usually politicians and or developers involved in shady deals. In the 17th century the term ‘white devil’ was used in the contemporary proverb "the white devil is worse than the black." By the same token modern reference to ‘white shoes’ refers to the way a privilaged class passes itself off as good, honest and trustworthy. The events leading up to the recent economic downturn may be recorded historically as "the scurdge of the white shoe."

1 comment:

Pam Walter said...

I never heard this expression before; could be an East Coast thing.