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A Wall Street guide to shoes: From $650 to shoe porn

The first year I pulled in nearly half a million dollars, I did what every hedge-fund trader who's trying to climb the buy-side ladder would do: I hired two personal shoppers at Barneys.




Shoe shine stand New York Mens shoes
Victor J. Blue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

I walked into Barneys wearing baggy shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. The salesman saw me wandering aimlessly and asked if I needed help. I told him I worked at a hedge fund and needed some new suits. Immediately, I was whisked to a private dressing room where I was cross-examined by two fashionistas.

Twenty-two grand later, I walked out of there with my arms full off shopping bags like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." I got everything I needed — and then some. I had tried to tell them I didn't need any new shoes, but resistance was futile. I bought SEVERAL pairs.

Several weeks later, I was at the off-Broadway show called, "The Donkey Show" (Shakespeare set to disco) with a few friends and friends of friends. I'm not sure how, but I ended up in a conversation with a young guy who was trying to break into the business. He started asking about my clothes.

"Dude," he said looking down. "How much did those shoes cost?"

"I don't know," I said pulling a tiny bit of lint from my new suede jacket. "Maybe $800."

"That's more than my rent!" he said.

"Where do you live — Boston?" I asked.

"Yep."


That same bonus season, I checked everything off of my list: A BMW 540i, a stand-up Ms. Pacman machine, a trip to the Caribbean and a shopping spree at Barneys.

A couple of years later when I reached the Holy Grail — a million-dollar bonus — I had a whole new list: A Marquis Jet card, a diamond bracelet for my girlfriend, a trip to Greece and another shopping spree at Barneys – yep, more shoes. The pile of shoes at the bottom of my closet was probably worth a year of that Boston guy's rent.

Wall Street guys are like the antithesis of Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City" — The last thing on their bonus money list is the shoes. But eventually, even the most spend-thrift flip-flop lover learns he's got to drop a couple of Gs on his American Express card for the shoes.

Here is a guy's guide to climbing the Wall Street shoe ladder:


Starter set: Salvatore Ferragamo ($650)

Salvatore Ferragamo shoes
Source: Salvatore Ferragamo

These aren't going to stop traffic but you, sir, have just moved up in the world.

After your first bonus: Prada, Gucci ($700-$1,000)

Prada shoes
Source: Prada
Prada shoes

The brand recognition is very strong. These shoes say, "Yeah, I did."

Shoe porn: Hermes ($1,125)

Hermes Paris men's shoes.
Source: Hermes Paris

You catch another dude across the room salivating over your shoes — get used to it.

Total baller: John Lobb ($1,500-$3,000)

John Lobb shoes.
Source: John Lobb

You have arrived and you don't even need to say it because your shoes just did all the talking. And they said it in that deep, hand-stitched calf leather voice. Oh, yeah.

Several years later I bumped into that kid from "The Donkey Show" on the streets of New York. He'd since moved from Boston to Manhattan. When I looked down, I noticed he was rocking a pair of Prada shoes. I knew he'd gotten into the business — and he was doing all right.

The kid handed me a business card and told me we should open up an account.

"Yeah," I said. "We should do that."


Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side," and is currently working on his second book, a Wall Street novel. He's also a consultant on the upcoming Showtime show, "Billions," starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.

Catch Turney Duff on the new season of CNBC's "Filthy Rich Guide," which starts Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 10pm ET/PT. Here's a sneak peek: