From the New York Times:
The Education of Ellen Pao
By JENNIFER SZALAI SEPT. 19, 2017
RESET: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change
By Ellen K. Pao
274 pp. Spiegel & Grau. $28
There’s a particular kind of resentment that can fester when a self-described rule follower feels she did everything right only to be thwarted by unwritten rules that feel arbitrary and wrong. In “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change,” Ellen K. Pao traces a journey of disillusionment that culminated in the lawsuit she brought against her employer, the white-shoe venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination. …
The chapters on the early years of her career trace auspicious beginnings at Princeton, and then at Harvard Law School and a job at a white-shoe law firm.
Apparently, it comes from white bucks, which were shoes popular with young people in the Catcher in the Rye era. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase “white-shoe college boys” back to J.D. Salinger’s 1957 novel Franny and Zooey.
These Brooks Brothers white bucks cost $248.
William Safire explained in 1997:
… And in 1990, The Independent of London asked, ”Is [Michael] Milken the victim of a vengeful plot by the white-shoe boys of the securities business, all those nice Harvard graduates in loafers who sit in the more conventional brokerage houses?”
Apparently, “white-shoe” implies anti-Semitic.
You can track it back in print to the mid-70’s. … The word is better defined in Webster’s New World Dictionary as ”designating or characteristic of a business company, esp. a law firm or brokerage, in which the partners belong almost exclusively to the WASP upper-class elite and are thought of as being cautious and conservative.”
The source is white ”bucks,” the casual, carefully scuffed buckskin shoes with red rubber soles and heels worn by generations of college men at Ivy League schools.
But when do you wear them? Not after Labor Day, of course, but when do you start? Memorial Day? Easter? So they would seem more like something that Ivy Leaguers would wear to, say, a Fourth of July party at the yacht club than would wear at school.
Many of these kids, supposedly never changing their beloved footgear, went on to become masters of the universe on Wall Street and in the best-known law firms.
The other reason is that it has to be distinguished from the Full Cleveland look of white shoes and white belt or the Half Cleveland of one or the other.
Do not get confused and wear white shoes to your job interview at a white-shoe firm, even if it is in Cleveland.
Perhaps commenter Slumber j could tell us whether his old Harvard classmate Buddy Fletcher, Ellen Pao’s gay black husband, wore white bucks. I should hope so.
By the way, I still haven’t found a non-Photoshopped picture of Ellen and Buddy in the same frame.
The problem with Ms. Pao’s latest media tour promoting her book is that of all the Silicon Valley adventuresses in the news in recent years, she’s the most boring.