Definition of white-shoe in US English:



  • 1Denoting a company, especially a law firm, owned and run by members of the WASP elite, generally regarded as cautious and conservative.

    • ‘The modern definition of white-shoe is more difficult to pin down.’
    • ‘First, it began to race after rich clients with the acquisition of white-shoe wealth manager U.S. Trust, for $3.2 billion in 2000.’
    • ‘In my youth, the conventional wisdom was that he was a white-shoe number-cruncher who couldn't admit he had made a mistake.’
    • ‘Perhaps his biggest coup was to obtain the ostensibly pro bono services of the white-shoe law firm Simpson Thacher and Bartlett.’
    • ‘The lawyers, the accountants, and the white-shoe brigade will do well.’
    • ‘It has been long known as a patrician, white-shoe firm with an air so understated and secretive that at least one former exec likened it to working at the CIA.’
    • ‘A few years back he went to Boston's venerable white-shoe law firm, Palmer and Dodge.’
    • ‘His father and grandfather, investment bankers at old white-shoe firms, both had high reputations, but erosion soon set in.’
    • ‘Unlike hot-money investors rushing in - and out - of emerging markets in search of a quick return, these white-shoe institutions say they're taking a longer-term view of Shanghai's real estate market.’
    • ‘Suddenly bars began to drop: in formerly restricted neighborhoods, in previously elite country and city clubs, in once white-shoe bank, law, and investment firms.’
    • ‘Of course, every booming economy has not only its white-shoe financiers but also its lowly offshore workers.’
    • ‘As close to a white-shoe firm as you get down the Jersey shore - because even criminals needs real estate attorneys.’
    • ‘Tensions inside the firm mounted as some of the firm's white-shoe bankers worried that CEO Purcell would grasp at any deal.’
    • ‘But perhaps the worst insult, at least to the profession's traditional elite, is the suggestion that you can find white-shoe law firms in - of all places - Newark.’
    • ‘Symbols of the excesses of the white-shoe brigade may be kitsch and amusing, but are indicative of a society where development was pursued for the good of a few.’
    • ‘He says that an ‘international white-shoe corporate brigade’, based in Queensland, want to start up food irradiation again.’
    • ‘Your desk reveals more about your personality than you might think, even if you work in a white-shoe law firm that frowns on personal expression.’
    • ‘He got his start at G.H. Walker & Co., the white-shoe bank run by President George H.W. Bush's uncle.’
    • ‘They are trying to join the New Economy, outsourcing work to subcontractors and bringing in white-shoe consultants like McKinsey.’
    • ‘So are white-shoe, Old Economy outfits like consulting firm McKinsey, Deutsche Bank, and Hughes Aircraft.’
    1. 1.1 Denoting a privileged and wealthy American person, considered as part of a conservative social set.
      ‘white-shoe college boys who edit their campus literary magazines’


1940s: sense 1 is with reference to the white buckskin shoes fashionable among Ivy League college students in the late 1940s and early 1950s; sense 2 is with reference to the showy white shoes worn by Queensland property developers in the 1980s.