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By Michael Hirtzer
CHICAGO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - For tailor Peter Papageorge, making the vibrant jackets worn by traders on the floors of exchanges in Chicago and New York used to be the bulk of his business. Now, it is pretty much a novelty as the old-fashioned open outcry trading shrivels and dies.
Papageorge’s family founded Peco Inc, based on the southwest side of Chicago, in 1919. The company bills itself as the largest manufacturer of the flashy trading jackets that are as colorful as the language shouted by traders in the pits.
But with brokers increasingly executing trades on computers and open-outcry deals dwindling, CME Group Inc said on Wednesday it would close most of the floor’s trading pits by July.
“It’s a small market now,” Papageorge said, adding that trading jackets account for only 10 percent of his business, the rest comprising chef hats, culinary coats, figure skating and movie costumes.
Indeed, his largest order in the last few years was for 300 jackets for traders at the fictional stock exchange in Gotham City in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” released in 2012.
For much of its 167-year history, the Chicago exchanges have had dress codes, forcing workers on the trading floor to wear neckties, collared shirts, suits or sport coats - or a trading jacket. Noncompliance could result in fines up to $500.
“The philosophy in old days was the exchange wanted us to look dignified because of the huge companies and major financial institutions that were involved,” said Joe Ocrant, president of Oak Investment Group and live cattle futures trader who started as a runner more than 45 years ago.
As dress codes became more casual, neckties were less common. The CME Group even allowed jeans on Fridays. But the trading jackets remained, retaining their tribal-like quality, with traders from J.P. Morgan in dark green with beige lapels, Futures International in orange, Jefferies Bache in navy blue.
Chicago brokerage McGathey Commodities has jackets with orange and blue flames. Trader Scott Shellady is often seen on TV in a dairy-cow spotted jacket in a pattern previously worn by his father. Shellady supplies the material for Papageorge.
The jackets can be ordered in 100 percent cotton, or a cotton-polyester blend. Mesh is popular so traders can keep cool. After the attacks using airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, Papageorge started including an American flag patch on most jackets.
Some traders are superstitious and refuse to wash their jacket after a string of good trades.
“Every once in a while we’d slip a trading card in a guys pocket that said, ‘Change your jacket, you smell,'” said Ocrant, who wears the burgundy that signifies his exchange membership.
Additional reporting by Christine Stebbins and Theopolis Waters; Editing by Lisa Shumaker