Credit Suisse ‘merch’ and the rush to buy history

From hats to pendants, branded products from troubled institutions have a curious appeal

As shares of Credit Suisse hover under €1, the price of its memorabilia is on the rise. When the storied Swiss bank ceased to exist practically overnight, rescued in a $3.25 billion (€2.99 billion) deal by rival UBS, baseball caps, ski hats and other items bearing its logos were posted on auction sites and racked up bids, as collectors tried to grab pieces of fashion, and financial, history.

Credit Suisse knit hats with red, blue and white block stripes like a summer Popsicle are appearing on eBay and Swiss reseller websites such as The retro, skiwear-like hats are being listed for more than $100, a phenomenon first reported by Reuters. A 14-carat, 2.7-ounce branded gold pendant was listed on eBay and sold for $250 within hours.

The appetite for clothes and accessories bearing the insignia of bygone corporations has been growing for years. Lehman Brothers tote bags, Bear Stearns hats and Bernard Madoff paperweights have long fetched high prices on resale sites, as brand-savvy millennials have become a dominant demographic in finance.

Wall Street has a long history of spectacular rises, and even more breathtaking falls from grace. These collapses become legend, and the items of merchandise tell a story. Wearers of Credit Suisse items can signal that they have both a handle on the history of financial calamity and a highly developed sense of irony. (Although, at a time of banking turmoil, many might not see the funny side.)


“What is tasteless to one is a treasure to another, and what makes items collectible is not always a known science,” says Darren Julien, president and chief executive of Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, which specialises in entertainment memorabilia. “The market is not just full of fans or people wanting to obtain something because they like the company, but also as an investment. Failed brands or things associated with tragedy can quickly make themselves famous by being in the news and that often creates a new fan base of collectors looking for the next sought-after treasure.”

In recent years, Credit Suisse was beset by scandal, and some spectacular and inventive risk-taking that cost it billions. Silicon Valley Bank, which filed for bankruptcy protection last week, was backfooted when rising interest rates caused long-duration fixed income investments to lose value, frightening depositors and leading to a run on the bank. Fear of further banking collapses shook the sector and helped catalyse Credit Suisse’s takeover.

The rising popularity in fallen-company merchandise has been aided and abetted by popular “fin meme” accounts such as Litquidity and Arbitrage Andy. Both make memes that satirise finance culture, and sell merchandise for fans to get in on the joke.

The anonymous person behind the Litquidity account told the FT: “It’s about wearing something funny and making a statement...I have had conversations with people in their fifties and sixties who say, ‘I love your Bear Stearns merch, or Drexel because I worked there back in the day and it brings back fond memories’...or maybe not fond memories, but it was certainly an interesting time.”

Litquidity launched “Debit Suisse” merchandise following the Archegos calamity, when Credit Suisse lost billions; sales of these items, which include a Debit Suisse Dad Hat for $35, have spiked in the past few days as the bank has dominated the headlines.

“When there is very big market news, that’s when people are rushing to buy it, because it’s relevant, it’s fresh,” says Litquidity’s founder. “Right before this was Silicon Valley Bank, which saw a big spike in sales as well. And that was a spectacular failure — it went from a niche bank to a mainstream name that everyone knows about.” He says he has been asked if there is “any discount for an affected Credit Suisse member?”.

But for those who don’t work in banking, or can’t relate to financial black humour, there is an extra fashion layer to all this. Corporate swag, both real and spoof, has been in the fashion spotlight since 2015, when cult label Vetements produced a £185 (€209) DHL T-shirt that went viral (the courier group’s chief executive also began wearing one). Anya Hindmarch has created Kellogg’s cereal-branded bags and boots stamped with the logo of UK pharmacy chain Boots. For its autumn/winter 2017 menswear show Balenciaga retooled its logo on sweatshirts to look like the generic insignia of a big corporation, and put the name of its parent company, Kering, on a hoodie.

More recently, London-based publisher and bookseller Idea Books has offered hats with wry slogans in corporate-style fonts. Popular with hipsters, the range includes the “All England Gardening Club” cap, and even a hat that would be appropriate for anyone at SVB (and possibly Credit Suisse, given the expected tens of thousands of job cuts). It reads: “I don’t work here.” --Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023