Zuckerberg and the ‘Disrespectful’ Hoodie

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Zuckerberg-style

Facebook’s upcoming IPO looks set to be the listing event of the year. In the tech world, it is easily the most anticipated public offering since Google back in 2004, when Facebook was but a tiny, Harvard-only online network. Analysts are divided over the $96bn valuation, with some suggesting this is an extravagant price in any market, let alone that of 2012, while others have stated that people said the same of Google – which is now almost ten times its 2004 listing value. However, that’s not all that divides them. Some are concerned about boy-genius Mark Zuckerberg’s business nous, his extravagant billion-dollar purchase of Instagram and, most curiously of all, his personal style which has, in some quarters, been charitably referred to as ‘informal’ and ‘relaxed’ and in other quarters, decried as ‘slovenly’ and, worst of all, ‘disrespectful.’

The Zuckerberg motif is that of a hoodie-wearing social network wizard, a denim-and-trainers Daddy Warbucks: a Silicon Valley success story and sartorial stereotype. The investor motif is that of a bespoke suit wearing, bespectacled-and-balding businessman: the Wall Street success story – and, yet again, sartorial stereotype. The objections raised on behalf of the latter group against the sartorial demeanour of the former are indicative of the diversity of the modern business world. The ‘uniform’ of the City of London has always held a fascination for those not connected with it; why do people wear suits to work when they can’t wait to get out of them at home? Why do people strangle themselves with ties and then loosen them as soon as they step into the lift at the end of the day, breathing a heavy sigh?

The answer, of course, is that they are expected to. Most people wear to work not what they want, but what they are required to wear. Though even the business world is now more casual, many companies (including my own) stipulate that a suit and tie must be worn at all client meetings. The majority are dissatisfied with this circumstance. I have yet to meet someone in the work environment as enthusiastic about smartness of dress as I. Colleagues sit there in suits as though in strait jackets; uncomfortable, grim of face, pulling at their tie knots, wishing they were at home in their hooded jumper and jeans. They gaze out of the window and dream of the day they can do a Zuckerberg; walk into a meeting of suits wearing – in true mid-life crisis style – a printed t-shirt and a pair of All Stars, kick back in the Chairman’s chair and rabble on about their vision for the future.

Sadly for them, most will never reach such giddy heights. However they cannot, and should not, fail to see that as they are playing a role with which they are uncomfortable, wearing clothes to work which do not reflect their character or their interests, their assumption that Zuckerberg’s collegiate wardrobe is entirely the whim of a California-based twenty-something billionaire is presumptuous. Facebook is a product of a different kind of businessman, but it is still a product. Zuckerberg introduced himself as an Ivy League, frat-house whiz kid wearing precisely what he wanted to wear. This has become his uniform. He is as imprisoned in that as a lowly clerk in his polyester suit and clip-on tie.

Should Zuckerberg put on a suit for the investors? He has done recently, and he looked dreadful. However, even if he looked magnificent, that isn’t really what the investors are in it to buy. Zuckerberg isn’t a style icon and Facebook isn’t a suit and tie company. It’s a young company; a company for the future. It even has its own agenda for how it will change the future. Conforming to the ancient uniform of the investment world’s coterie is merely deferential. I will always encourage people to take an interest in clothing, cultivate it and develop their own personal style but the crucial thing about style is that it has to be just that – personal. Putting on something the old-timers recognise is not going to fool any of them; Zuckerberg and Facebook are one, and the product investors are clamouring to buy isn’t being sold short because the young chief hasn’t played dress-up. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Ed Hill says:

    Winston Chesterfield,
    The assumption at the heart of your argument is this:
    “why do people wear suits to work when they can’t wait to get out of them at home? Why do people strangle themselves with ties and then loosen them as soon as they step into the lift at the end of the day”

    This is a strawman argument. If you have ever worn a bespoke, made to measure or even a properly-fitted off the rack suit, you know that a suit and tie can be quite comfortable. Sure, the shlub who won’t take his suit to a tailor to be properly modified will be uncomfortable. Based on on my experience with made to measure suits, custom sport coats and custom shirts, I am quite comfortable for business or social events.
    Zuckerberg’s business clothes are a deliberate choice. Let him play the rebel CEO all he wants. He still looks like hell, compared to stylish business people like Steve Jobs.

  2. Ed,

    I wouldn’t say at that’s the heart of my argument. I never suggested bespoke/made to measure or a properly fitted suit is uncomfortable in comparison to casual clothes. It is simply an observation that, bespoke or not, the majority of people are happier in their casual and simple hoodies, jumpers and jeans than any suit. And that goes for most of the people I know, quite a few of whom possess bespoke suits. Whether they are actually physically more comfortable? Possibly not. I differ from them in that I don’t feel uncomfortable in ties and shirts even (as they exclaim in disbelief) “At the bloody weekend?!”

    I happen to agree with you that properly tailored clothing is supremely comfortable. The reason I posed the two hypothetical ‘Whys’ is not because they represent my personal opinion but that of a great number of people who have a choice not to wear suits to work. One company I used to work for encouraged denim in the office; anyone in a suit stuck out like a sore thumb. They used to ask me why I bothered going to the effort of wearing “fancy clothing” every day. Whether I like it or not (and I don’t) when given a choice to dress up or down for work, people generally dress down.

    The really central point to my argument is that no one is investing in Facebook for the CEO’s attire, that style is personal and that Zuckerberg has chosen to represent Facebook in such attire because he is comfortable in doing so; because of that, it should be shrugged off. After all, no pinstripe-army Apple shareholders complained that Jobs wore his trainers, jeans and a black polo neck when he announced yet another record breaking product to the market…

    Best regards,

    Winston

  3. Miami Mike says:

    Our opinion of Zuckerberg and/or of his “wardrobe” doesn’t matter, he’ll have $100,000,000,000 in the bank in a few days, so just exactly who does he think he needs to impress? He could retire and spend a billion dollars a year, which is $2,740,000 every day, or $114,000 an hour, or $1,900 every minute for the rest of his life and not run out of money. This much money essentially means he is on another planet, what WE think about him is completely irrelevant. He needs nobody’s approval and can buy just about anything he wants, like maybe a small European country or three, or the next ten year’s production of Lamborghini, or a new Patek Phillipe watch every day, you name it. (Mel Brooks was right, “It is good to be the king.”)

  4. Laurence says:

    Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.
    W. Somerset Maugham.

  5. John says:

    Ed Hill, it looks as though you don’t know what attacking a straw man actually means.