The point of this article isn't the damned turtleneck -- the lesson to learn is that Jobs was best friends with Issey Miyake. Think about that for a minute: How many other folks who work in tech in the valley have any friends who even work in fashion design? Add to that that this is the same guy who hired Paul Rand the grandfather of American graphic design to come up with the logo for NeXT. This is also the same man who hired I. M. Pei as an architect and powered the team that made the first computer animated motion picture. You can start to see why none of his peers even come close...
I had a completely different take on the article. I think the real lesson is Jobs was on a constant quest to learn/adopt from the best. Many of his future breakthroughs were the result of visiting places like Xerox PARC or learning from visionaries like Akio Morita.
It reinforces my view that Steve Jobs' brilliance was his ability to piece together seemingly disparate observations/lessons (in a mosaic theory like fashion) into a single game changing vision.
He even hired Rand to do the logo for his private foundation, which he didn't even really care about. I found that kind of shocking; it is a move on par with having a typeface designed for your personal blog.
Jobs paid Rand $100k for the NeXT brand identity, and Rand created a 100 page brochure detailing the brand.
Jobs on working with Rand: “I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’”
There's an entire book devoted to how he came up with the NeXT logo; you get to watch the design evolve. The book was probably published by NeXT itself; good luck finding one. I somewhat regret not "borrowing" the copy I saw lying around a computer lab at school.
Paul Rand was hired to design the logo for 50k, with the following rules: he would ask some questions concerning the mission of NEXT, and then he would leave. There will be no updates, no revisions, no meetings. he will return with a logo and if it is accepted, another 50k would be paid to him.
Mr. Rand returned with this small brochure (not the 100+ page document that is written about all over the net.. i think people got the 100 from the price of the logo design). This NEXT logo brochure really brings you into the mind of a great designer. Steve Jobs was so overtaken by this proposal, that he asked Mr. Rand if he could make copies... to use as marketing material to potential investors.
fascinating. this sort of "take it or leave it because i know better than you do what you really want" attitude is very reminiscent of apple's. it's nice to know that jobs could deal with people who saw things the same way he did.
I appreciate your point and I'm not trying to undermine it, but there are a lot of tech people in certain realms of fashion. For instance, many people that are into the 'avant garde' style of dress, popularized by brands like Rick Owens, Julius, and Carol Christian Poell come from technical backgrounds. Just an interesting counterpoint.
The point of the article is not the turtlenecks or who Steve Jobs knew. The point is that Steve Jobs was unique and followed his own path. Which other CEO or person do you know which would wear the same clothes every day?? Most people wouldn't and would fear they would get laughed at for doing so.
But Steve was unique. Wearing the same clothes every day made sense for Steve and that is why Steve did that, period. He wasn't concerned about fashion or trends or what others thought - he did what he felt was right. Period.
That's the answer. At some point in our career, most of us end up wearing some kind of "uniform."
I used to work for a engineering consulting firm. Kevin, the star engineer would wear polo shirts, blue jeans, and sneakers. Everyone one else at his level and above wore suit and tie.
One day the new boss told Kevin that he needed to wear a button down shirt, suit and tie to meet with the client. Kevin told him "You can't make me wear a suit and tie. My clients don't care what I wear." The simple moral of the story was clear: "if you make it rain, you make the rules."
OTOH, he wore jeans, sneakers, and a polo shirt every day. He was hardly a rebel.
Well, Sorry at some places. Making it rain won't change anything. Heck, you may make it storm, or cause a earth quake to to happen or even a make Volcano to explode.
Some workplaces are so strict about dress codes, they just won't change for any reason. Especially large corporate bureaucracies. They have a crazy like beliefs that dressing in some way will help their business more than actual work will.
And going against those norms actually will work against you.
I used to do that when I was ceo of a company. I had a blue jeans and white button down shirt uniform, but, I didn't even know it - I was just so focused on the products. I must of had 20 of each. One day we had a company meeting and everyone came to the meeting in my uniform. It was hilarious and awesome. And that's when I found out.
"IBM officials often tried to accomodate Apple and vice versa so that both could comfortably work in unison. One popular anecdote talks of one of the first meetings between the two computer giants. IBM engineers dressed in blue jeans for the meeting, while Apple engineers dressed in suits. They both tried to make each other feel compfortable by conforming to what they thought the other was like."
But Steve was unique. Wearing the same clothes every day made sense for Steve and that is why Steve did that, period. He wasn't concerned about fashion or trends or what others thought - he did what he felt was right. Period.
I applaud that, but it hardly makes anyone unique. More than a few people have decided that, for example, a white t-shirt and blue jeans every day is a simple solution to a ultimately unimportant decision. Lots of people , OTOH, just wear whatever is nearest because they really don't give a crap about their appearance and they're happy that way.
There are real reasons to consider Jobs special. Hyperventilating over what amounts to a not-uncommon solution to dressing oneself trivializes him.
>> person do you know which would wear the same clothes every day??
Paul Barnett, who was a lead video game designer for Warhammer Online. He wore the same clothes everyday for convenience (going out and purchasing a set of shirts/jeans/shoes in a single stroke) - which he would then change on a yearly/6monthly basis.
Uh... there are plenty of techies who wear the same clothes every day (sometimes literally), who do it because it feels right for them, and who aren't concerned about fashion or trends. Jobs is hardly unique in the 'I don't care' fashion stakes among techies. Period.
Jobs wasn't unconcerned with fashion. If he was, then he would wear any damn thing that was in his closet.
He made a dedicated effort to create a fashion "brand" to the point that people know what kind of sneakers he wore.
Jobs might not have been a great engineer or techie, but he was a great visionary, designer, and marketer. He created (and recreated) one of the greatest brands in America. I don't doubt he applied the same principles to his wardrobe as he did to his company.
Exactly. It is a mistake to think that Jobs had not thought carefully about the clothes he wore - it's just that his approach to clothing was the same as his approach to technology - he seems to have believed that there was an optimal set of clothes for him, and that any deviation would simply mean that he wasn't wearing the best clothes for his purposes. Much like the discussions raging over the fact that the iPhone screen size hasn't varied at all - one size has been deemed optimal, and deviations from that size mean that the product must by definition be suboptimal.
What I got from the story is a confirmation of what I already suspected. Steve Jobs basically created Sony 2. He hinted numerous times on how he modeled everything he did with apple was based on sony. He made Sony, but did it right.
I was always curious why he would wear such ill-fitting turtlenecks after he lost so much weight in his sickness. I guess his supply of turtlenecks had more of a personal story behind them and it wasn't as simple as ordering a size smaller from the local department store.
I actually tried this my freshman year of college: wardrobe of nearly identical shirts, pants and sweaters. I was actually inspired by the idea that whenever cartoon characters opened their closets you'd see it full of just their signature outfit. I didn't use the term 'personal brand' but I had the idea, and also loved the convenience.
Turns out that if you're not Steve Jobs this doesn't work so well. After I had ended the this phase I received a lot of comments from people assuming I just never changed clothes, or at the very least found it to be unpleasantly eccentric behavior. I'm pretty sure that if your true goal is a personal brand, unless you're already a very public figure, you don't want to go this route ;)
On the other hand if you aren't interested in personal brand, or are already branded as eccentric this does make clothes shopping and choosing an outfit much easier.
On a more practical note but along a related thread, a couple of years ago I threw out all of my socks and bought a stack of the exact same plain black socks. Now I never have to worry about matching socks, when a hole appears I just throw that sock out, when I'm getting low on socks I throw out the lot and buy them new.
This particular problem appears to be close to being solved for me. I don't see a value in subscription, but reliable source of getting same high quality (providing test socks are going to high-quality) socks of the same color/design in bundles repeatedly is definitely a win.
So I would argue that the matching problem with many different styles of socks is O(n^2), since we first must select one sock appropriate for the occasion, then rummage through all the other socks to select its match. This does have the problem that your algorithm may never finish if your laundry eats socks like mine does.
And that with all identical pairs, I assert the solution is O(n), since there is a chance that you will have to iterate through all of your socks to find one with no holes/is clean. However, I think the latter case is Omega(1). Not quite so sure about the first one.
Given that my socks are partitioned into two sets (washing basket and drawer) and as I mentioned above I would throw them out if the failure rate became high enough to impact the asymptotic behavior I'd say that O(1) is probably correct.
Now that I think of it, the mixed sock problem can actually be worse than O(n^2). For instance, if I decide that I want to wear my Marvin the Martian socks, and can only find one in the sock drawer, then it's a big problem. Look in the other drawers. Look under the bed. Look in the dryer. Repeat. Repeat. Until the other one is given up for lost.
It doesn't depend just on n since you aren't just searching through n available socks, you are searching k places with n_k socks in each place and with p_k confidence that you have thoroughly searched each place. I can't think of a more general problem that this might correspond to.
I tried this until I noticed that the socks from the same brand are a slightly different color across packs. Now I have the problem of trying to match 12 pairs of gray socks that are mostly a different shade of gray.
I've been doing this for years now (like 5 or 6). White t-shirt (always the same, no logos or designs) and jeans (I rotate between 2 different designs of light and dark). I don't think I was inspired by anyone, I just feel like it's me and I can't be bothered to shop (which is also me).
I try to mix it up a bit once in a while, but it always feels weird and I come back to my uniform.
The only clothes I own are black t-shirts and sweaters, blue jeans, a black jacket, and a pair of black neoprene Vibram Five Fingers (sparing you my underwear selection).
The jeans and shirts I rotate in my closet to manage fade level. I push freshly laundered garments into the center, shirts to the left, and jeans to the right. I pop them from the ends. When they start looking too faded, I replace them.
I live in a small town, and get a lot of weird looks. My personal brand is weirdo, apparently.
Also, I cut the bottom seams off all my jeans - not for fashion, but because stepping on them barefoot hurts my heels. They are cracked from practicing Tae Kwon Do on concrete.
Probably doesn't work in school settings, but at work, it's pretty normal. Visit any UPS corporate office and you'll see people there look like they wear the exact same white shirt & black pants every day.
I own the same button up Dickies shirt (15 or so) in various different colors. I own a similar number of colored T shirts to go under my button up shirts... With these I wear one of my 3 pairs of pants( 1 jean, 1 khaki cargo pant, 1 khaki cargo short). This takes care of all of my needs.
They are well documented in the many biographies out there. One that comes to mind was his time at Pixar. When he oversaw the designing of the new Pixar headquarters, he had the bathrooms built to be communal (unisex). The employees were mortified and rebelled against the idea until regular male/female bathrooms were put in place.
In fact, Jobs was seen as quite a nuisance at Pixar, and the Pixar employees did as much as they could to limit his meddling. His style of management works at some companies, but not others, it would seem.
He is booed more than once at the mac expo where he comes back to save Apple. The first time is when he presents the new board members (they really don't like Oracles CEO) the second time is when he tells them about the Microsoft investments.
A bit of a meta-comment, but I'm starting to think that I'm going to end up reading all the surprising and interesting segments of this biography as blog posts. By the time the book arrives, I fear all that will be left to read is the boring stuff.
The thing I'd really like to see in the book (but don't expect to) is why Jobs said no to the Amiga team back in 1983-84 when they were desperately looking for investors. This was prior to the Mac being launched and Commodore eventually buying Amiga.
Apparently Jobs said the Amiga had "too much hardware" which confused chief engineer Jay Miner because all the Amiga's wizardry was handled by 3 custom chips. Wikipedia alleges that Jobs was just nervous about the Amiga upstaging the Mac, but it'd be great to know what his thoughts actually were. I suspect we'll never know...
This reminds me of an interesting story I heard about Honda. Apparently the workers are made to wear white uniforms on the factory floor. If a smudge of dirt is found on a uniform, it is deemed a flaw in the system and supposedly the line is shut down until its origin has been determined.
I find it very strange that non-conformist Jobs who hated 1984ish IBM would be pro-uniform. It's a good story in the overload of Jobsian mythology. It shows a different side of him - that he worried about culture in addition to product, that he wasn't always consistent, and that even He could make design mistakes. Much more human a story than the usual fluff.
It shows are more interesting transition from Jobs and early Apple wanting to own the PC business, to Jobs wanting to own the "2%" marketshare with really beautiful, well-designed products.
I think the motivation was always there for beauty, but it wasn't until Windows 3 was introduced and successful (and the Mac was overpriced to $2500 by Sculley) that Apple could really accept that they weren't going to have it all, marketshare and creative focus. Fortunately for everyone they settled on the latter.
>>So it's interesting that here we have a story about how Steve Jobs tried to introduce a company uniform at Apple that emulated Sony. Especially odd given the "think different" slogan of the era.<<
I'd say that to be different in the areas most important to you (usually creative endeavors), you strip all the layers and unnecessary fluff off of your life and boil everything down to pure essence. For that reason, wearing the same thing every day actually liberates your senses and allows you to focus creative energies elsewhere.
This obviously doesn't apply to you if you are a fashion designer =) Jobs was a pretty busy guy, so i'm guessing that removing that extra decision each day actually helped his productivity and creativity.
When reading this keep in mind that the Mac was still a skunkworks project inside of Apple when Jobs attempted to institute a uniform policy. Some of the comments have suggested this doesn't jive with the "Think Different" ethos he pushed. The Think Different campaign was initiated in 1997 shortly after his return to Apple. Many things transpired and he matured quite a bit in the intervening ~16/17 years.
This is important yet overlooked! There is a lot of advice for up and coming founders on HN (and other places) ranging from scalability minutiae to naming your company, which are all important of course, but there is very little advice on how to dress to create a personal signature style.
Why hasn't a site that aims to do this hackers/startup founders crop up, with advice like, what sort of sweater would look good with your Timbuk2 bag, etc.
The idea of imposing a standard uniform or wearing the same thing everyday can be viewed as a form of imposing conformity over individuality (mostly the uniform thing, and less the personal style thing).
That said, for a US company (especially at that time), such thinking was definitely 'outside the box,' so it could also be viewed as being consistent with the 'Think Different' slogan.
The idea of wearing the same thing everyday is hardly 'outside the box'. Baseball players, judges, police officers, firemen, hospital staff, waitresses, painters, plumbers, construction workers...I'll stop now.
In Jobs's case, I think it had more to do with efficiency. I believe Einstein also wore the same outfit every day, saying each person had a finite amount of time for thought, and he didn't want to waste it picking out clothes.
It's the same rationale as the fashion designer Michael Kors and why he's been wearing the same black shirt, black blazer and dark jeans for years - to become "post-fashion" and have his own signature style that he doesn't have to think about and coordinate every day.
And much like Jobs, he used to dress like a hippie flower child early in his career and he realized sometime later how dated that looked, so he needed a timeless look.
There's no such thing as a timeless look. The only look I can think of going back to as late as the 60s - only 50 years - that could reasonably be claimed to be "timeless" is the business suit - and even that is becoming to look... unsuitable in an increasing number of settings.
"Jobs preferred $175 St. Croix cotton and microfiber mock black turtlenecks. According to Bernhard Brenner, the founder of Knitcraft, St. Croix’s parent company, Jobs bought about two dozen black turtlenecks each year."
Interesting. I always thought how Jobs made the decision to wear the same clothes was similar to how Feynman made a decision to eat the same icecream (chocolate) all the time. They both thought it was pointless to decide about mundane things and would rather spend time on other more worthy problems.
Interesting to read about how he wore a uniform for better bonding purposes.
Very odd. I can find no reference to Sony's uniform having been designed by Issey Miyake, even in Japanese, other than this one anecdote.
Edit: There is some allusion to it, yet no direct reference .. However, it seems he was generally interested in using Japanese fabrics to make clothes for workers in the 1970s, so it is definitely possible.
I googled for a while in both languages and couldn't find one, unfortunately. I did find a book on Amazon Japan with Sony uniform pictures (amongst other companies), but I doubt the specific uniform here is included.
I always figured he was inspired by Tom Wolfe, who always wore a white suit in public. Wolfe emerged in the sixties and wrote novels about the counter culture movement. Job's references to things like 'the whole earth catalog' and other 60s icons always seem to point to his style.
I don't understand how the turtleneck was the outcome of a design by Issey Miyake, i.e. isn't it just a standard black turtleneck, or are there some design aspects I'm not seeing? I would love some design-centric person to explain this "uniform" in detail.
This is something I've thought about for a while. If you find something you're comfortable wearing and eliminate the "what am I wearing today?" process from your daily routine, your mind is that much more engaged in thoughts that matter.
I used to feel the way you do, before I met my girlfriend and saw myself through her eyes. She felt about my graphic tees and ill-fitting pants the way I did about her MySpace page's design.
I realized that what you wear affects people offline about as much as your webpage's stylesheet does online. It shows your creativity, attention to detail, and sense of design, or lack thereof. What you're wearing is already influencing what people think of you, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. As with all those local businesses that don't think about their website.
It only matters if you care what other people think. If you can afford not to, or only interact with people virtually, great. But, whether you care or not, if you wear clothes that don't fit or the same outfit every day, people will probably think you have no taste/money/fun. There's a reason Steve Jobs used to dress like this:
You can bet he dressed differently at the Homebrew Computer Club meetings. And nothing wrong with programming in only a towel. Fashion is dynamic. Yes, it's just personal styling, but it's no more "superficial" than your CSS. Wearing a black or white t-shirt/polo/button-down and jeans/khakis is like using the default Wordpress/Posterous theme on your blog.
Does it really take that long to decide what to put on? Vint Cerf found time to dress with style and still invent the internet.
There's a reason software hasn't eaten politics, law, finance, apparel, and hospitality yet. Indochino and Airbnb are certainly a start with the latter two, and no surprise, they dress with style when appropriate.
I see it as: remove focus away from anything but the product. The stage is boring, the screen is boring, the slides maybe not boring but simple, the person is not interessting. Steve was already rock star. Just like the ring in LOTR movies. How you make impact with such a small product. Steve wanted everybody to hunger for creations and his work.
I suspect it was a marketing decision. The consistency of his clothing choice, helps to reinforce the brand (in this case Steve and Apple) in the public mind via his portrayal in media. For those who are aware he always chose the same clothes it's merely an idiosyncratic trait, however for the wider public who are only dimly aware of leading computer figures, it aids recognition ("ahh that's that guy, who runs Apple") above the background noise. There's a bit of an analogy with brand connection/consistency in choosing similar product names eg - iMac, iPod, iPhone. Consistency, helps cross-recognition and positive association. It's all a carefully crafted narrative for the public mind.
To my mind, the bow-tie Steve and the turtleneck Steve are almost two different people. Long hair, sometimes a mustache, vs. short hair, the and maybe stubble. I've been following Apple and Steve for over 20 years, and there doesn't seem to be a transition between the two in my memory.