Have you ever noticed that tech entrepreneurs seem capable of wearing whatever they want, without losing the respect or admiration of their peers? For example, Mark Zuckerberg is notorious for wearing the same jeans, T-shirt, and/or hoodie to the office every day. Sergey Brin has been seen wearing barefoot-style athletic footwear. It wouldn’t be out of place to see a tech billionaire walking around with custom gold grillz.
So why can tech entrepreneurs get away with this approach, when the vast majority of other CEOs and professionals need to dress, well, more professionally? There are a number of concepts responsible for this trend.
The Decline Of Traditional Dress
First, there’s the rise of business casual and the decline of traditional professional attire—at least in the United States. Throughout the 20th century and well into the 1990s, most businesses expected their employees to come to work wearing professional business attire. But around the 2000s, as younger generations began to take over and as businesses became easier to start, the standards for each tier of the business dress code began to relax. Tech CEOs could be seen as just one example of this broader cultural trend.
The Image Of Professional Attire
Professional attire is frequently worn to make a better impression on people, or to convey authority, but there are a handful of interesting side effects of this approach. First, there’s a reverse relationship implied; professional people tend to go out of their way to dress professionally, but dressing professionally can make you seem professional even if you aren’t much of an authority. Accordingly, as more unprofessional and inexperienced people began wearing suits, the suit as an indication of authority began to decline.
In contrast, take a tech CEO in Silicon Valley who shows up to a meeting wearing white sneakers, loose jeans, and an old T-shirt. While some old-school professionals might consider this a major breach of etiquette, it shows something about the person wearing it; either they’re so completely oblivious to the norms of professional conduct that they shouldn’t be taken seriously, or they’re so incredibly talented, they can get away with wearing whatever they want and still be taken seriously. When that sloppy-looking CEO already has millions of dollars of funding, meeting attendees are inclined to think the latter.
The Role Of Silicon Valley Culture
In a similar vein, we have to consider the role that Silicon Valley culture has played. After a first generation of tech CEOs began to dress casually throughout the workday, casual dress became an implicit sign of success. If this new, young CEO is dressing the same way as one who sold their company for a billion dollars, they must share a similar management style or tech talent—which makes them a promising candidate for investment.
Plus, employees who have a history of dressing casually for a previous tech juggernaut aren’t going to be inclined to change their habits and start wearing a suit and tie for a new employment opportunity, which incentivizes new CEOs to follow the trend.
We also need to consider the fact that the average tech employee is a new kind of worker. They aren’t required to meet with clients and make a major impression to close a sale; instead, they spend most of their time in front of a screen, sitting down and trying to solve complex problems. This role doesn’t require professional attire; in fact, most people in this kind of role work better when wearing something comfortable.
The Peacock Effect
Dressing ultra-casually is also an important strategy for standing out in the crowd, which is important for tech entrepreneurs. Wearing the same suit and tie that everyone else is wearing makes you seem like you’re just another average professional.
Getting on a stage in front of millionaire investors in an ostentatious getup is a display of
There are many reasons why tech entrepreneurs have historically dressed in such casual attire, and thanks to the constant reaffirmation of the trend by new tech entrepreneurs, it’s unlikely that it will go away anytime soon. If you’re in the tech industry, you might take the gamble of dressing casually, or even obnoxiously, but it is still a risk. Professionals in other industries may enjoy the benefits of a business dress code that’s gradually relaxing, but in the meantime, it’s better to err on the side of formality.
If you are interested in even more business-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.