In Style

Wait, When Did the Schlubs of Silicon Valley Learn to Dress

Author: Editors Desk, Jacob Gallagher Source: WSJ:
March 25, 2024 at 13:50
Mark Zuckerberg wore a shearling jacket in Seoul in February. YONHAP/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Mark Zuckerberg wore a shearling jacket in Seoul in February. YONHAP/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Tech moguls trade hoodies for conventional style amid fresh scrutiny of the industry; dressing down ‘is so played out’

It might seem as if there’s nothing more to say about Mark Zuckerberg’s clothes. But then one spots that cardigan.

End of an era

For years, the world has seen the Meta chief executive in all his strident slovenliness. His hoodies and his shower slides. And how Zuckerberg, the ur-underdressed coder, inspired a legion of Silicon Valley clones in their dishwater colored hoodies and “oh whatever” sneakers.

Some, including this reporter, might have decided they’d written the final graph on his graphite sweatshirts. Not so.

Because this year, a new Zuckerberg has emerged. This Zuck wears suits that appear to have actually received the caring touch of a tailor. This Zuck wears a sturdy shearling jacket, as if he’s auditioning for a “Yellowstone” sequel. This Zuck wears a trim ribbed cardigan, and then posts a photo of himself in it on Instagram. And then answers a follower’s question about where said cardigan is from, as if he was some budding style blogger and not one of the richest people on Earth. (It’s from John Elliott, according to @zuck.) 


A post shared by Mark Zuckerberg (@zuck)


Zuckerberg’s most extravagant look of the year was the $7,000 Alexander McQueen dragonfly embroidered blazer he wore to the pre-wedding festivities of Anant Ambani, the youngest son of Asia’s richest billionaire. 

Zuckerberg’s middle-aged makeover reflects a style maturation reverberating around the tech sector. Dressing down “is so played out,” said Andrew Weitz, a Los Angeles-based executive-style consultant who has worked with tech leaders, though not the ones mentioned in this article. Hoodies, a tired cliché. Executives are “tailored more properly, or what they’re wearing is just different,” said Weitz. “They don’t want to look like everybody else.” 

Silicon Valley has long basked in its anti-conformist/disruptive ethos—which was embodied in its executives’ careless attire. In 1983, the satirical “The Official Silicon Valley Guy Handbook,” related that “Clothes make the man, everywhere but in Silicon Valley. Here almost everyone dresses alike, and not very tastefully at that.” 

Things only degraded further in the early aughts, when entrepreneurs, barely older than teenagers, led companies with billion-dollar valuations while wearing sweats.

Avoiding a ‘disruption’ look

But the Valley’s current vibe shift comes amid fresh scrutiny for the industry. Social-media sites are facing claims of censorship from politicians and talk of new regulation. And sector stalwarts are facing fresh competition on the stock market from surging companies such as Nvidia and Super Micro Computer. For execs in the harshest spotlight, there is an imperative to dress in a way that conveys conventionality, not disruption. 

 TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, shown last year, has been keeping to blue suits and ties. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, shown last year, has been keeping to blue suits and ties. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER PIKE/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

Look to TikTok’s Singaporean CEO Shou Zi Chew, who misfired a year ago by wearing a Zuckerbergian hoodie in a TikTok video introducing himself to U.S. users. Chew’s sweatshirt diplomacy didn’t pan out, and he has settled into an unobtrusive blue suit-blue tie uniform during congressional hearings and economic conferences in Qatar. 

Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang has built the chip maker into a $2 trillion enterprise in his omnipresent black leather jacket. The look isn’t exactly fresh—Huang could be fronting a U2 cover band—but the jackets fit well and do have an off-the-clock rich guy air. The leather allegiance has certainly gotten Huang noticed: There are many Reddit threads dedicated to figuring out who makes this 61-year-old’s biker jackets.


And then there’s Jeff Bezos, whose post-Amazon-CEO glow up, with the very #mobwifecore Lauren Sánchez on his arm, has included calf-clinging jeans, black suits and polished double monk dress shoes. Is Bezos keeping with fashion trends? No, his pants are too suffocating for that. But he’s clearly thinking about what he’s wearing and occasionally lands a genuinely good outfit, like the shawl-collared tuxedo he wore to the Vanity Fair Oscar party. 

You did not use the site, Click here to remain logged. Timeout: 60 second