Despite the tech industry’s growing dominance across many cultural domains, its relationship to fashion has remained awkward. Not that technology itself hasn’t had a huge impact: The rise of e-commerce has expanded consumer access to a kaleidoscopic variety of fashion products, enabling the proliferation of niche direct-to-consumer brands that could not have existed without the internet. Social media platforms like Instagram, meanwhile, have transformed the marketing of fashion, fostering an influencer ecosystem in which every customer is also a potential advertiser, whether compensated as such or not. More broadly still, the internet, by accelerating the flow of cultural information, has commensurately accelerated the evolution of fashion trends while democratizing awareness of them.
But the individuals who represent Silicon Valley to the world — the CEOs of the largest tech companies as well as the rank-and-file employees — often appear to be decidedly anti-fashion in their personal aesthetics, as though it were all a superficial nuisance they would rather ignore or abolish altogether. Silicon Valley’s best-known fashion statements are notable for combining perfunctory minimalism and heavy-handed self-branding in various proportions: Mark Zuckerberg’s insolent hoodies and flip-flops, Steve Jobs’s black turtlenecks, and the Patagonia vests that became the de facto venture-capitalist uniform, evolving from wilderness outerwear into “shorthand for a certain kind of unbridled corporate power,” as Vanessa Friedman wrote in the New York Times last year. Such rigid and spare approaches to style seem intended to brand these leaders as existing outside time, absorbed in only the loftiest endeavors, with little thought to spare on more trivial forms of innovation.