I was introduced to Silicon Valley fashion when I moved to San Francisco and had a business lunch with a former eBay executive. He sat down wearing a suit and tie and immediately apologized for being overdressed. San Francisco isn’t just a place where people can wear anything they want; it’s a place where anything that looks uncomfortable is an affront to the ethos.
Web comic the Oatmeal perfectly captures how Bay Area folks feel when they see someone wearing a tie. We certainly don’t consider them a serious business person, and it’s a good tip for folks coming out here make friends in the tech industry.
Even the president took off his jacket when he sat down for an interview with hoodie enthusiast Mark Zuckerberg. “My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie,” he quipped. (They lose their jackets around 0:20 in the video below.)
Now, the fashion trend is starting to catch on. Earlier this month I spotted Banana Republic emailing customers on how to emulate the loose “startup guy” fashion.
On the hip tech corridor of Valencia St. in the Mission District, fashion startup Betabrand opened up a shop. Among its yuppie attire, it has a pinstriped executive hoodie and yoga pants fit for work
That work-life balance so common across the rest of the country does not pervade the tech culture on the West Coast. There’s very little that goes on at home that isn’t welcome in the modern day Silicon Valley office, including dogs.
The trade-off has been that we work all the time. We answer email way past sundown. And lately it’s become quite acceptable to conduct interviews past 10 pm. Europe’s most anti-tech country, France, has attempted to regulate late night emails in the hopes of preserving the twentieth century notion of a 9-to-5 workday.
Unfortunately, innovation can’t be constrained to daytime working hours. It’s unpredictable and messy, and so is technology’s fashion culture.
I still own a tie and dust it off during my infrequent trips to the East Coast. But I suspect the suit and tie are a dying cultural artifact given that the rest of the country is beginning to embrace Silicon Valley’s way of life.