April 13, 2018

"This was sort of a grudging suit and tie. The tie wasn't really knotted very well. It kind of hung loosely from his neck."

"His shirt looked like it was a bit too big. The suit kind of looked like, OK, here's the most basic suit I can find.... and that's not to say that the suit wasn't expensive. It simply wasn't tailored.... This was a moment when this 33-year-old sort of disruptor really had to come face to face with the fact that he was no longer disrupting. He was in a position in which he had to fix things. And the suit really just underscored very visually that [Zuckerberg] was crossing from being an outsider into now being an insider.... He has, one, used fashion as a way to distinguish himself and to send a message about what it is that he believes he's doing and where his company is situated in the broader cultural context. But I also think it matters because one of the reasons these hearings are in fact televised is because they are political theater. Part of theater is the costuming, and that helps us understand who the players are, what their goals are and what the messaging is."

Ah! But then what does wearing an ill-fitting suit and tie mean?

The remarks are by Robin Givhan (interviewed on NPR about what Mark Zuckerberg wore to Congress).

I agree that it's theater. But:

1. All clothing is theater (the RuPaul adage is "We're all born naked the rest is drag"), and...

2. We need to ask what theater he provided, and I disagree that the bad suit and tie showed that he had crossed over to insiderdom. It would have been perfectly easy for the billionaire Zuckerberg to call in people to dress him in a perfectly fitting suit, a suit that would read to the theater audience as saying that he had arrived in the halls of power ready to assume what he acknowledges are the serious responsibilities that have arisen around him. By wearing a visibly bad suit, he sent the message that he is still the disruptive kid. The authorities got him into this suit, and he chose to look like the kid whose mom dressed him to go a funeral or whatever. He's the guy who did what he had to and adopted the outward trimmings, but only and always with the look of intended to get back into his T-shirt and jeans.

56 comments:

Bay Area Guy said...

"All clothing is theater (the RuPaul adage is "We're all born naked the rest is drag")"

Zukerberg should have appeared at the Senate Committee hearings in drag. It would have confused people.

Achilles said...

This story is dumb now.

Zuckerburg staved off a threat to Facebook.

But the damage is done. Every time someone logs on to Facebook that niggling doubt will be there. Are they selling my info to someone?

A competitor will come along with the same service and promise not to distribute information.

Facebook will be 0 as that is their revenue stream.

rehajm said...

The haircut was the worst offender

'Can you cut it like Moe?'

tcrosse said...

It's time to revise the Monopoly Man. Lose the top hat and morning suit and put him in a t-shirt and jeans.

mockturtle said...

I found his suit and tie to be unmemorable, which is to say perfect for the occasion.

Fernandistien said...

That suit was all over him like a cheap deck of cards.

robother said...

Even a cheap suit covers flop sweat better than a grey tee shirt. And after the hearing you can donate it to Goodwill.

robother said...

As for the haircut, Zuck could've rocked it with a toga, or perhaps one of those short Roman white skirts with a brass breastplate and oak leave crown.

madAsHell said...

It's tough to put a power suit on a twerp like that.

rhhardin said...

Clothing can be used to defeat The Peter Principle. Avoid being promoted beyond your area of competence.

Triangle Man said...

Facebook has sufficient market dominance that Zucks can welcome regulation of the "social" market knowing that it will disproportionately hinder competitors starting up in their dorm rooms.

iowan2 said...

I remember being young and frustrated because the people in power would not take me seriously. They sure were smart, and experienced. Educated and rich, does nothing to prepare you for life. Failure is a very good, and necessary teacher.

mccullough said...

Contrast Howard Hughes with Zuckerburg. Hughes was nuts but was interesting and driven. He actually made shit.

Jobs was a similar to Hughes. A bit of a whiny pussy but compared to Gates, Zuckerburg, and Bezos he was Ayn Rand’s wet dream.

Zuckerburg is an embarrassment as a Titan of Industry or Robber Baron. He’s like the son in There Will Be Blood.

Christy said...

The only excuse for that suit is that the airline lost his luggage. The suit was Zuck giving the finger to Congress. How very Obama of him. (What I will remember most about Obama is his giving the finger not-so-surreptitiously to the American people.)

Jess said...

Being a billionaire makes you a target. Being a billionaire that dabbles in politics can make you an enemy.

If Zuckerberg is as smart as he's reported to be, he's isolated his personal wealth from what may come. His outward appearance portrays incompetence and sloppiness. Either trait can lead to quick disaster.

mockturtle said...

Jess, I agree. The government is always annoyed by any entity more powerful than they, especially if they can't control, tax and regulate it.

William said...

I think the challenge was to look not rich and not slick and properly respectful and respectable. He pulled it off. Nothing in his testimony nor in his appearance was unscripted.

chickelit said...

Is Givhan an Armani whore or what?

chickelit said...

I miss Joan Rivers’s wit and wisdom when it comes to fashion.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Actually, I would have more respect for Zuckerberg if he HAD shown up to that dog and pony show we call Congress wearing what he normally wears to work and to business meetings.

Alternately, he should have shown up in Cousin Vinnie's purple suit in the courtroom???

THAT would have been legendary :-)

Earnest Prole said...

He looked like a criminal in court wearing an ill-fitting suit for the the first time in his life. And except for the criminal in court portion the rest is likely true.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke Lea said...

I remember when I had to stop wearing jeans for reasons of work. It was a real identity crisis.

Virgil Hilts said...

The Talking Heads liked the suit - see their FB website (u have 2 scroll down a little). https://www.facebook.com/TalkingHeadsofficial/

Jimmy said...

Givhan is a dope. The suit, shirt, and tie looked great. Zuckerberg is weird and Facebook is really creepy, but he dressed well for the occasion.

Nonapod said...

The authorities got him into this suit, and he chose to look like the kid whose mom dressed him to go a funeral or whatever. He's the guy who did what he had to and adopted the outward trimmings, but only and always with the look of intending to get back into his T-shirt and jeans.

He's subtly showing the minimum amount of deference required. It's a theme with him. He'll mouth the barest minimum of conciliatory noises, speak in vague abstractions about having people "follow up" on a concern or whatever, and do just enough to appease and mollify the various elected officials. His goal was to appear calm, reasonable, and measured and not invite anymore ire that could upset his stockholders anymore.

R.J. Chatt said...

I checked google to see other times Zuckerberg has worn suits, and surprisingly there have been many occasions. There are pictures of him with the Pope, the president of China, the prime minister of India, and other world leaders. He has many suits and even a couple of tuxes. None are spectacular but I wouldn't call them cheap looking. In fact I think he has aimed at looking like an ordinary businessman, fitted but not bespoke. That's very much a Northern California ethos -- rich people, except perhaps sleezy lawyers, are not ostentatious. The most disruptive aspect of his appearance is that all his ties are poorly tied. He's appears definitely not into wearing or learning how to tie a necktie. Oddly enough he actually has had a lot of practice. On Facebook Zuckerberg listed 'Wore a Tie for a Whole Year' among the 'life events' on his profile. Zuckerberg explained: " After the start of the recession in 2008, I wanted to signal to everyone at Facebook that this was a serious year for us. Great companies thrive by investing more heavily while everyone else is cutting back during a recession. But great companies also make sure they’re financially strong and sustainable. My tie was the symbol of how serious and important a year this was, and I wore it every day to show this." (https://qz.com/1059946/facebook-ceo-mark-zuckerberg-wore-a-tie-to-work-every-day-in-2009-fb/)

chickelit said...

At least Zuckerberg didn’t wear kakis. He ‘d have been accused of being part of the kakistocracy had he done so.

dbp said...

I thought the suit was nicely calibrated: Dark, with a white shirt and a tie with a color just slightly pretty enough to be memorable. Also, the tie was a real one, not a clip-on. So, all good.

Unknown said...

People are overthinking this. Maybe he just really is kind of a rube when it comes to grooming and fashion. Shouldn't it have been obvious that the booster seat would invite mocking? yet it wasn't to Mr Z or his advisors. So with that in mind wearing an ill-fitting suit isn't part of a plan, it's just cluelessness.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Zuckerberg is the insider. Congress is the one on the outside looking in.

Michael said...

The suit was shitty, intentionally so. Unspeakable grandiosity masquerading as humility. It is not a crime to be a billionaire but one to be a billionaire and dress like someone in county government. Insulting. Grow up. Get a big boy suit. Start wearing it to the fucking office so the workers will get the idea the dreamy bit is over.

David said...

I pretty much dress like Zuckerberg on a daily basis. Sweatshirt, t-shirt, sweats, untailored trousers. It's purely for convenience and comfort. And it saves time.

traditionalguy said...

As his role is the milllenial tech success, this guy proves his bona fides by refusing to dress sharp. That shows he refuses leadership responsability. That is for the givers of service and he is only the new taker class. His staff will do whatever is needed.

SayAahh said...

He should have worn khaki cargo shorts, white Tee and flip flops.
Although that would have been impudent it would have been sincere.

Comanche Voter said...

Ah Robin, wasn't the ill fitting suit a sort of subtle "up yours" to the various 80 plus year old geezers in Congress who didn't understand his business, and yet could compel him to appear.

I look at a perfectly tailored (and perfectly mush skulled) Senator Richard Blumenthal. He looks like a Senator. He dresses like a Senator---and as the saying goes, if I were the OB Gynecologist who helped Senator Blumenthal's mother deliver him (and if I could foresee how he turned out) I would have slapped his momma's face and told her to take the baby back.

But on ill fitting suits; I had occasion about a week ago to speak with several young Polish engineering students who were in the USA for an engineering competition. They were all dressed in sort of standard issue dark blue (and ill fitting) Eastern European suits. White shirts and black ties---but no pocket protectors as far as I could tell. They were nice guys, smart, spoke good English and probably dressed about as well as Zuckerberg.

Earnest Prole said...

That's very much a Northern California ethos -- rich people, except perhaps sleezy lawyers, are not ostentatious.

Rich people wear t-shirts here. Suits are worn by the disreputable -- lawyers and the people who need them.

gilbar said...

"The suit was shitty, intentionally so. Unspeakable grandiosity masquerading as humility. It is not a crime to be a billionaire but one to be a billionaire and dress like someone in county government"

i'll bet you dollars to donuts* that his suit was Tailor Made to look like that. He wanted to look like a kid playing grownup, instead of looking like a robber baron in his mid thirties

dollars to donuts* I bought a dozen donuts for Easter morning: $12.46 tax included...
dollars to donuts doesn't mean much any more

madAsHell said...

dollars to donuts

When was the last time you paid a dime for a donut?

I think our hostess has fallen asleep. The IG report has dropped, and McCabe is a delusional prick.

gilbar said...

that'a what i mean, it's even money now :)

Michael said...

Earnest Prole

Interesting. I lived in Atherton for quite a while and my very rich neighbors did not dress like children or Hollywood poseurs.

Unknown said...

Seriously, there are media folks fussing over the suit, its quality, and the way it was worn by a guy who doesn't wear suits often (if at all)? Sheesh.

OIG report: McCabe 'lacked candor'. By itself that connotes someone that withheld information. I this context it means: lied.

When does he plead guilty like Flynn did?

-sw

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mockturtle said...

DBQ asserts: Actually, I would have more respect for Zuckerberg if he HAD shown up to that dog and pony show we call Congress wearing what he normally wears to work and to business meetings.

I'm sure he would like to have done that but was strongly counseled that it would seem disrespectful. He wouldn't want to piss them off before he even opened his mouth.

sinz52 said...

If Congress ever "asked" me to appear before them,
I wouldn't even wear a suit.

There's no law requiring you to wear a suit there.

And I don't work for them.
I'm a taxpayer.
They work for me.

Leslie Graves said...

I’ve been out and about today, hearing bits and snatches about the reaction to the Comey book. Until I got to the reference to the suit-wearer being 33, I thought this was a quote from Comey.

Earnest Prole said...

I lived in Atherton for quite a while and my very rich neighbors did not dress like children or Hollywood poseurs.

As Dylan said, it used to be like that, and now it goes like this.

Michael said...

Earnest Prole

Not on Patricia Drive it isn't.

Michael said...

Earnest Prole

Nor at the Menlo Circus Club

Nor Burlingame CC

Nor the Bohemian Club or even the Pacific Union C

Ralph L said...

NPR puts a transcript of an interview about clothing without adding a photo of said clothes. Guess they hire the people who can't hack video.

Zuck needs some eyebrows to de-emphasize his huge eyes. The clothes are fine.

Earnest Prole said...

Nor the Bohemian Club

Do you have any idea what an ancient lost world that is? I would visit with a member friend thirty years or so ago and it was mummified even then.

George Spix said...

I always wore a clean pair of jeans, never anything fitted. then again, I had not watched television save cartoons with my children since 1993, so I was never wired to appreciate class distinction, Though I understood there were such things. And have never dressed up for any occasion including political events. Or regretted not doing so. Some where I was the only one that didn't. One time when the Cosmos club (name dropping I’m sorry) I was refused entry for a lunch. One of my hosts gave me a string tie he got from his room, appears I wasn’t all that unusual. It wasn't being argumentative or disrespectful Though I'm 'm certain to some it appeared so, and I was never obsequious about it. I'd joke that I was the token engineer. Which turned out to serve me well in negotiations where too often there's an underlying power game, but I've never been an "aw shucks" actor. And since I was known to be helpful and sympathetic in the T sense, I'd Never leave a meeting or a call without a commitment to act and deliver. Which seemed to lessen any offense taken as I thought and often those on the other side of the table understood this was a sign of respect as I did, which they did too because I valued their time, by putting my best and final offer on the table first not in a cruel way and would only bring decision makers who understand their word was and had to be their bond, else I would not go and I’d never look to them or allow the others to appeal a decision or use that as a negotiating tactic “I need to talk to the boss first). They could be confident of the result, and not regret being direct themselves which I would also appreciate. Answering the question of “what I would do in your shoes before asked, which they might be too shy to do with what and why usually based on me having a better understanding of their challenges they faced perhaps better than they did. Something I wish I’d see in Zuckerberg. “what would I do in your shoes for what result. A very Asian approach that some business schools teach. that both sides expect and seldom seen in others especially westerners. Granted this usually meant they had done their homework too, With the rigor of preparing for a serious test or testimony out of equal respect. Save if it was a known to be informal event where I’d give better than I got. Poking at sacred cows, including myself. Made for Good fun, and a less stressful good life. Specifically, when this meant I never had to sustain a lie. Just the facts as best you know them please and I’ll do the same for you, so I don’t have to remember what I said last encounter or require a staff to remember for me and in remembering give them the opportunity to twist my own actions to their liking.

Michael said...

Earnest Prole

"Do you have any idea what an ancient lost world that is? I would visit with a member friend thirty years or so ago and it was mummified even then."

LOL. Same as it's been. Earnest, these are the very people who run your life, who decide what to tell you to do.

At Spring Jinx last year it was a new ossified crowd replacing the old. They don't wear t shirts.

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I wonder if people have really thought about what it means for a huge organization to have a "hacker mentality." As the organization grows, both the opportunity and the need for radical change will naturally diminish. Facebook's core product has been the same for a decade, plus or minus some tinkering at the edges.

The one place a "hacker mentality" becomes more useful as an organization grows is in fending off rivals who joined the organization after the initial founding phase. I wonder if Zuckerberg isn't insecure about potential "helpers" with MBAs and nice suits.

Zach said...

I've often thought you can tell a lot about a Silicon Valley company by the level of education the founders dropped out of.

Google: Page and Brin dropped out of Stanford Grad school. Hires a lot of advanced degrees and made a big deal about asking brain teasers in the interview process, until they figured out this was useless. The mark of quality in their eyes is getting the degree they were aimed towards.

Facebook: Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard (undergrad). Upper management is chock full of Harvard grads. Lots of emphasis on hacker ethos / founder veneration (possibly to fend off rivals). The mark of quality is the degree he was aimed towards.

Peter Thiel: Philosophy at Stanford (undergrad), J.D. at Stanford Law, clerked for the Eleventh Circuit, securities lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, traded derivatives at Credit Suisse. Thinks education is a waste of time and pays kids not to go to college! Having grabbed every brass ring there is, there's no last level of achievement he covets -- instead he values people who opt out of the system he bought into so completely.

Twitter is harder to fit into this framework. The founders aren't really college folks, and the internal company politics are legendarily vicious. They started out with a fully formed product, and have spent the entire time since then fighting amongst themselves about who gets the credit and the money.

Earnest Prole said...

Same as it's been.

Old Money is always being surpassed by New Money, so it clings to institutions like the Bohemian Club to postpone the inevitable. You think your family is rich because it’s worth ten or twenty million dollars, then you meet a software engineer in a t-shirt worth ten times that much, with no children and grandchildren scheming to take it all away. Sure it stings.