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When we think of the appearance of the late Steve Jobs, a casual look comes to mind. The founder of Apple was known for his black turtleneck, stonewashed pants and sneakers. Really simple and not at all a formal business look. But what not many people know, is that he was actually very conscious about clothing. In this article, I will explain why Steve Jobs was in favor of corporate uniforms and how Apple’s employees responded to this.
Sony as a source of inspiration
It all started in 1980, when Steve Jobs traveled to Japan with Akio Morita, the late founder of Sony. Steve asked him why all Sony employees were wearing uniforms. Morita explained to him that this actually started after the war, when people had no clothes to wear. The company provided clothes, so they had something to wear every day. A very practical reason.
Over the years, the company kept re-evaluating the style and appearance of the company’s uniforms. As a result, the look gradually changed. Eventually, it also became a way to make employees more committed to the company. The well-known Japanese fashion designer Issey Mayake, you might know her from the famous perfume, had designed the corporate uniforms for Sony at the time. People wore a nylon jacket with detachable sleeves, so that it could also be worn as a vest. Again, nice and practical.
Jobs felt immediately inspired and wanted to use this method to make his staff more committed to Apple. He asked Miyake to design similar jackets for his company. A little while later, he received a some samples and enthusiastically showed them to the Apple employees, saying that it would be great if everyone would wear them. The employees however, did not share his enthusiasm. They thought it was terrible.
The jacket was not a success, but Jobs did not let go of the idea. Over time, he became friends with Miyake and at some point wanted his own, unique workwear. According to him, it would give him a feeling of self-confidence and he would have his own style. Well, we all know he certainly succeeded. Jobs loved Miyake’s turtlenecks and asked him to make a few black ones for him. A few hundreds of these turtlenecks were made and Jobs later stated in an interview that he had enough turtlenecks for the rest of his life.
This story was written in the book “Steve Jobs”, the authorised biography written by Walter Isaacson. It shows that the casual look does not mean Jobs took clothing lightly. Someone who values clothing can also be practical and appreciate a casual style. As often is the case, nothing is what it seems.