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Why Did Steve Jobs Wear a Black Turtleneck?

Apple’s former CEO was recognized as a technology innovator. He reinvented media distribution, and pioneered technology with products like the iPhone 4S and iPad. But what Steve Jobs was not known for was his fashion sense.


Steve Jobs in Paris in 1998, introducing the new iMac.

Unlike his hi-tech hardware, Steve Jobs stuck to routine fashion –  like a black turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans and New Balance sneakers. But Jobs didn’t always dress that way; in the 1980s he sported bowties and even vests.

Image Conscious
In the late 1990s, Steve Jobs started wearing black turtlenecks and sneakers. The outfit would ultimately make him the most recognizable CEO in the world. At times his plain and predictable look was parodied on Saturday Night Live and even The Simpsons, but Apple’s famous co-founder probably would have never adopted his trademark outfit if his employees hadn’t rejected the corporate uniform he wanted them to wear.


Pixar paid tribute to Steve Jobs with this image featuring Woody, Wall-E, Buzz Lightyear and other famous Pixar stars dressed in Jobs’ signature black turtleneck.

In Walter Isaacson’s new authorized biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs revealed to Issacson in an interview before his death how the late Apple CEO developed his trademark look. The new book (which releases October 24) is the culmination of forty interviews that were conducted with Jobs over a two-year period. The book is also said to include  interviews that took place just weeks before Jobs’ death on October 5.

From Issacson’s book, courtesy of Gawker:

On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signature styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple. Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

Wholly Original
While Steve Jobs may have been seen as a fashion oddball, his style was called ”wholly original” by acclaimed designer Ralph Rucci. No matter if you were a fan of his style or not, he certainly was an original.

More insight into the life of Steve Jobs will be revealed with his first and only biography, which hits stores in October.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

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