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The Evolution of Silicon Valley Chic(WWD)

The American Giant hooded, zip-up sweatshirt.  Courtesy Photo

The American Giant hooded, zip-up sweatshirt.

Courtesy Photo

The article first appeared on the WWD.

The tech industry might be upping its fashion game, but that doesn’t mean the sector’s hoodies, jeans and sneakers are going anywhere.

They’re evolving — anchoring an expanding Silicon Valley style palette.

While hardly rating on the style Richter scale, the ultra-casual hoodie and jeans combo is the iconic Bay Area look for the digital age. And there is good reason for that. Within those loose, baggy outlines lie familiarity and casual comfort that don’t distract from the work at hand and perhaps a rejection of the notion of growing up (or what growing up used to mean and how it was signified to previous generations).

The hoodie acts as both uniform and blankie.

“The T-shirts, hoodies, jeans — you still see a lot of that, especially with coders and engineers,” said one tech contractor who works in Silicon Valley. “They’re really proud of where they work, so there’s a lot of company logos.”

And whatever cat fights and rivalries heat up among the giants, he doesn’t see it extend to staffers’ closets. “There are a lot of Ts from other companies,” he said. “There’s no hesitation to wear those at all.”

The style choices might well be an extension of the sector’s broader psyche. In the youth-driven culture of Silicon Valley, a suit and tie just doesn’t say “disruptor,” but screams dusty corporate establishment. So, naturally, some tech workers have an aversion to buttoned-up garb.

“It’s irreverence,” said James Krohn, a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus who has tracked trends and dressed clients for 30 years across the Bay Area and New York. “I find that high-tech clients love collaboration. Having a brand that is a solo voice [points to a] more traditional fashion system. So collaboration is important. It creates newness all the time.”

He pointed to examples like Gucci Ghost, an homage to the luxury brand that led creator and graffiti artist Trevor Andrew to work with the company. Today, Krohn looks to joint footwear ventures, such as Raf Simons’ work with Adidas.

If collaborations are hot right now, then sneaker collabs are absolutely smoking. Footwear is often the one weakness for the hoodie-clad set.

According to tech workers polled by WWD, usual suspects such as Adidas and Nike make the grade, but they aren’t alone. Santa Ana, Calif.-based Vans sneakers remain popular, as are woolen comfort kicks from San Francisco’s Allbirds.

Honorable mention also goes to Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Greats, while Atom, a Y Combinator-born shoe start-up, has been attracting some interest. The latter makes no-logo shoes in quarter sizes that stand somewhere between dress shoes and sneakers.

In addition to footwear mash-ups, Krohn said cross-body bags, relaxed fits and elastic waists are all popular. It’s all about comfort.

That casual looks rule should surprise no one. It flows from the top down, with the c-suite setting the example. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg usually opens the F8 and Oculus developer conferences in a T-shirt and jeans; Google’s Sundar Pichai frequently wears track jackets paired with sneakers for fireside chats and keynotes.

It might not seem like it, but these are calculated acts of fashion. Zuckerberg’s Ts reportedly come from Brunello Cucinelli, and Pichai wears Lanvin sneakers. They — and all the other current tech titans — learned from the master of image, the late Steve Jobs, who turned the black turtleneck and Levi’s into an iconic uniform. The thing was, those turtlenecks were designed by Issey Miyake.

Read the full article on the WWD.

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