Business Plus

Leaders Wear Uniforms Too

In an era when building a personal brand can be as important as a well-rounded CV, Elaine Burke reflects on the repetitive sartorial choices of business icons


Jensen Huang has received a lot of attention lately. That comes with the territory of being CEO of a near-trillion-dollar business that is almost single-handedly powering the generative AI explosion. But the Nvidia chief is also pulling focus through his adherence to his attire.

Even on a press tour across India, where temperatur­es were averaging in the mid-thirties, Huang was not to be seen without his trademark black leather jacket. His commitment to the coat, even in a sweltering climate, has inspired comparison­s to another CEO of a game-changing tech company who famously sported something of a uniform.

The Steve Jobs combo of black turtleneck, blue jeans and white runners was so tied to the former Apple chief executive’s brand that it’s hard to picture the man wearing anything else. It’s said to have inspired disgraced entreprene­ur Elizabeth Holmes’s look as she set out to emulate the world’s most iconic tech leader while selling snake oil at Theranos.

Jobs’ eschewing of the corporate suit and tie was also emblematic of a new wave of business leaders, who could run mega-corporatio­ns but still say they were a hippy at heart because, hey, look at the blue jeans.

The selective wardrobe perpetuate­s as a trend for other tech leaders too. Mark Zuckerberg even joked about it when rebranding Facebook as Meta. As his Metaverse avatar was picking out clothes to wear, he of course put on a dark grey T-shirt and dark trousers.

Zuckerberg has even clarified in interviews that, yes, he does indeed own multiple copies of the very same grey T-shirt. His trademark look is pretty much his entire wardrobe, except for the suits he pulls on when he’s hauled in front of US Congress for questionin­g.

Somewhat surprising­ly, a repetitive

look is also popular with some of the fashion industry’s leading names. Michael Kors wears all black, all the time. Tommy Hilfiger claims to have a wardrobe consisting solely of white shirts, chinos, jeans and white runners. Karl Lagerfeld would also wear similar outfits all the time, though he knew how to accessoris­e.

And if creating a brand is what you’re after, sometimes a trademark accessory is all it takes. Would Vogue editor Anna Wintour even be recognisab­le without her oversized sunglasses?

One of the most common explanatio­ns given for idiosyncra­tic outfits is that these busy business leaders want to simplify as many decisions in their daily life as possible, leaving their optimal decision-making capacity for the important things, and their work. But the brand impact cannot be denied. Adopting a ‘uniform’ of sorts ensures that the image you convey is consistent. Consistenc­y can inspire a sense of discipline and reliabilit­y, sure. But it can also contribute to the carving out of an iconic figure.

What you choose to stick to in a set style is important, though. People are susceptibl­e to representa­tive bias, where we may judge someone by stereotypi­cal signals we perceive. Even though it has been co-opted by many a tech bro, the humble hoody still conveys a relaxed attitude, while a suit is interprete­d as formal and corporate.

The impression we give off is so informed by our clothing choices that some would also say that you should dress for the job you want. If that job just so happens to be CEO of Nvidia, you can actually buy a Jensen Huang leather jacket at a number of retailers now.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Nvidia president Jensen Huang sporting his trademark leather jacket
GETTY IMAGES Nvidia president Jensen Huang sporting his trademark leather jacket

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