Steve Jobs was famous for his wardrobe of black mock turtlenecks and Levi’s 501 jeans, but the story of what inspired him to adopt the basic but unique uniform has never really been revealed in detail.
Gawker now shares an excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography of Jobs, revealing the history behind the wardrobe choice. According to Isaacson, the idea of a corporate uniform first came to Jobs on a visit to Sony’s facilities in Japan, where he was struck by the way uniforms for employees helped create an identity bonding them to the company. Born out of necessity for Sony after World War II when the company’s workers had few clothes of their own, Jobs briefly sought to bring the idea of corporate uniforms at Apple.
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.”
Despite being shot down by Apple employees, Jobs adopted the idea of a uniform for himself for the sake of convenience and identity, and drew on his friendship with Miyake to create his signature look.
“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.”
It’s not clear when Jobs related that story to Isaacson, but as Gawker notes, the closing quote comes with a whole new perspective following Jobs’ death last week.
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