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Biography reveals reason for Jobs' 'Apple uniform'

updated 10:30 pm EDT, Tue October 11, 2011

Time-saving outfit also conveyed 'signature style'

An excerpt from the forthcoming biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson has finally revealed the full story behind the iconic "uniform" Jobs wore, according to Gawker, revealing it to be a choice not only for time-saving purposes (as has often been offered by Jobs himself as the explanation) but as a way to convey a signature style -- which grew out of a desire to have Apple employees wear a uniform in the early days of the company, Isaacson says.

For many years, Jobs sported the black mock-turtleneck, 501 jeans and sneakers (usually New Balance in later years) look at almost every public appearance. Sales of these items soared after Jobs' death last week, but the origin of the outfit stems from from an attempt by Jobs to create a vest that all Apple employees would wear, with the help of designer Issey Miyake.

Jobs had originally been impressed with Sony chairman Akio Morita's explanation of why Sony employees at the company's factories wore uniforms, explaining that it had become a way of "bonding" workers to the company. Miyake had been the man to create the uniform for Sony, a jacket made of nylon where the sleeves could be removed to create a vest. When Jobs tried to bring a similar idea before Apple employees, he recalled he was "booed off the stage. Everyone hated the idea."

He continued his friendship with Miyake, however, and eventually Jobs decided he would have a uniform for himself, comprised mainly of the black mock-turtleneck sweaters he had seen Miyake wearing, and Miyake eventually made "like a hundred" of them for Jobs. He showed Isaacson the collection of them in his closet as Isaacson was working on the biography. "I have enough to last for the rest of my life," Jobs was quoted as saying.

Gawker obtained the excerpt from the forthcoming book as a response from Isaacson to an earlier article the website had run in August pondering the timelessness of Jobs' sartorial style. Designer Ralph Rucci has said that white t-shirts, blue jeans and black (cashmere) turtlenecks -- similar to Jobs' choice of "uniform" -- were the three most "wholly original" clothing items in modern fashion.

Isaacson's book, simply titled Steve Jobs, is due out in two weeks.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sartorial splendor

    How is a suit different from a uniform. I guess it means that the employees run the company and want to be "individualistic" but they really weren't. Some just look like bums. Even Einstein looked good in his "sweater uniform." My son is a graphic designer but we laughed when a play was over and you would see some of the actors at a popular restaurant wear a beret or scarf around their neck while my boy who does work in real movies with real actors said "they would be laughed" off the set. So much for "faux independence" uniforms. Sometimes "geeks" just look like idiots. When they get "older" they will see things differently. Steve didn't wait... his attitude was correct and great.... "I'll do it for myself." A philosophy he followed for years.

  1. kerryb

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It's a guy thing

    I think men in general find clothes or a "look" that works for them sometime in during their lives and stick with it to the very end. That look says a lot about how a man sees himself and how others should see him. Of course not all men settle on a flattering style hence the long pony tail and hawaiian shirt look well into middle age. Still I subscribe to if I find something I like that fits me physically and says the right thing about my social economic level I buy at least 2, shopping is a bore if you are a guy.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    it's a guy thing. i don't think i've changed my "style" in decades. funny thing about style is it comes and goes. so i'm in and out of style. wait long enough and i'll be back in. looking at me today you might be looking at the cover of the fall 2013 catalogue. ok, probably not.

  1. jnennemann

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Another good reason...

    The subtleness and familiarity of the 'Jobs Uniform' meant that the focus was on the material of the presentation... just like the choice to use the basic Keynote theme. Imagine if Jobs was like Ellison or others... they may talk more about his outfit than the content... can't you hear it now... "What is that he's wearing... my God!"

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