Showing all posts tagged ties:

Misunderstanding Tools

The sour taste in my espresso this morning is courtesy of yet another dudebro tech VC, opining about how ties are uncool, maaaaann! and basically nobody should write on LinkedIn.

If you have a tie on in 2015, it probably means you are a salesman in a non-transparent industry and are generally not to be trusted at any cost. When I see a tie on somebody, I get that funny feeling you get right before the dentist. Let’s face it, the people left wearing ties every day are the confidence-men stealing your money. Think insurance, financial services, bad shoes and, of course, car salesmen.

Well now.

I am on record as not only a tie wearer, but also a tie apologist. To quote myself once again:

In fact, suits & ties are actually the ultimate nerd apparel. You have to put some effort into shopping, sure, and they tend to cost a bit more than a random vendor T-shirt and ancient combats, but the advantage is that you can thereafter completely forget about wondering what to wear. You can get dressed in the dark and be sure that the results will be perfectly presentable. If you want you can go to a little bit more effort and inject some personality into the process, but the great thing is that you don’t have to. By wearing a suit & tie, you lead people to pay attention to what you say and do, not to what you are wearing. And isn’t that the whole point?

This mindset of “distrust anyone dressed like a grown-up" is just one more symptom of the Revenge of the Nerds chauvinism that is rife in the tech industry. The nerds complain about being victimised by the jocks, but it’s not the victimisation itself that they object to, it’s just being on the receiving end of it. “They mocked me for dressing differently from them, but now I mock them for dressing differently from me! Haha, I win!"

No, no you don’t win. You just look like an overgrown, entitled man-child. Grown-ups wear ties as a sign of respect to one another. If some sleaze balls wear suits & ties, that is because they are trying to fake that respect - but just because something is faked, does not mean that it’s not aping something real.

If I visit a customer or a prospect, I am a guest, and I dress and act appropriately. I’m not more “genuine" or “passionate" if I show up in jeans, sneakers and a Zuckerberg-approved hoodie. If I’m doing it right, my passion and competence will show regardless of what I wear. Today, wearing a hoodie to work is not transgressive or cool - it’s just imitating a more successful person. And let’s not even pretend that your hoodie doesn’t get judged for materials, cut, brand, etc., as much or more than suits ever were.

Basically, he is wilfully misunderstanding what people use LinkedIn for and why they would want to write there. Yes, it’s an advertising tool - that’s what we are all there for! LinkedIn is buttoned-down, professional me - although I like to think that I still put some personality in there. Twitter is where I let it all hang out, and talk about what I am up to at work right beside books, music, and whatever has got the Internet in a bunch lately.

Amusingly, Dudebro VC's piece ends up being an example of exactly the sort of writing he decries, since it’s a listicle:

1) LinkedIn has become a giant branded entertainment platform for selling us crappy fake expertise.

2) Crappy writing

3) No real authentic sentiment

4) LinkedIn notifications are predatory

The real kicker is at the end, though, where he says that it’s perfectly okay for him to write a listicle, because it’s not on LinkedIn, plus he got paid for it and doesn’t care about how many times it gets viewed.

Firstly, this is insultingly disingenuous. Writing this sort of flamebait, custom-designed to go viral and provoke reactions1 and then making a big show of turning away and not watching the ensuing furore is a cheap trick - but one that is perfectly in line with the rest of the piece.

Secondly, this is pretty transparently elitist. He's attempting to pull up the ladder behind him, mocking anyone who has not achieved his supposed level of clout in the industry. What he is saying with this piece is, if you’re a big shot, you can wear a hoodie to work and be paid for your opinions. If you have to dress professionally and are still having to work hard to get your opinions out there, you’re a loser.

Just in case you thought Martin Schkreli - he of the 5000% drug price increases and one-off Wu-Tang Clan albums - was an outlier: now you know that he is not. There are plenty of utter tools in VC.


I also took special pleasure in cross-posting this piece to LinkedIn Pulse, just to make my point one more time.


Image by Olu Eletu via Unsplash


  1. Such as this one - hi! Congratulations, it worked! 

Alternative Ties

I had kind of lost track of Duff McKagan after Guns ’n Roses imploded. Axl and Slash stayed more or less in the public eye, but Duff, Izzy and the others dropped off the radar.

Now here he turns up doing Sweet Child of Mine, accompanied by Krist Novoselic of Nirvana - on the accordion, of all things, and playing both the melody and the vocal part. Check it out:

But what I really wanted to point out was that Duff is wearing a tie, of all the unexpected things for a member of Guns ’n Roses to wear. This just goes to prove my ongoing contention that a tie is the most alternative thing you can wear, now that showing up for business meetings in Chucks barely raises an eyebrow.

Suits You, Sir

Via Coté, I learned that an Australian TV anchor has been wearing the same suit for a year.

Stefanovic, who co-presents Channel Nine’s Today show with Lisa Wilkinson, has been wearing the same blue suit – day in, day out, except for a few trips to the dry cleaner - to make a point about the ways in which his female colleagues are judged. “No one has noticed," he said. “No one gives a shit."

Setting his point on equality aside for a moment - although it is very valid - this is why I tell my nerd(ier) friends that suits are the ultimate nerd attire. You can get dressed in the dark and still be sure of being perfectly presentable, as I have had occasion to write before. On top of that, we now know that as long as the minimum standard of suit-ness is met, nothing further is required or even noticed, even when you are operating very much in public view.

Then again, at an event today in Stockholm I was congratulated several times on my suit1, so maybe it's cultural differences again?

Also, the news media have failed me once again. I need to know who makes this guy's suit; it sounds like it should be great for travel, being pretty much indestructible!


  1. A very nice and - importantly in Sweden - warm grey wool check from Lardini. 

Clothes make the… what?

Some days it's tough to take the tech industry seriously. Other days it's really tough.

The latest thing is that we are apparently back to judging people by how they dress. First Peter Thiel was quoted in The Economist advising startup founders and VCs:

don’t do business with anyone who dresses in a suit

This would be of course the same Peter Thiel whose Twitter avatar shows him wearing not only a suit, but a tie as well:

Admittedly he doesn't seem to use that Twitter account, unless he's a prolific DM'er, but still.

Then the US White House was forced to relax its dress code to attract coders, which Wired reported with the excellent title "The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults".

In a White House video, Dickerson says he is asked one question again and again by people curious about his new job. They "want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day," Dickerson explains in the video. "Because that’s just the quickest shorthand way of asking: 'Is this just the same old business as usual or are they actually going to listen?'"

I'm not advocating for a 1950s IBM approach of everyone wearing suits all the time - but what sort of entitled, coddled man-child do you have to be to complain about being made to wear a suit in the White House?

I don't wear a suit to work every day, although I don't wear a T-shirt either. However if I'm in a customer-facing situation, you'll find me suited and booted. Since I'm on the vendor side, it shows due respect for current or prospective customers' time. I also wear a suit to meet analysts, though, despite the fact that in that situation I am on the customer's side of the table. Again, it's about respect and being a grown-up professional.

What is noticeable is that it has happened a couple of times that I have got it wrong. One day I was in the office and ended up having to attend a customer meeting at short notice. I had on a shirt and a jacket, but I had no tie and I was wearing jeans and sneakers. I apologised to the customer, and there was no issue.

On the other hand, it happened to me to visit a "cool" cloud company in my normal business warpaint, and was told in the lift to remove my tie as "otherwise they won't listen to you"….

Let's not even get into the high-school sociological aspects of people wearing the wrong shoes… Distinctions between suits are subtle, but it's obvious when someone is wearing cheap sneakers versus branded ones.

I have written about this before:

In fact, suits & ties are actually the ultimate nerd apparel. You have to put some effort into shopping, sure, and they tend to cost a bit more than a random vendor T-shirt and ancient combats, but the advantage is that you can thereafter completely forget about wondering what to wear. You can get dressed in the dark and be sure that the results will be perfectly presentable. If you want you can go to a little bit more effort and inject some personality into the process, but the great thing is that you don’t have to. By wearing a suit & tie, you lead people to pay attention to what you say and do, not to what you are wearing. And isn’t that the whole point?

Some days I think Shanley goes a bit too far in condemning this industry. Then there are the days when I am reminded that she is absolutely correct.

Ties that bind

There was a strange mixture of hand-wringing and schadenfreude at the news that Tie Rack is to close down (The Times, BBC). In IT of course many people have had a relationship with ties of ambivalence at best. Traditionally, IT is divided into Suits and Beards, and techies pride themselves on not wearing ties. After all, they might get caught in intake fans, Incredibles-style:

tumblr_m6lqkfnqnJ1qgrhcu.gif

Thing is, fewer and fewer techies work with hardware these days. If you’re hacking Ruby, you’re about as far removed from the hardware as it’s possible to get. In the other direction, the Suits have also stopped wearing ties, preferring blazers with open-collar shirts or even going the full Zuckerberg and showing up in T-shirts and hoodies.

In other words, the whole no-tie thing has definitively jumped the shark. You are no longer making any sort of statement by showing up tie-less; if anything, wearing a tie has become the provocative statement.

In fact, suits & ties are actually the ultimate nerd apparel. You have to put some effort into shopping, sure, and they tend to cost a bit more than a random vendor T-shirt and ancient combats, but the advantage is that you can thereafter completely forget about wondering what to wear. You can get dressed in the dark and be sure that the results will be perfectly presentable. If you want you can go to a little bit more effort and inject some personality into the process, but the great thing is that you don’t have to. By wearing a suit & tie, you lead people to pay attention to what you say and do, not to what you are wearing. And isn’t that the whole point?

This is why I was reassured to see plenty of ties this week at the Gartner Datacenter conference. Reports of the death of the tie have been greatly exaggerated.

Long live ties!