Sam Bankman-fried and schluppy style

The mythical figure of the billionaire tech genius in Nowhere Man Tee is finally meeting his long-delayed end. The Arrest of Sam Bankman-FriedThe founder of cryptocurrency trading platform FTX was indicted Monday in the Bahamas on fraud charges, not just the next step. His downfallBut a shift in Silicon Valley’s global image-making.

After all, no one took the idea that the life of the infinite mind is reflected in a life free from petty concerns like clothing than Mr. Bankman-Fried (or SBF, as he is often called). He doesn’t have the physical cage of a suit and tie. Instead, a T-shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers, often worn with white running socks, taper down at the ankle.

And not just any t-shirt and cargo shorts, but the most frilly, the most stretchy, the most sleepy, the most emotionally unflattering t-shirts and shorts; Very irregular bed-head. Although the look evolved naturally, it became a signature as he rose to prominence, realizing that he was as effective at pushing the Pavlovian buttons of the public (and investment community) he visited as Savile Row suits and Charvet ties. Street.

“It feels like incorporating in the Bahamas with little regulatory oversight,” he said. Scott Galloway, an investor, podcasting host and marketing professor, notes that FTX was headquartered in the Caribbean rather than California. “It’s the ultimate billionaire white guy technocracy: I’m above convention. I’m so special, I’m not subject to the same rules and rights as everyone else.

It’s a film that doesn’t have much roots in Mr. Bankman-Fried’s youth in an adapted family. Utilitarianism Albert Einstein’s unbrushed halo contains E = mc2, a symbol of the physicist’s genius. In Steve Jobs’ jeans and black turtlenecks, and Steve Wozniak’s kitschy shirts, with long, flowing hair and a beard (“it took three hours to recreate”jobs“Biopic). Of course, Mark Zuckerberg’s Adidas flip-flops, hoodies, and gray T-shirts lead to his current tech uniform choice.

It’s a uniform that telegraphs to the watching world that someone who has no time to worry about what they’re wearing is thinking big, world-changing thoughts. Ideas that no one else can understand, because they are out there, are revolutionary. It plays on our common insecurities in the world of science and technology; The whole idea of ​​a language, built in code, is impenetrable, magically condensing all kinds of possibilities into the palm of your hand.

“At the macro level, it’s man who worships things,” says Mr. Galloway said. “Technology is easy to worship with its mysteries. It is the idolatry of the innovator.”

Innovators do not cross long-established lines with their presence, ignoring them altogether. How can we identify them if we don’t understand what they are proselytizing about? To talk about former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart Obscenity, we know them when we see them. Of course they are not like us. Of course they don’t dress like us.

Silicon Valley image consultant and stylist Joseph Rosenfeld says we’ve swallowed the clothing theory hook, line, and sinker. “When ‘tech bros’ like SBF are in a middle-of-the-road galaxy building reputation and wealth, ​​the public is willing to give them a pass because the looks are bad.,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. That outfit has been reinforced by Hollywood, and every time “a VC gives a big investment to a schlubbily dressed person (almost 100 percent male-presented time), it’s a passive form of endorsement.”

And Mr. As Galloway says, if you’re white, male, and young, that’s self-perpetuating. “If a person of color or a woman or a 50-year-old person looks like that, security won’t let them into the building,” he noted. In many ways, the dress code is another example of the double standard in Silicon Valley (or companies we associate with Silicon Valley, like FTX, even if they’re headquartered elsewhere) — just like seeing Sheryl Sandberg on her Facebook. Gone are the days of sleeveless power sheaths in the hoodies room.

Or at least it was. Suddenly, Mr. Bankman-Fried has cast the whole scene in a different light. Rather than a red flag about a sleazy attitude to other people’s money, his sleazy attire seems more a reflection of a higher calling or a decision to devote his own funds to “useful altruism.” Someone who doesn’t care about rain or style might be someone who doesn’t care about the mix of auditions and finances.

Actually, Mr. Andy Grogan, a colleague, said — in an over-embrace of Bankman-Fried’s dress-down mystery. The New York Times, “Sam and I purposely don’t wear pants to meetings” — he really misses the point, it’s the details and what you don’t see that matter. Mr. Jobs’ Black Turtles Japanese designer Issey Miyake, for example; Mr. Zuckerberg’s gray T-shirts are from an Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli. They were seen as uneducated.

Mr. As Rosenfeld put it, Mr. Bankman-Fried missed. normally. (When asked who those people might be, Mr. Rosenfeld name-checked Kevin Systrom of Instagram and Evan Spiegel of Snapchat.)

He missed that someone who could go to jail wasn’t someone who really wanted to emulate anyone’s looks.

As it happens, Mr. Bankman-Fried was scheduled to testify before Congress the day after her arrest. Would he have worn a suit for the occasion (when he did testified In December 2021, though popular, she wore her brown lace-ups A strange knot They became a monument to themselves) we will never know. But when he appeared in a Bahamian court to be arraigned, he changed things up in a navy suit and white shirt, and understood the role image plays in influencing verdicts, if not a tie. Presumably, when his case comes to court in New York, he’ll do the same, perhaps even with a tie, and it’s doubtful that will make any difference at that point.

His track record of schlubiness — still on view during his mea culpa self-relief media tour before his arrest — Mr. As Galloway put it, “Now it helps to paint a picture of a guy who has no respect for other people’s money, just like he has no respect for decorum.”

If it’s actually used that way, the sartorial schtick goes out of style. At least for a while. In its place, perhaps, as FTX chief executive Mr. Stepping into Bankman-Fried’s shoes and overseeing its bankruptcy, John J. Ray III sat in a pint-sized navy before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. Suit, light blue shirt and dusty rose tie.

Still, Mr. Galloway said, “Waving the middle finger, ‘I’m special, I’m unusual, and above all I’m in a boring rule-game'” — that ethos Mr. Bankmann-Fried once identified. ?

“It’s always in style,” he said. Even if it gets a new look.



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