William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Mark Zuckerberg Dresses Like A Bum

Ugh.

Ugh.

Why I am writing about this, what might seem to you, not-too-pressing subject? The answer is discovered below.

Before the reveal, an example of an ad hominem fallacy: “Facebook is not intelligently run because Mark Zuckerberg is rather plain in the looks department.” It’s the “because” that kills that argument because, of course, the visage of a man has little to do with his intelligence (there is even a slight negative correlation: hello Hollywood!).

An example of true proposition: “Mark Zuckerberg dresses like a negligent college student whose Friday night started late Thursday afternoon (hello CMU!).” Stating true propositions, simple statements of fact, is never a fallacy.

Here’s another: Zuckerberg has seven orders of magnitude more money than I: he rates thirty-some billion, whereas Yours Truly is rapidly approaching (but more usually receding from) multiple triple digits. A point of interest not because it is my duty to provide Facebook free content and Zuckerberg’s to profit from it, but because your author manages to invert the wealth ratio in terms of dress.

Meaning it costs very little to look beautiful. Zuckerberg has much, much more than very little, therefore he can afford to dress beautifully. And it is his duty to do so.

Zuckerberg has so much money that he can pay somebody to buy and take care of his clothes. Zuckerberg himself need never be involved,; he need take no more time than he currently takes in choosing his wardrobe, which is obviously no time at all, except for the microsecond it takes to grab what has fallen on the floor the night before.

One last assertion of fact: this result from a Google image search (one such is found at the top of this post).

Go ahead and try. You’ll see a limited range of images, most containing him in an ugly t-shirt in jeans, but occasionally wearing event-appropriate clothing. Which proves that he knows what it required of him, and sometimes acts on this requirement. But there are several images, such as one at some quasi-governmental official economic forum, in which he should dress nice but is dressed as if suffering from a hangover and has mixed up his wife’s t-shirt with his.

These facts being asserted, it must be that Zuckerberg knows the rules but chooses to flaunt them, knows what it means to dress beautifully but chooses for the most part to be ugly.

So why pick on Zuckerberg?

That’s the wrong question. The better query is: why is Zuckerberg is picking on us?

The man is in the public eye, knows he is, knows we have to look at him, knows that some will emulate him, knows what his duty is but flaunts it, thus he is a major contributor to the degradation of society.

“Briggs, you haven’t been drinking enough. Major contributor to the degradation of society? Time to crack open a bottle, brother. You’ve lost it.”

Major contributor, I say. You’ve heard of the broken windows theory, have you not? How letting little things slide, like graffiti on walls, trash on the lawn, and broken windows encourages far worse crimes like theft, listening to NPR, and voting for Democrats? Indeed, the theory isn’t a theory but common sense put succinctly; isn’t that so?

“Well, yes.”

Same thing here. Zuckerberg’s sloppy t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes lead to worse behaviors like instead of looking taking pictures with smart phones wherever one goes, veganism, and public boasting of small “carbon footprints”, not to mention he causes pain every time we have to see him, which, given the media’s obsession with money, is all too often.

But it’s the emulation that is the real curse. The young see a figure in authority clad in dollar-store rejects and figure they can and should do the same. And so whenever we venture outside we all have to pay the price of ugliness surrounding us.

This reminds me: a good statistical project could be to chart the amount of clothing worn by the average individual. Barbarians wore little to nothing; civilization, especially as it probed northwards, led to layering. But increasing decadence is peeling off these layers one by one. If I’m right (and I am), and controlling for weather, most people by 2100 will be down to an extra-large t-shirt, maybe drawers, and flip flops (encrusted with various expensive doodads to signal one’s allegiances).

Update Holy moly! Even the New York Times (sort of): The Death of Adulthood in American Culture (subtract standard self-flagellation about being a white man).

29 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    September 12, 2014 at 9:05 am

    All Zuckerberg’s programmers will walk if he starts wearing a tie.

    Programmers never liked ties, it restricts the flow of blood to the brain, making you stupid (that’s the rationale, anyway). Zuck started with the mindset of a programmer when he started working on Facebook. And he stayed looking like a programmer, either because he likes it, or to keep the troops loyal.

    And he isn’t the only computer billionaire either. Very few of them dress up as businessmen.

  2. re: “the visage of a man has little to do with his intelligence (there is even a slight negative correlation: hello Hollywood!). wmbriggs

    Anecdote: Circa 1974 or5. Dentist acquaintance says—
    When I finished Dental school after the War, I had NO money. I took a job at a cosmetic dental clinic [Near Hollywood, CA] where I worked for a few years to build a nest egg. While there I worked on many Starlets and potential male stars that were sent by the various movie studios to obtain a camera ready smile. [This was before orthodontics so teeth were capped bigger than life sized as it looks good on screen.] When asked as to what were those potential stars like the dentist said the following.

    The girls were simply gorgeous and the boys handsome as one could hope but let me explain the young, nubile, hydraulic girls by this quiz. Remember being back in High School or College and the observing the girls there.

    How many of the girls were really, really good looking? Answer: one in a 100.
    How many of the girls were really, really talented, say in dancing, or singing, or acting? Answer: one in a 100.
    How many of the girls were really, really smart? Answer: one in a 100.
    The dentist then said: Ok. That means one multiplies 100 times a 100 times 100 to see how often one finds a Beautiful, a Talented and a Brilliant starlet. Such a find would be one in a million. The starlets he worked on to give them gorgeous smiles were Beautiful and often had some talent but were DUMB as POSTS. He closed by saying why else would their personal lives end up being so scandalous as revealed by magazines like People and the National Enquirer.

    Dan Kurt

  3. La Longue Carabine

    September 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I am a computer programmer. While I don’t dress as nattily as our host, I do wear a button up shirt, slacks and dress shoes to work. I am a professional, and dressing like it communicates that to others as well as myself.

    I often do consulting at a nearby university, and administrators dress very well, professors not so well, and students slovenly, shuffling around like shlubbs. Dress is very often an indicator of caste on campus, at least.

    In the programmer’s bullpen comfortable dress is king, on assignment not as much.

  4. I agree somewhat with Sander, though I’m not sure indulging the eccentricities of programmers is the right choice. Sure, the computer geeks on TV with the pigtails, outfits that resemble Halloween costumes, etc are interesting to watch, but is this really someone you want to sit next to day after day? It’s a romanticized idea. We can skip the tie, but how about jeans without holes, t-shirts without logos, etc? (Carabine would seem to indicate we can in at least some cases.)

    I actually think the reason Zuckerberg and Hollywood celebrities dress down is in a vain attempt to look like they are not rich. If they look like the 99.999% or so of the rest of the world, then maybe no one will think of them are rich and greedy. It’s much more convenient than actually giving away all their money and being like the majority of the world. People are easily fooled by looks. It’s a win-win for the rich–keep your fortune by making people think you don’t have one.

    (Note: This is typed by someone dressed in red sweatpants and an orange t-shirt. I would not go out in public dressed this way, however.)

  5. So you’re AGAINST Global Warming? Or are you moving to Canada/Alaska/Siberia?

  6. The last comment was in response to:

    “…If I’m right (and I am), and controlling for weather, most people by 2100 will be down to an extra-large t-shirt, maybe drawers, and flip flops (encrusted with various expensive doodads to signal one’s allegiances). …”

    So you’re AGAINST Global Warming? Or are you moving to Canada/Alaska/Siberia?

  7. @Sheri,

    No, Sander has it dead on.

    I work in corporate IT. Even there, the people with real technical skill don’t dress in shirts and ties. I actually got dinged in a performance review for always wearing dress pants and a white dress shirt. I was told it would be better to wear different colored dress shirts and collared tee shirts.

    The kind of people with technical skills that work in the big software houses and dot coms in Silicon Valley actively detest the suit and tie crowd. They would be perfectly willing to go elsewhere even for less pay if their management (including the CXOs) were wearing suits and ties in the office and / or company functions.

  8. MattS: Please note that I did not say “dress pants and dress shirt”. I said jeans without holes and t-shirts without logos. I live in a state where even bank tellers don’t often dress up, oil executives detest suits and ties, but people don’t generally dress down to the level seen in some of the Hollywood crowd. I do understand that to actually get a dress code to work, all employers in the field would have to go along or the programmers that won’t wear ties and suits can just go elsewhere. Please don’t think I am saying this would be easy or maybe even possible. Dressing down is symptom of more than just eccentric IT people.

  9. “I do understand that to actually get a dress code to work, all employers in the field would have to go along or the programmers that won’t wear ties and suits can just go elsewhere.”

    The Silicon Valley technical people would rather be unemployed than even work for someone who wheres suits and ties to the office. If you want the techs themselves to where suits and ties… Let’s just say you would have better luck trying to spit upwind in a hurricane.

  10. wheres -> wears. We need an edit function.

  11. MattS: Again, I did not say suits and ties. Plus, if IT techs want to live on the street and eat out of dumpsters instead of getting paid large amounts of money while wearing a suit and tie, I’m good with that. They can work at McDonalds for all I care. I won’t wear a dress for work, which means I don’t work at jobs that require such. If I have to chose between eating out of dumpsters and wearing a dress, I don’t really care for dumpster rations. I would chose McDonald over a dress, however. This does not mean that I think it’s wrong for a business to require dressing up. All of this running about in ripped jeans and obscene t-shirts is very much an adolescent behaviour and this certainly shows up in society, where adolescents seem to be running the planet at the moment and it’s not really working out well.
    (Yes, we need an edit function….)

  12. My wife says I’m a reflection of her … so …

    That said … as long as the clothes are clean (although she’s also anti-faded knees let alone holes)

    We can be pretty casual where I work but it depends on the department

    We have one manager who takes the idea of casual Friday literally and insists on dress pants even though his worker has to crawl on/under false floors to fish cables etc.

  13. If you have 10 software developers in a room wearing t-shirts and jeans and park somebody wearing a suit in the middle of them you’ll see a social experiment roughly equivalent to taking 10 thin, pretty seventh grade girls and parking a short, pudgy, acne-faced girl in a room with them. The difference, of course, being the poor IT person wouldn’t have anti-bullying laws for protection. IT is almost like an anarchist subculture.

  14. “Mark Zuckerberg dresses like a negligent college student whose Friday night started late Thursday afternoon (hello CMU!).”

    Why the CMU reference?

  15. Also, I love how neatly you fit into Arnold Kling’s three axes model for the language of politics:

    http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/it-is-sometimes-appropriate/

    You even use the term “barbarians.”

  16. IBM, notorious for its dress code, began to give in about 1995.
    https://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/waywewore/waywewore_1.html
    Granted, these images are mostly sales and marketing types, but the techies I met many years ago followed suit (heh) — well, actually dress shirt and tie, no jacket.
    AMICA insurance company was the same way, but until about twenty years ago they coded in Assembly Language (according to people who knew) so strict dress rules fit the corporate mindset.

  17. Enough with the programmer examples, that’s a professional snakepit Jonesing for the Leviathan. When I was a programmer, I wanted to defenstrate my boss, and when I became a project manager, I wanted to choke the life out of most of my programmers; it’s the nature of the industry.

    Look instead at the world of “data scientists” which has at least two visible subcultures. STATISTICIANS (who overwhelmingly work for the STATE) wear their run-down Hush Puppies, wrinkled cords, and plaid sports shirts to summer conferences in places like Atlanta or Miami, while DATA MINERS (who overwhelmingly work for private companies) wear their suits or au courant ski togs to winter conferences in places like Aspen or Park City.

  18. I graduated high school in 1969 and at the time I thought dress codes were dumb. I thought: I’m the same person in cutoff short as I am in slacks and a proper shirt; what’s the point of a dress code? I thought teachers who claimed how you dressed affected how you acted were out of their minds. I also thought all you need is love. I was not quite 18 at the time, so at least I had an excuse for being stupid.

    After a checkered academic career where I learned computer programming while I was supposed to be writing philosphy papers, I got a job in corporate America, specifically ITT in 1980. At the time, men were expected to wear three piece suits. Every day. Again I thought it was dumb but a co-worker friend clued me in that if you have a conservative business suit (grey, blue pinstripe, or brown pinstripe), you can take a two week trip with only one suit. Just change shirts, ties, and socks and nobody will think anything of it. I found it was true. I could spend two weeks at an ITT company in Germany and only pack one suit. Neat — get 100% wool so it doesn’t wrinkle. And it lasts — I had several suits that I wore for 4 or 5 years.

    Later I worked for another company that started out coat&tie but then laziness crept in. It started with “casual Friday”, which initially meant every other Friday, and you positively could not wear jeans. Then it became casual every Friday, then casual every day, then they gave up on jeans. I had one of those “A-Ha!” moments when I realized the people working for the service who came in to take care of the potted plants were dressed better than the so-called “professionals” — they all wore nice khaki slacks and company polo shirts. Meanwhile the professional programmers making way more money were wearing jeans and T-shirts.

    There are jobs for which jeans (even with holes in them) and T-shirts are perfectly appropriate — pumping out septic tanks for example. But I like earning a professional salary while doing nothing more strenuous than sitting in an office chair tapping on a keyboard, and I have no problem dressing to a higher standard than people who pump septic tanks. And consequently I have come to dislike the current corporate culture that says dress doesn’t matter.

    On a recent flight while making getting to my seat in tourist class I passed through the first class section and was actually offended to find one man sitting in first class wearing blue jeans with holes at the knees. What’s the point of having money when you look like another homeless guy? Would it kill him to wear at least a decent pair of slacks which you can get at Walmart for $20? If you’re going to pay for first class airfare, you won’t even notice the price of a new pair of slacks.

    And I am really offended when I see people wearing jeans, or shorts, or flip-flops to the Symphony. The musicians are wearing proper concert attire and bringing decades of dedicated study and practice to the performance. The least the audience can do is shave and dress up a bit.

    Speaking of which, what is this look guys have of not shaving for three days? If you want to grow a beard, grow a proper one and keep it neatly trimmed. Otherwise please shave daily. Are there any women out there who actually find guys with the three-day growth attractive? I absolutely don’t understand it. If guys are going to spend hours at the gym every week to get those wonderfully toned abs, why can’t they spend 5 minutes each morning getting a clean shave?

    I see I’m starting to babble. But at least I’m babbling while clean-shaven and wearing clean khaki slacks and a nice Hawaiian shirt.

  19. As a recently retired software engineer, I find this whole “dress up” stuff to be a pain. I don’t know where it came from, but I detest dressing up. And, I had a very successful career wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts to work (except when presenting to customers). Frankly, I think good Hawaiian shirts look a lot nicer than “dressing up.” And, here in the Arizona desert, they’re a lot more comfortable.

    The idea that a professional is somehow defined by his dress is just wrong. A professional is someone who applies professional skills and standards to his work.

    All that aside, I do tire of the relentless conformity of Silicon Valley CEO’s. In that regard, Zuckerberg is a bit of fresh air – he doesn’t wear the uniform of tight black T-shirts, etc. Silicon Valley is a place where people imagine that they are rebels and non-conformists, but they all dress the same.

  20. Briggs you are jealous. 😉

  21. John,

    Zuckerberg is a bit of fresh air – he doesn’t wear the uniform of tight black T-shirts, etc.

    There was only one Steve Jobs. Both pale in comparison to Woz, who was an archetypal hacker in the genuine sense of the word.

    Silicon Valley is a place where people imagine that they are rebels and non-conformists, but they all dress the same.

    Seen on facebook recently, “Hipster peer pressure: no one is doing it.” It hasn’t completely overrun the Valley. There are still funky old-school hardware guys in the biz. Probably my favorite character among the semi-known is Dave Needle, the lead hardware guy for the tragically unsuccessful Commodore Amiga (and later, Atari Lynx). See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nesWip4Nft0

  22. Sheri,

    I do understand that to actually get a dress code to work, all employers in the field would have to go along or the programmers that won’t wear ties and suits can just go elsewhere.

    Coding is not an activity for formal attire. Comfortable loose-fitting clothing is a programmer’s best friend. Neckties cut off essential blood-flow, and make freely gulping down Mountain Dew and Doritos a real chore, especially in the wee hours of the morning. That’s not to say I’d show up for work in shorts and flip-flops, I do adhere to a certain amount of traditional professionalism in dress, especially for work that takes me out of the Bay Area.

  23. In my narrow field, at least ( a particular branch of engineering, and a specific application area within that branch ), the dress-to-perceived-competence correlation became inverted many years ago. Fine by me. I have no social skills to speak of, and when I have attempted to dress up for some occasion, I look ridiculous (as informed by others). What is that famous Abraham Lincoln quote? “Better to dress down and be thought a nerd than to dress up and remove all doubt.”

    Vaguely related, it has been perhaps the hardest disappointment of my life that my competence is not judged by how much money I make for my employer, but rather by a myriad of other much more visible characteristics and behaviors. Granted, my competence or lack thereof isn’t fully revealed until a year after I finish a project, which itself took a year to develop. What is my boss supposed to judge me on during those two years? My past projects? My bosses on those projects got promoted to other departments. I find that the less competent my manager is, the more intensely I am scrutinized on irrelevancies. I blame this on stress – they are assigned responsibilities they have no real influence over – their future is basically in our hands (mine and my fellow project team members).

    And yes, I realize that the solution is obvious (starting my own business).

  24. Okay, let’s try this in caps: I DID NOT SAY PROGRAMMERS NEED TO WEAR TIES. My objection to dressing down is that people who dress like adolescents tend to act like adolescents. If the claim is that programmers are adolescents and cannot be expected to behave like adults, then I see no problem with their dress. Removing the line between adults and children’s dressing and janitors and CEO dressing does not improve society. It merely reinforces the 60’s “We are spoiled children, cater to us” ideology, which I loathed. No good ever came of it.

    Now, for emphasis: I DID NOT SAY WEAR TIES.

  25. In my decades of engineering and software experience, I have not found dress to be correlated with either ability or productivity.

    ” My objection to dressing down is that people who dress like adolescents tend to act like adolescents. ”

    Huh? How do you define “dress like adolescents?” By that, do you mean not wearing a tie, or whuh?

  26. Okay—i am done with this. You are simply making my point. How many times have I typed and typed and typed THIS DOES NOT MEAN WEARING A TIE. Dressing down seems to affect one’s comprehension, making this pointless.

  27. Zuckerberg doesn’t dress like a bum to me. Maybe the bums in NYC dress better than those in Palo Alto and around where I live.

    I don’t think that the suits and ties I wore during grades 7 to 12 had made me a smarter or better person. They made mine and my mom’s life easier. No worries about what to wear. Easy choice, i.e., no choice.

    We had to buy our uniform suits from certain vendors, so, no brand name comparisons here. Yet, my classmates could always find something else to compare with each other, e.g., who wears what shoes or what watch brands. That’s how it goes, I guess. If it is not one thing, it’s another.

    Zuckerberg can afford to dress anyway he wants! Some people cannot because their livelihood may depend on how they dress.

  28. Sheri,

    Dressing down seems to affect one’s comprehension, making this pointless.

    Sander first brought up ties. You responded to it by saying, “we can skip the tie.” At issue here is what constitutes “dressing down”. It varies from person to person (obviously) and has changed over time. What many would think of as a modest one-piece female bathing suit today would have been decried as immorally offensive on the beaches of the 1800s. A thong bikini back then would likely have created an even worse row than the original bikini did in the 1950s.

    In the same way, you saying to a crowd of 1940s computer engineers “we can skip the tie” might have earned a sterner response than, “My objection to dressing down is that people who dress like adolescents tend to act like adolescents.” At the time, adolescent boys were well-advised to wear a tie when picking up someone’s daughter for a normal date:

    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/88db088fd3bb43cf.html

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the hat and jacket were nearly as essential.

    I get what you’re saying about thumbing one’s nose at prevailing societal conventions. Yet if it weren’t for women who did just that in the 1920s when the pantsuit debuted, you would likely still be “required” to wear a dress no matter where you went in public. And speaking of wearing dresses to work:

    http://www.rollcall.com/features/50th-Anniversary_2005/fifty_anniversary/-9592-1.html

    Pantsuits not allowed on the Senate floor until 1993! Perhaps some of the good-old boys were still smarting from the fact that 1920 not only ushered in the pantsuit, but womens’ right to vote. Talk about uppity “adolescent” women who don’t know their place!

    Not all cultural revolutions turn out well to be sure. But “eccentric” programmers wearing shorts and flip-flops to work would be pretty low on my list of threats to a decent and moral society. For one thing, the graft and corruption in Congress is a far worse problem in my mind … and their de facto dress code is certainly higher than google’s.

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