The uniform of power

The uniform of power

By wearing jeans and a black turtleneck blazer, Steve Jobs managed to put the image of Apple above his own.

By Lorena Hebé Moreno

People dress every morning for success: they choose within a full closet the bag with the neatest garment, the blouse that best suits their skin tone, the tie that highlights their eyes, the rings that reveal status, the portfolio that sets them apart from the rest. All of this is part of a ritual that projects what they really want: power, wisdom and the ability to lead their teams.

On the other hand, others simply their uniform every morning and go out to conquer the world. And no, I am not referring to bankers or high school students – although the principle is the same – but to the pioneers of information and technology, the most powerful people on the planet, the most creative minds.

Experts in nonverbal communication and image agree that the clothes, the colors that are chosen, and the accessories that are added are signs that compose and send a message. Thus, dark suits combined with blouses or white shirts project authority, while the clearer garments reveal accessibility in a person. In these cases, the image is based only on the person. But when you have reached a level where the project and goals are bigger than the character, new strategies must emerge.According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple´s CEO, Steve Jobs, Steve always wore jeans and a black turtleneck blazer to convey a definite style and forget the complications.

The idea came to the Apple founder in the 1980s when he traveled to Japan and noticed that all Sony employees wore a uniform. Aiko Morita, president of the company, explained to him that after the war, people did not have clothes to wear, so Sony gave them apparel that over time became the company´s trademark and a tool to link employees with the brand. As the attire became part of the company’s features, Sony hired the famous designer Issey Miyake to craft the official uniforms; soon enough, Steve Jobs became his friend, and this friendship converted into Miyake making him one-hundred black high-necked jerseys, which he used until the last day of his life.

Although Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg does not have a head designer making his custom t-shirts to which he has us used to; although it is clear he has a weakness for gray t-shirts and straight jeans, which have also become his personal hallmark.

To both geniuses of technology, style allowed them to put the image of their brand above their own without forgetting their principals and achieving two important goals in terms of public image:

First, they managed to be easily locatable and relatable for the audience by looking the same every day, in all contexts and scenarios. Jobs’ turtleneck sweater is almost as identifiable as the apple of his brand, and a simple silhouette of him shows, unmistakably, that the picture is about of the greatest CEO´s of all time.

In addition, both figures have managed to project the idea that the brand is more important than its creator, all the while presenting products with impeccable finishes, advanced technology and capable of improving the lives of millions of people around the world while showing an image of ordinary, everyday people. That is a powerful message: what is inside is much more valuable than what you can see on the outside.

For other personalities such as Angela Merkel, who have adopted a uniform style, wearing straight black pants combined with blazers of all possible colors, short hair and barely combed, and a soft makeup, is what works for The Prime Minister of Germany. By analyzing this, the most powerful woman in the world has much more to project than a pretty face or elegant attire. She is very aware of being a powerful woman and that her project for Germany goes beyond her personal image, although she does not neglect it, but prefers focusing on empowering her country than her public attire.

We must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about creative and authority gained personalities based on their achievements. Betting on a uniform image must come along with a powerful essence, a concrete project, and tangible results to project credibility.

 

  • Lorena Hebé Moreno is an image consultant, journalist, and passionate for knowledge. She likes challenging projects, a good conversation and music.