It’s good to be back from Switzerland, refreshed and inspired, to see my name in the NY Times. Even while on a long holiday break, life around us and our life’s work keeps going, with or without us. Apple became the first company in history to become worth one trillion dollars. I turned 49. And Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth ballooned to upwards of 150 billion dollars. The spotlight shines on companies and individuals that are worth so much, sometimes harshly, and at other times brightly. This recent news cycle about high tech companies and individuals garnered another piece of news. Guess who got anointed a style icon? The New York Times’ style editor, Vanessa Friedman, declared Jeff Bezos a style icon.
While enjoying a marvelous holiday in Switzerland, I received a communiqué from Vanessa Friedman. She reached out to me for comment about Jeff Bezos and his personal style. News about his extreme wealth has thrust him into the kind of spotlight that is both harsh and bright. It’s that kind of attention that makes him a style icon. Obviously, it was time to talk about Jeff Bezos’ personal style.And who better to call than me, right?
It’s playful to say that because, though well-regarded as the go-to high-tech personal style strategist from my many years working in Silicon Valley, I was off the grid. In Switzerland, I use a Swiss SIM card, which means that I have a Swiss phone number. However, I only use data and communicate via email and social media. No text messages and no phone calls. That’s all tied to my California phone number. Vanessa had to persist in finding me.
That day, my better half and I took a circuitous but gorgeous series of train rides from Zermatt to Gstaad. After we transferred ourselves and our bags to the final train, we settled in and enjoyed the gorgeous views. As I’ve seen these stunning views several times before, I opted to take a moment to check my email. Turns out that, based on the time stamp of her email, I could tell that Vanessa had just emailed me. I wrote back immediately, alerting that I’d call her using WhatsApp.
So while meandering on the Glacier Express, with about fifteen minutes to spare before arriving in Gstaad, Vanessa interviewed me. We talked about Jeff Bezos and his apparent personal style transformation from that “90’s guy” look. Pleated khakis and billowy dress shirts, over time, gave way to a much more fashion-forward and body conscious physical appearance. From head to toe, his transformation is easily apparent. He shaved his head Mr. Clean bald, bulked up his body with obvious strength training, and wears razor sharp clothes.
According to Joseph Rosenfeld, a personal style adviser who specializes in the tech world in Silicon Valley and New York, and whose clients work at companies like Apple, Intuit and Google, “he (Jeff Bezos) is doing something with style that differentiates him from any one else in tech. We have seen him sharpen up, with a wardrobe rooted in tradition but also very modernist and minimal. It creates a focus on him, and has evolved in accordance with his business.”
I posited that this metamorphosis of his personal grooming, physical discipline, and fashion sense reflects the growth of his businesses. Bezos is no longer just a high-tech guy. In fact, more and more, people previously seen and known as high-tech this-or-that actually use high-tech to do other things. Bezos is now into selling fashion on Amazon. He no longer needs to look like he wants to sell us all books. He also owns the Washington Post. So, he’s a prominent publisher with a point-of-view. He’s also a key entertainment figurehead, producing some of the most critically acclaimed – and popular – on-demand programming of our time. And then, in his spare time, he has an interest in space exploration.
As his businesses have grown and his interests have diversified, more than his wealth has ballooned. He has become somebody that he was not beforehand. And it shows in his style. Still, I’m not so sure that getting anointed a style icon is so meaningful. Icons are widely recognized, which Bezos is, but not for his style per se.
People recognize him for what he has and for his position. But do we really know so much about him just to look at him? I think he turns out a solid appearance nearly all the time. But, is he distinctive looking? Maybe so, if compared to other luminary tech founders. But, I have firsthand experience of seeing people take on an air of distinction. He gets a lot right. But, he could do even better. You can read the NYT article here https://nyti.ms/2MCY0OK:
After a couple of days in Gstaad, we returned to Zürich. Right off the train in Zürich’s main station, I nearly ran to the bookstore I know there that sells all of the international papers. I knew the story was out, because people who saw the article were pinging me on Facebook Messenger and email. I wanted to see the article in print. To my dismay, the international edition of The New York Times did have a style page that day, but did not include that article. So, I had to find the article in the new-fashioned way: online. But you can read the article here.
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