What entrepreneurs wear matters. Clothing choices and personal style can say a great deal about the person and how they view their audience. And, with entrepreneurs getting more and more of our social and media attention, what entrepreneurs wear influences culture and fashion.
About a year and half ago, Barbie became an entrepreneur, Banana Republic launched a clothing line designed around a startup look and a company, inspired by Steve Jobs, started selling only black v-necks. Then, I wrote about entrepreneur fashion culture. In that September, 2014 column, I wrote, "In entrepreneur culture, it became perfectly acceptable to don a hoodie and ironic t-shirt to board meeting or to pitch investors" and I asked, "Do we now expect startup entrepreneurs to wear the 'uniform'?"
At the time, I was kidding about there being an entrepreneurship uniform. But maybe I should not have been because now there is one. The hoodie and ironic t-shirt look that tech entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg have made iconic has become the official uniform of entrepreneurs--The Entrepreneur Hoodie.
As you'd expect, The Entrepreneur Hoodie is branded with a fancy embroidered logo and comes in both a standard navy blue ($48) and a limited, grey "founder" variety ($60) with the exclusive designation stitched on the left arm.
What makes the entrepreneur hoodie different, though, aside from the clever branding, is that the company is dedicating a portion of their gross sales (about 10%) to non-profit organizations that teach entrepreneurship to under-served students.
"We want to be clear that the hoodie isn't some college relic, worn by guys who don't own anything else. With The Entrepreneur Hoodie, it can be a proud statement of self-reliance and innovation and helping next-generation entrepreneurs," said Elena Titova, the young New York entrepreneur behind the hoodie.
She is clearly banking on the idea that her fellow entrepreneurs are socially generous when it comes to entrepreneurship and that perhaps wearing a hoodie that doesn't give back in some way will become less accepted. I'm sure the non-profit groups that teach entrepreneurship hope that happens too.
Either way, it's clear that The Entrepreneur Hoodie represents a shift in entrepreneur fashion and status--moving the conversation from what a hoodie says about the wearer to what the wearer is doing for others. The hoodie, at least for entrepreneurs, may shift from the ultimate symbol of "I don't care" to the must-have, "I do care" entrepreneurship cred.
If it hits, The Entrepreneur Hoodie could usher in a new era of office culture and business attire. As a founder of several businesses, it is rare for me to walk into any meeting wearing a suit and tie, not because I don't have any, but because it simply is not done that way anymore.
Boardrooms are no longer filled with old men in starched suits, but rather a group of laid-back millennials--most of whom will be wearing a sport coat and jeans, if not a hoodie. What will it say when one or more of those laid-back types essentially advertise their investment in young people? What will it say when others at the same table don't?
Not that teaching youth entrepreneurship is the only worthy cause for startup celebs and entrepreneurs--it's absolutely not. But whatever causes they choose to embrace, it just doesn't make sense for young, confident business swashbucklers to be shy about it. Whatever they do, they should do it with pride and style.
That's exactly right. After all, everyone in entrepreneur culture knows that one of the worst things you can do is struggle with projecting their identity. A lack of confidence hurts more than anything. This includes confidence in your appearance and what it says about you and the situation.
An entrepreneur in a suit and tie who lacks confidence will not go nearly as far as a casually dressed entrepreneur who proudly displays their brand. If you're going to rock a hoodie, wearing something like The Entrepreneur Hoodie is a perfect way to show pride in yourself as well as your work. Never apologize for your brand; it is everything in today's startup world.