Digital Duds

Do you think it’s a bad thing to stick out like a poop in a punchbowl?
How do you know you aren’t the poop in the punchbowl?

There are uniforms in plain sight even if they don’t seem like the standard bill of fare. Like this: H&M’s newest line of clothes struck me as a reflection of our idea of a computer-savvy person’s clothes. The threads are based on the flick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I really, really like a lot of these pieces. But, do I like them because I fancy myself a part of digital culture and I’m buying into a “lifestyle?” (Which reminds me, I need to go and renew my subscription to Dork Fancy magazine.)

HM DRAGONOr, do I like them because I genuinely appreciate their style?
While I doubt women are going to walk around completely dressed in Lisbeth regalia, we may soon see elements of the look in our everyday lives. It’s just one of the most recent examples of television and movies simultaneously influencing and reflecting wired worker style.

Space 1999
One of my earliest memories of people banging out bits and bytes came from Space 1999.
NO SPACE IN MY CROTCHThese jumpsuit-esque outfits were pretty indicative of how people in the ‘70s predicted computer careerists would dress. So practical and yet so unbeleiveably unbecoming to either sex.

The ‘80s brought advances in computing and with them came changes in our ideas about how a digitally-inclined person would look.
Well, kinda.

We didn’t completely shake off the crazy flattering and oh-so-elegant jumpsuit thing as Tron so helpfully pointed out.

Electric Dreams
But, we got closer to reality with Electric Dreams.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner
veered back into the futuristic look and imagined Eldon Tyrell as a genius robot creator with a flair for white tie events and Coke bottle glasses.


Weird Science
Geek culture edged its way further onto the big screen with Weird Science. Keep an eye on Anthony Michael Hall, there. He’s going to make another appearance.


Max Headroom
An emphasis on the younger and more casually dressed folks again here with Max Headroom. Max Headroom, the computer animated character, actually gained more exposure than the show ever did through his shilling of the wonderfully textbook product flop, New Coke. So, maybe that explains why we aren’t all walking around with what appeared to be a plastic suit.
This is Bryce, the keyboard jockey.
Bring on the ‘90s and the grunge look that pretty much passed the geek chic look by. A good bit of current fashion seems to pass a lot of digital types by, actually. While we may not have seen a grunge look, we saw some other styles that became pretty aspirational.

The Lawnmower Man
Behold The Lawnmower Man. We saw lingering jumpsuit junk (did you see what I did there?) but also the entrance of a more rough-and-tumble look with the leather jacket.

Johnny Mnuemonic
Here’s the first inkling that Keaunu Reeves would be someone to watch (at least for his digital duds) in Johnny Mnuemonic.

The Net
America’s sweetheart took a stab at being a cyber siren when Sandra Bullock did a lot of typing and looking like she was under the impression she could alleviate those hemorrhoids if she made pained faces at the monitor. The Net didn’t really break that much ground in terms of new outfits. But this time, the lead was a woman. THAT was something different.

The Matrix
Keanu made another appearance and this one was an iconic one, Baby. These clothes were the full-on computers are cool couture in The Matrix.

Another code jockey showed up on the silver screen when we saw Jennifer Jason Leigh as a game creator in eXistenZ. She’s sporting a black sleeveless T-shirt and jeans that could be the uniform of anyone. Although, if I recall, she worked at home. A more realistic look would have been jammies until about 10 a.m. and then a switch to yoga pants if she was feeling particularly motivated. Again, though, it’s a gal and I liked when the looks were channeled into a woman.


Pirates of Silicon Valley
In 1999 Moonbase Alpha didn’t pull away from the earth, but we got a pretty good reflection of the godfathers of the computer age in Pirates of Silicon Valley. Note Anthony Michael Hall here as Bill Gates. That’s Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs. We saw a schism of sorts in the computer dress code. The Gates character embodied the nose-to-the-grindstone COBOL cruncher and the Jobs character foreshadowed a bigger emphasis on design and the beginning of the Web’s entrenchment in our everyday lives.

And, that brings us to the current century. We can’t go a day without going online and for most of us that includes social media.

The Social Network
Hiya, Zuck.
The Social Network
and the hoodie. ‘Nuff said.


It may seem like this is a fairly trivial jaunt down memory lane. But, the truth is, if you’re someone peddling digital wares (including your own skills), you need to take note of this stuff.

Picture a meeting with a traditional business group and you’re the fifth company to present. Are they going to give you the contract if you are decked out in all your Armani three-piece Wall Street finery?
Or, is the contract going to go to the gal dressed with elements of the H&M line?

So, I ask you: Are you the poop in the punchbowl?



6 responses to “Digital Duds

  1. Interesting post! I am of the mindset that what I wear shouldn’t matter, so long as I bring the “right” skillz to the table. HOWEVER, I had an epiphany this morning as I donned my Express rouched dress, Express leggings and Express earrings/bracelet (good God, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid)… dressing the part earns me more respect – because people can tell that my head is in the game, in the culture, in the minds of our consumers. It’s like in “The Devil Wears Prada” when Anne Hathaway begins putting more effort into her appearance and wearing designer duds to the office. ONLY THEN was she regarded with any degree of seriousness.

    Kinda sucks, but that’s the game!

    • Well, heck, Carolyn, if that’s the uniform that is working for you, I’m jealous. Who doesn’t love Express clothes?
      I guess one of the things we haven’t really figured out with the digital look is just what is the digital look.
      You’re so right. You need to dress the part to be taken seriously.
      The one thing I do know is that the digital look is not a formal suit that you’d see a banker wearing. It seems so counterintuitive to trust a serious business person more if they are wearing a hoodie or have tattoos, but that’s really what our pop culture is telling us.
      It’ll be interesting to see if The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo really takes hold and again influences what we think a tech-savvy person looks like.

  2. But. But. But…I need to worry about what I *wear*?! I’m going to stick with standard schtick of, “I’m an analytics guy…if I looked like I had a clue as to how to dress appropriately, how much credibility would I have, really?”

    Fascinating post, though!

  3. Love it and love the reference to Electric Dreams….one of my all time favs! I like to hit the middle road….dark jeans with a dress shirt and black framed glasses….as the ex corporate guy who is finally dressing down + it makes me look smarter than I am…and we all know that I’m not the brightest bulb in the box..++ I have way too many dress shirts and I’m to lazy (with 2 boys under 2) to shop for a new look!

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