In the early 1980s an-up-and-coming CEO was on a visit to Japan to meet with Akio Morita, the co-founder and chairman of Sony.
The purpose of the visit was to discuss business, but Steve Jobs didn’t just want to meet with the people at the top. He was known for visiting random departments in order to get a genuine feel for the company culture. Jobs was eager to learn from Sony and to implement elements of their success into his own company, which had only recently gone public in 1980.
One thing that stood out to Jobs was that everyone in Sony’s factories wore uniforms. Ever curious and attentive to details, Jobs asked Morita about the uniformity. Morita explained that after the second world war, people didn’t have clothing and companies like Sony had to provide their employees with something to wear. Over time, uniforms developed unique styles and bonds between employees and their company.
“I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple," Jobs recalls in his biography by Walter Isaacson.
He thought a uniform would give employees at Apple a sense of pride and identity like Sony had created. New heights of achievement would be on the horizon for Apple, which would be more than a company. More than a job.
Jobs met with Issey Miyake, who designed the Sony uniforms to create something similar for Apple. Miyake developed some sample designs for Jobs to take back to California.
“I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests,” said Jobs. “Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea."
Despite the humiliation, inspiration stuck with Jobs, and he went back to Miyake to design a personal uniform that he would eventually become known for. He wanted something for the convenience of not deciding what to wear every day, and something that would convey his signature simple style.
This also helped to launch Miyake into international fashion designer stardom, and the iconic black turtleneck became a signature look for many prominent tech entrepreneurs for decades. The turtleneck trend more or less ended with Elizabeth Holmes, the infamous ex-CEO of Theranos, but adopting uniform simplicity has been a trend that countless tech entrepreneurs have embraced--often in the form of a T-shirt.
ARE YOU A MINIMALIST FASHIONISTA LIKE STEVE JOBS?
For some, rocking a plain black top is a welcome relief from making trivial decisions about what to wear. For others, a single color every single day sounds like it’s a little TOO uniform. Maybe you want to simplify your wardrobe like Steve Jobs, but with a twist of character. Maybe your color is blue, maybe you like green to represent the green movement we’re advancing with Classic T-shirts, in any case our high-quality T-shirts come in many different colors and you can streamline your wardrobe however you like. The color is not so important as the quality and simplicity of your T-shirt.
The color of blue jeans that Steve Jobs was known to wear will pair well with any color and style of T-shirt you can think of, but you can’t just wear any T-shirt to work or you might give the wrong impression. You want to be comfortable but not too casual. You want to be stylish without showing off. You strike that balance with a high quality T-shirt: sleek, simple, and clean with a perfect fit.
Bear in mind that not all T-shirts are made equal. It’s important to be mindful of the impact your purchase has on the planet and your health. If you buy cheap T-shirts, you are likely supporting an unethical business model that exploits resources and people to make something that’s meant to be disposable. The chemicals used to artificially grow, soften, and color cheap T-shirts can irritate your skin and contaminate other clothes in the wash.
It’s worth investing in something better.
But there’s no need to make an excessive investment like Steve Jobs arguably did. In the book, Jobs said he was given hundreds of Miyake’s $175 shirts so that they could last him a lifetime. It’s not clear if Jobs was exaggerating about the quantity, but in any case, we want to emphasize that building a minimalist wardrobe means investing less quantity and more quality. Rather than buying hundreds of shirts, invest in a few that are made to last.
Seriously, don’t buy 100 of our T-shirts all at once. We’d be happy to sell out of T-shirts but only as long as everyone has a fair shot to get one. Part of the reason we’re in business is to disrupt the fast-fashion model where companies overproduce T-shirts, offer seasonal clearance sales, and end up throwing out whatever doesn’t sell. We refuse to offer seasonal discounts on principle. While seasonal discounts can be an effective strategy companies can use to clear out inventory, they’re awful for the planet and that’s why we have taken the pledge to never participate in them. Instead, we make T-shirts that don’t expire and keep them on the shelf until they sell.
Learn more about seasonal discounts and why they’re bad for the planet.
HOW MANY T-SHIRTS BELONG IN A MINIMALIST WARDROBE?
The amount of high-quality T-shirts one should own will vary from person to person, so the decision is entirely up to you. Our only recommendation is that you make 100% of your T-shirts 100% sustainable.
Otherwise, don’t take minimalist wardrobes too literally! Minimalism does not mean throwing everything out except for one or two outfits. It means simplifying your style for convenience and benefit. It means buying less and investing more.
Many of our customers like to have enough Classic T-shirts so that they will always have enough clean pairs to wear throughout the week before washing. Therefore starting with 3-5 T-shirts might be a great place to start. You can mix it up with crew neck T-shirts and V-neck shirts, short sleeve and long sleeve, and in as many or as few colors you like.
Black, white, and grey T-shirts are essentials for any wardrobe because of their versatility and ability to look good on any body type and any skin tone. Dark grey and navy blue are also very versatile colors that will work for anyone.
Other colors tend to work better depending on the season and what you wear them with, so you might like to have a collection of T-shirts for summer and another for fall in addition to your year-round T-shirt options.
One thing that might surprise you is that a long sleeve high quality cotton T-shirt can actually keep you cool in the summer as well as warm in the winter. According to Harvard studies, the color doesn’t matter for beating the heat as much as the quality of fabric and airflow it provides. For style purposes, light colors usually work better in summer and warm weather, but there are exceptions to every rule and ways to pull off all sorts of outfits. Check out style guides for women and men to find out more
Challenging Tradition with a High-Quality T-Shirt
Wearing one of our luxury T-shirts won’t exactly turn you into a Steve Jobs, you will have to accomplish that on your own.
But our soft cotton T-shirts will give you an undeniable edge from the rest. These T-shirts will set you apart as a person of style and individuality–something that a Steve Jobs will recognize on sight.
In the 1980s Steve Jobs was challenging tradition by not wearing a suit and tie. Whether it was speaking or a business meeting, he never compromised on his own style. We’re not here to tell anyone what to wear, but we do encourage you to embrace your own style and be the best version of yourself.
It’s not as bold of a move to wear a T-shirt to work today as it would have been in Steve Jobs’s time, but it is a bold move nevertheless. In terms of business casual, luxury T-shirts have recently begun to make their breakthrough in the corporate and business worlds but it’s still quite a fine line to toe.
On the surface, quality makes the difference between sloppy and chic. With a high thread count and made with organic cotton, Classic T-shirts check those boxes. But that’s just what’s on the surface. If you’re going to try to pull off wearing a T-shirt to work, we need to go deeper.
How do you really make it work?
In that sense, it’s not what you wear but why you’re wearing it.
Sometimes fashion is about making a statement, and wearing a Classic T-shirt makes many statements all at once:
- You value your appearance
- You value sustainability
- You make good investments to create a better lifestyle
- You believe the people who make your clothes deserve a fair wage
- You believe in creating a better world with the brands you support
- You believe in wearing something that makes sense.
CREATE CONSISTENCY WITH A MINIMALIST WARDROBE
Jobs was consistently seen sporting the sweaters at public events, during his presentations, and also in private. He lived, breathed, and wore his brand–literally.
What enabled him to do that is the versatility of his outfit, starting with black, the most neutral color. Right off the bat, you can pair a solid black top with any color bottom, and the simpler the material and texture of the design, the more versatility your top can offer.
Similarly, denim jeans are perhaps the most versatile clothing you can wear around your waist, and this makes denim jeans an obvious match for any T-shirt. Turtlenecks and sweaters also pair quite well with jeans, but in hotter months and climates, the outfit would look a bit out of place, not to mention uncomfortable
A short sleeve crewneck would be our recommended alternative, but Steve Jobs liked his sleeves long and would roll them up to keep comfortable. The rolled up sleeve look works really well in summer aesthetically and also comes in handy for when the air conditioner is cranked up a little too high.
Steve Jobs alternated between sweaters and turtlenecks, but you could take consistency even further. In theory, no matter where you lived, you could fill your wardrobe with the exact same type of T-shirt or V-neck and wear that model year-round, adding layers as needed to keep yourself warm in winter.
In any case, the lesson to learn from Steve Jobs’s style is versatility, which gives you options if not consistency. You could reserve wearing your Classic T-shirts for certain functions, and those functions could range from serious workouts to lounging around the house and getting a good night’s sleep. Or both. The important thing is not that you wear a certain color T-shirt all the time, but that you’re comfortable.
CREATE YOUR OWN SIGNATURE LOOK WITH QUALITY T-SHIRTS
A minimalist wardrobe is more than just environmental sustainability, it’s also about convenience and efficiency in your lifestyle. It’s about making a statement of your beliefs and values. It’s about investing in a better future for yourself and the planet.
If the Steve Jobs style speaks to you, consider a more modern version by changing the turtle neck to a V-neck. And don’t be afraid to accessorize the look--luxury T-shirts work fine on their own but are also great with jackets, cardigans, shirts, and jewelry.
The important thing is to make sure whatever you wear is authentic to you. We can borrow inspiration from all sorts of styles from all sorts of celebrities and leaders, past and present, but the future ultimately depends on you.
Don’t wait to see what a wardrobe for success can look like for you. The time to create it is now.