Who would have thought, as 2012 dawned, that a piece of cotton could become so political?
First, of course, there was the shock of the Trayvon Martin case, where a Florida teen clad in the offending garment -- and carrying nothing but soda and Skittles -- was shot to death by a man who took one look at Martin's garb and thought him suspicious.
Suddenly, it seemed, wearing a hoodie was the most controversial statement you could make -- one that cut across lines of age and race. Youths participated in hoodie marches, demanding justice and an end to profiling. Rep. Bobby Rush wore one on the floor of the House of Representatives in solidarity with Martin, and was booted off for doing so. Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera urged teens not to wear them, then backed down in the wake of stinging criticism from his own son.
Now, less than two months later, it's Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who is making a cultural statement with his hoodie. And he isn't about to back down. Perhaps without realizing it, Zuck has stepped into the vanguard of a wider cultural war -- one of young against old, Silicon Valley against Wall Street.
As numerous outlets have reported, Zuck wore the hoodie -- his signature garment -- to several meetings with large banks and other institutional investors this week.
Was that a problem? It was for at least one of those investors. Analyst Michael Pachter of the firm Wedbush Securities, who is generally bullish on Facebook stock, went on Bloomberg TV to complain about Zuckerberg's attire. He suggested it spoke of immaturity, and went on to state that Facebook would do better without Zuck as the CEO.
Pachter, responding to criticism across the blogosphere, has since clarified his statements. He wears a hoodie too, he has said, on occasion, out of the office. He just thinks that when you're presenting to bankers, you wear a jacket as a mark of respect. He pointed out that Zuck wore a suit to meet the President last year (ignoring the fact that Steve Jobs, seated on the other side of Obama, was proudly displaying his signature Jobs gear -- black turtleneck and jeans.)
Interestingly, Pachter thinks it would have been okay had Zuck worn a jacket, a T-shirt and jeans. How times change. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt would have prevented you from getting a loan in a bank in 1972, let alone presenting to its top investors. Can we assume, then, that stuffy Wall Street types will routinely wear hoodies to work by 2042?
Clearly, there is a culture clash at work here. On Wall Street, clothes still maketh the man. I get that. (As I write these words, I'm wearing a suit for the purpose of a panel discussion later in the day). But that doesn't make suit-wearing the dominant culture.
In Silicon Valley, nobody cares about what you wear. They care about how good your code is. Who's to say they're wrong, or that they shouldn't take that ethos with them when they travel?
By sticking to his hoodie -- and we hope he does -- Zuck is indeed sending a signal. Not that he doesn't care about big investors, or else he wouldn't be there. But simply that he isn't going to change who he is, or what Facebook is.
The company has a proud hacker culture, as is clear to anyone who visits its new headquarters. Employees are not only encouraged to wear what they please, they're encouraged to "hack their space" and graffiti on the walls.
Wedbush Securities should be glad that Zuck refrained from taking a sharpie to their conference room, at least. And perhaps it's time for them -- and investors like them -- to show a little respect to the hoodie generation, and the massive, interlocking virtual world of social media it has managed to build.
What's your take on Hoodiegate? Let us know in the comments.
Facebook HQ. You Like This
The company is now completely moved out of its Palo Alto pad, and into the much more spacious Menlo Park facility it broke ground on last year.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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