Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg: Does it matter that he wears a hoodie?

Six images of Mark Zuckerberg (Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg has been criticised for wearing a hoodie to a major business presentation. But should this be a problem?

People probably think they know what business people wear on business. For the women, dark suits. For the men, dark suits. Ties.

Occasional flamboyance is allowed in certain sectors. Finance whizz-kids in the 1980s took to wearing red braces.

But the code is normally formal.

These are not the rules that billionaire and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg subscribes to.

This week he was criticised for wearing a black hooded top to presentations to talk up Facebook's floatation, its first major sale of shares.

"Mark and his signature hoodie: He's actually showing investors he doesn't care that much; he's going to be him," analyst Michael Pachter told Bloomberg TV. "I think that's a mark of immaturity."

There have been plenty of pundits rushing to his defence. They have noted that with the floatation potentially valuing Facebook as high as $100bn (£62bn), Zuckerberg must have been concentrating on something other than dressing snappily.

So in the world of tech start-ups, can people dress however they like?

Start Quote

Steve Jobs wore the black roll-neck and terrible dad jeans and awful tennis shoes”

End Quote Alex Bilmes Esquire

Richard Anton, partner at technology venture capital firm Amadeus and former chairman of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, encounters many entrepreneurs in "jeans, T-shirt, ponytail".

"We have had people wearing sandals," he notes.

But the key thing is the business.

"The people we back are always visionaries - really hard working, very switched on.

"The last entrepreneur I backed always wears jeans and a T-shirt to meetings. The previous one wears a suit and tie."

And the defenders of Zuckerberg have noted there is method behind his scruffy dress. His trademark black hoodie is in fact a piece of Facebook merchandise. It displays in grey the three logos for "friend requests", "messages" and "notifications".

He's also been photographed a number of times wearing a similarly logoed grey T-shirt.

And Steve Jobs is a source of inspiration.

Although he initially wore a variety of outfits including suits, a Jobs product launch came to be associated with his trademark black roll-neck jumper, blue jeans and white trainers.

Some even called the look "iconic".

It could be argued Zuckerberg is doing the same with the black hoodie.

Six images of Steve Jobs (Getty Images) Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs did not always wear the famous black roll-neck

"In a sense his hoodie is part of his personal brand and that is part of Facebook's brand. A lot of users know who he is," says Esquire editor Alex Bilmes.

"Steve Jobs didn't wear a suit. He wore the black roll-neck and terrible dad jeans and awful tennis shoes. That didn't stop him being possibly the great business brain and entrepreneur of our time."

It might even be reassuring for investors that Zuckerberg stays true to his roots as a creator, rather than appearing like every other suited business person.

"Creatives are often forgiven for their lackadaisical dress. If you are a mad genius you don't have time to worry about matching your tie in the morning," says Bilmes.

And a sense of difference, in dress as much of anything else, can be a part of the unique ethos of successful companies.

"With really powerful firms they build a cultural identity where you have a corporate ethos," says Anton. "People generally feel they are part of a team. They feel they have a shared mission, a sense of purpose.

"Dress can be part of that. There is a rebelliousness. In these tech start-ups people are often in their 20s."

Zuckerberg does occasionally don formal dress. Visits to the Japanese prime minister and the French president were both rare dark-suit occasions for the billionaire.

While arguing that Zuckerberg should not be criticised for his scruffy look, Bilmes says he might consider more formal days for purely aesthetic reasons.

"He would look a lot better if he wore a beautiful suit."

Below are a selection of your comments about what you consider to be acceptable workwear.

People should be allowed to wear what they like. How you dress does not affect your job performance. It's ridiculous that you're expected to dress a particular way for work. Unless you're wearing something which is impractical I really don't see a problem. And people should look up the meaning of "scruffy". Jeans and hoodies are not scruffy - they are trousers made of denim and jumpers with hoods on. How that is defined as "scruffy" is beyond me. "Scruffy" means shabby, untidy or dirty. When people say the word "scruffy" to me I think of people wearing old clothes with holes in and the threads hanging off - I do not think of young CEOs wearing a hoodie which looks clean and tidy and fits well. People need to become more diverse and realise that fashion is different to each person and no one should have to dress a certain way to impress someone - their words and actions should do that for them.

Lauren, Aberystwyth, UK

Open neck short sleeve shirt (I keep a tie in the drawer but haven't needed it in years). Conventional dark trousers and black trainers. This is what non-uniformed staff in the NHS are supposed to wear. Ties are dirty and unhygienic, long sleeves can also carry dirt etc and trainers because I walk around a lot and see no need to be uncomfortable to fit in with 50+ years old fashion. I don't wear a watch either.

Scott Watson, Nuneaton, UK

Remember the golden rule, they who have the gold makes the rules...

Phil, Grays, Essex, UK

Lots of people in emerging digital sectors wear casual clothing. I went to a digital marketing conference surrounded by sneakers and jeans. I went to a human resources conference about a month later and I counted three men out of hundreds who didn't have very short hair (one was me). So we need to remember that Zuckerberg came from an environment where casual clothing was fine. It wasn't very long ago that Facebook was just a few university students - it's easy to forget that.

Jacob Funnell, Brighton, UK

We Brits are still living in the Victorian age when it comes to dress sense. Look at what men wear in the rest of Europe, especially Holland and Belgium. We regard white socks as purely for the gym, they wear nice colour trousers and bright shirts with white socks. Loud checks, bold stripes.

Geoff Webb, currently wearing dark trousers, red socks and brown shoes, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK

He is in tune with the youth of the world who are the main users of Facebook. If Wall Street do not like it then they are out of tune with the youth and young adults of the world.

Robbo, Southampton, UK

Of course it matters. If he wants to be taken seriously and accepted as a respected, competent businessman and not just a lucky geek, he should wear appropriate attire depending on the occasion. A hoodie will never be recognised as serious business dress and although he may think having so much money means "who cares", one day he'll wake up and smell his cappuccino and realise there's more to a happy life and respect from your peers adds to life's happiness.

Brian Thornton, Exeter, UK

Office wear or internal meetings for most of us in the government office where I work is jeans and shirt or jeans and sweatshirt. Client meetings are always properly suited and booted for corporate image as it helps to establish the relevant positions of our organisation and the client. Horses for courses I say.

OJ, Chatham, Kent, UK

'Clothes maketh man' - provided they are all alike, it is not just billionaires who are criticised for the for the way they dress differently, at the other end of the spectrum there is and has been punks and rockers, goths, skinheads. Anyone not wearing the uniform may be criticised. The problem with uniforms is that the individual disappears, the mediocre gets mixed up with genius and it may be that those who complain are not among the latter.

Alan Pearman, Rotherham, UK

The idea of work wear in terms of white collar is archaic. Bank workers have to wear their "uniform" for no other reason than their banking bosses are appealing to what they think the public's prejudices are... that if you are wearing a t-shirt you can't be trusted with our money. However this view isn't true any more. The public are well aware that besuited bankers are not to be trusted. The suit is no longer an assurance if competence, honesty and integrity - if indeed it ever was - more and more people understand that just because you dress the same as anyone else trying to "blinker" you with their "professional" attire... that the cover of the book is no longer relevant. Who cares about the cover of an e-book on a Kindle?

Jim Hardman, UK

Where is the individuality in a suit and tie? The best brands have a distinct personality and our startup would never dream of trading in ours to simply blend in with the traditional competition. They celebrate "dress down Fridays" - for us it's "dress up Fridays".

Stuart Goulden, York, UK

Personally I think a suit an tie is most appropriate for business. If someone turned up to my meeting in jeans and a t shirt I would not be inclined to take them seriously. However if that person were Zuckerberg or Branson or Dell, then it wouldn't matter. They have nothing to prove to anyone.

Manny, Milton Keynes, UK

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