Geek ChicI don’t know about you, but the sequence of recent world events had yours truly feeling just a little pessimistic about things. Even the wife and kids noticed that I’d been kind of mopey in recent days. I think we all go through times like these, were it seems like each day brings more unsettling news and we begin to worry about the future of our country. But then, maybe buried on a back page somewhere, we get a little germ of positivity that provides the antidote for our temporary case of the blues. I experienced just such an event the other day when I happened to see an article declaring that, “Silicon Valley Style is Finally Evolving Past Hoodies and Sandals”. Sometimes it’s the little things in life.

The article pointed out that a dichotomy is emerging between the “old guard” of the Valley and a rising cast of “young turks” who feel that looking like a fugitive from Goodwill doesn’t guarantee a successful IPO. I must admit that the insistence of many of our technological icons to dress in what could often be described as “homeless chic” has always confused me. Can a man not invent a revolutionary product if he’s dressed in an Armani suit and a Hermes tie with a nice pair of Tanino Crisci’s on his feet? Would it kill Mark Zuckerberg to read a copy of GQ every once in awhile? And for God’s sake, would someone please buy Bill Gates an iron.

Apparently, the desire of today’s young programmer or engineer to show up to their cubicle every morning clad in khaki’s fresh from the dirty clothes basket and a t-shirt proclaiming them to be a “Beer Pong Champion” has decided to skip a generation. Although the article did not offer any rationale for this heightened sense of fashion among the area’s upwardly mobile nerds, geeks and hackers, the Valley’s eligible young women are thrilled with their prospective paramours new slavish devotion to style. In other words, unless your net worth can be expressed in seven digits or more, dressing like a schmedric is still the best way to ensure that you’ll be taking your cousin to your friend’s wedding.

As one might expect, in a region where one good idea can launch a 1,000 others,  new on-line and brick and mortar establishments have arisen to service the stylistic needs of the Valley’s aspiring fashionistas. The local mall has added outlets from high end men’s clothing luminaries like Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Burberry. Of course, since the Computer Science curriculum at CalTech doesn’t offer electives in sartorial style, retailer’s like the on-line store, Buck Mason’s, have found success by offering clothing packages that help the dress conscious coder avoid making a devastating fashion faux pas. Essentially serving as Granimals for the stylistically challenged, Mason’s “Dylan Package” consists of two (2) t-shirts (black and gray), one (1) Henley, one (1) workshirt, one (1) button down and a pair of jeans for $350. Although the same package could be obtained from the local Kohl’s for $100 less, I think the insurance that the pre-matched package offers the fledgling genteel gentleman is well worth the premium.

For those of us who have long been concerned about the growing influence of the participants within the high tech industry on our nation’s fashion sense, I can say that this new trend toward style consciousness is a good thing. Sandals with socks, for example, has never been a good look, and if this new awakening amongst the younger generation of the Valley does nothing more than add it and other related permutations to the scrap heap of other such men’s fashion tragedies like the leisure suit, tank tops and Member’s Only jackets than we can shout out a collective, “hallelujah”. I think it is too early to say where this trend will lead, and although I don’t think we’ll ever see Sergei Brin sitting with Anna Wintour at Fashion Week, I do think we can all agree that it is a step in the right direction.

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