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Spotting the six sartorial stereotypes

By Adrian Weckler

Published 20/10/2015

Facebook’s Andrew Weld-Moore and Google’s Ryan Owens at Belfast’s Digital DNA last week, where the dress code was typical of tech events
Facebook’s Andrew Weld-Moore and Google’s Ryan Owens at Belfast’s Digital DNA last week, where the dress code was typical of tech events
Adrian Weckler

No one should ever judge another by the brand of runners they wear. But while tech is supposed to be a 'horizontal' environment with anti-establishment aspirations, it has quietly developed its own set of uniforms in recent years.

Nowhere is that more evident than at Dublin's Web Summit, where 30,000 investors, start-up founders and hangers-on will jostle among each other looking to get attention. Whether they care to admit it or not, the shirts and shoes they choose now give away strong clues as to who they are and where they're coming from.

From T-shirts to Tommy Hilfiger, here are six sartorial tech stereotypes to watch out for.

Uniform 1: Button-down shirt, brass-button jacket, formal chinos, formal shoes

Translation: You're the head ('president' or 'chief executive, North America') of a large company with a growing presence in the technology sector.

You still have to do lunches with bankers and people who play golf, two constituencies that are still suspicious of jeans or non-shirts. You're also almost certainly over 50 and may even be sending out Microsoft Exchange calendar invitations to a 60th 'celebration'.

Example: Tim Armstrong (AOL)

Uniform 2: Smart jacket, blue shirt, dark blue jeans, leather shoes

Translation: You're a venture capitalist or someone hovering on the business side of tech. You're probably between 35 and 50: if you're under 30 with this type of get-up, you're either very rich or a total fraud.

Example: John Flynn, Brian Caulfield

Uniform 3: Sagging grey suit, two-year-old 'non-iron' shirt open at the collar, worn scuffed shoes

Translation: you're a manager (or 'sales executive') with a company that has almost nothing to do with tech. You were sent to the Web Summit by your boss (a 'managing director') to "see what this racket is about".

The stack of business cards wedged into your suit pocket makes your jacket lopsided as it's competing for space with the fat leatherette case for your iPhone 4S that you also stuff in there.

You think that 90% of all this web stuff is either a 'swizz' or a fad and you struggle to see the value in 'doing business' with a 'spotty teenager'. In any case, you can't see why one of these nerds doesn't come up with new technology for the real issues: nice looking 'hands-free kits' and better anti-virus software as your HP laptop is "definitely slowing up".

Example: Any medium-sized firm's retail distribution manager for the Leinster region

Uniform 4: Trendy shirt, fashion jeans, latest style in hip footwear

Translation: You're co-founder of a start-up you thought up in your job as a restaurant chain marketing manager. Your firm doesn't have too much intellectual property behind it. Nevertheless, you reach for the words 'founder' and 'disruption' as often as you can: you want as much of that halo as possible.

You retweet US tech VC stars' epigrams a lot. You persuaded a few friends to each chuck you €10,000 in 'seed funding' - but you've had no luck yet from any 'angel investors'. You're hoping to meet Enterprise Ireland to try to persuade them that you might be a 'high potential startup'.

Example: Anyone who pitches a restaurant advertising or marketing app

Uniform 5: Expensive T-shirt with no logo, subtle jeans, modestly styled premium runners

Translation: You're a founder that's doing very, very well. And you're used to public appearances.

The fact that you're influential means that you instinctively don't make much of a statement about your appearance. You used to be a bit scruffier, but frequent TV appearances and magazine shoots have resulted in your hair always being styled now.

While your T-shirts have become more and more flattering, your wardrobe doesn't change much: you wear a combination of the same three T-shirts or shirts to most events now.

Example: Mark Zuckerberg, Patrick Collison

Uniform 6: Bright coloured T-shirt with company logo, cheap jeans, Converse runners

Translation: You're a chirpy, optimistic start-up that is all about 'bootstrapping' your way to success or, if not success, at least some immediate visual attention.

You thrive on camaraderie with a few other like-minded start-ups, many of whom also synchronise colour-branded T-shirts for staff. You are most likely to be the stand offering some sort of refreshment to passers-by, culminating in a much-tweeted and hashtagged 'pizza hour' (a result of the five margaritas you smuggled in through the trade entrance).

Example: Anyone in Dogpatch Labs, the NDRC or an incubator facility

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