Johnny Cash wore all black, Tom Wolfe wore all white, and Albert Einstein wore only a grey suit.
Cash, Wolfe and Einstein made conscious decisions to wear and codify their signature look.
Cash stated that black clothes were cheaper to buy, looked clean longer between washings on the road, and signified “rebellion against the status quo.” This look reinforced his persona and messaging throughout his career and set him apart from his peers.
Wolfe bought a white suit to wear in the summer. However, the suit he purchased was too heavy for summer use, so Wolfe decided to wear it during the winter. His white winter suit became a sensation that Wolfe leveraged into an iconic and disarming uniform.
Albert Einstein said that he wore several versions of an identical grey suit because he didn’t want to waste “brainpower” on selecting his wardrobe each day. The grey suit, white shirt and black tie became his signature look.
Today, the President of the United States takes a similar approach: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” said President Obama. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Some signature looks are even more strategic.
Steven Jobs wore a black mock turtlenecks and Levi’s button down jeans. Here’s what he told his Biographer, Walter Issacson:
“On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony's chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company's factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. "I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple," Jobs recalled.
Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple, Jobs recalled, "I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea."
In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. "So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them." Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. "That's what I wear," he said. "I have enough to last for the rest of my life."
Prophetically and tragically, there were enough turtlenecks.
Women have signature looks too, here are some notable icons:
Audrey Hepburn and the little black anything
Anna Wintour's signature hairstyle
Iris Apfel and her signature glasses
Set an example - be it buttoned up, button-down, khaki, denim or palm trees on silk. Your look should fit you in both tailoring and in attitude. More importantly your signature style should fit the message you wish to convey to others.
Please share your favorite signature looks. I would love to see them.
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