Why do billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg wear the same thing everyday?

Mark Zuckerberg recently posted to Facebook a glimpse at his wardrobe for all weathers/moods. The verdict? It’s incredibly grey. Very, very grey.
Mark Zuckerberg – Mobile Uploads | Facebook

But “what does this mean” I hear you ask. What does this mean?

Well, we chatted with Dr Carolyn Mair, Reader in Psychology at London College of Fashion, to quiz her on what Mark’s wardrobe says about him and why other male billionaires seem to wear the same things everyday too.

Hi Carolyn! Did you see Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe photo?

It’s interesting because I’m seeing more and more leading figures, not only in tech industries, but also in politics and even fashion, wearing a sort of work uniform. We are aware that our clothes influence the perceptions of those we interact with. They can also affect our behaviour, and interestingly, even our cognitive abilities. What we believe about what we wear, its symbolic meaning, can affect our cognitions as well as our behaviour. In a recent study, those wearing a lab coat described as belonging to a doctor performed better on an attention span task than those wearing a coat described as belonging to a painter. If we believe the clothing we are wearing has some intangible property, it can affect how we behave and how we perform cognitively.

Clothing says a great deal about us and many studies have found that we decide whether we like someone or not based only on their appearance in under one minute. Therefore what we choose to wear to work is important in many ways: it can help or hinder our work performance, career progression and business opportunities.
Why do you think that billionaires, particularly those who own tech companies such as Steve Jobs, stick to wearing the same things everyday?

I believe, the increasingly popular trend for a ‘work uniform’ is in part a result of the current trend for 24/7 working. People at the top don’t have time to waste on decisions around what to wear. Busy people with important decisions to make need to apply their cognitive abilities efficiently on issues such as their business and their staff rather than wasting valuable time worrying about what to put on in the morning and how they look.

In fact, most people wouldn’t notice that we were wearing the same clothes every day as we are programmed to notice objects that are different rather than those that are same. From evolutionary perspective, our attention is drawn to difference to signal a potential danger. Mark Zuckerberg’s desire for simplicity in his clothing choice enables him to free up cognitive space for what he considers are more important matters.
Do you think gender plays a role?

It could do if a woman is keen to have others form opinions of her around appearance, but if she cares more about performance than looking attractive, what she wears, as long it’s appropriate for the context, becomes less important than doing a great job. In fact, many women in leading roles may prefer to wear neutral type clothing so as not to draw attention away from their message or role. For example, art director, Matilda Kahl wears the same outfit to work every day as does Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue USA.

Could it just be that they are not ‘into’ fashion?

Anna Wintour not into fashion? Working with practitioners and academics within the fashion industry has shown me people who work in the creative industries (at least fashion) are rather conservative with their clothing. They tend to pay attention to the fabric, the cut and fit and black is the colour of choice. However, as with Zuckerberg, creatives working in cutting-edge technology would probably prefer more casual clothes such as jeans and T-shirts which also become the uniform.
Could it be that fashion might be distracting for those in major businesses? Could fashion be holding us back from all becoming millionaires?

Deciding to wear a work uniform conserves cognitive energy that can be used on matters that the wearer believes are more important. It also establishes a ‘look’ that becomes your signature. People would certainly take a double look at Mark Zuckerberg if he suddenly started wearing a pin-striped suit! I wouldn’t think fashion is holding anyone from back from being a millionaire unless their business was around appearance and their choice of clothing was given a ‘wrong’ impression.

What do you think Mark Zuckerberg’s wardrobe says about him?

It says he’s cool! He’s casual, not obsessed with appearance or what others think of him; he knows what he likes and sticks to it.