Don’t Trust The Man In The Suit

Don’t Trust The Man In The Suit

zero to one book

A few days ago a rather interesting article regarding men’s dress was published on the Economist titled Suitable Disruption.  The article discusses a policy that early Facebook and Napster investor Peter Thiel has which is to not invest in anyone who wear a suit to a pitch meeting.  The theory is discussed in more detail in his forthcoming book Zero To One.  This is not the first time I have heard talk like this.  Crazy, right?

Fortunately, for those of us who enjoy wearing suits Mr. Thiel was referring to the tech world.  Not the entire world.  He notes, “Never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit.”  However, the author of the article goes on to discuss how there is evidence to support the dressing down of investors and professors, it helps them build credibility.  Every profession has a uniform, in tech it happens to be a hoodie or other uber casual wear which is a less rigid uniform.  When I EMT I have to wear our organizations uniform which has to conform to certain standards and is far more rigid (it is like a police or military uniform).  When I used to be an auditor the uniform was a mix of business casual and a suit and tie.  Regardless of the profession, looking the part helps people think you are the part.  ‘Fake it till you make it’ type of thing I suppose.  That said, I can’t really disagree with Mr. Thiel; not to mention the guy has made a few boatloads of money so he’s clearly making a few right decisions.  What say all of you?

On a more personal note this article hits close to home.  Not only have I been writing a blog on men’s style for the past three years, a good bit of the content of which revolves around tailored wear like suits but I am also starting my own company (launching around October, sign up on the Jay Butler site for updates).  I would imagine that at some point I will be meeting with potential investors and what I chose to wear for such meetings will certainly be a conscious decision, not just some accident.  Will I wear a suit?  The chances are better than 50%.  I just feel like a suit is the appropriate thing to wear for such a formal meeting.  But fortunately, I am in the men’s style business, and not the tech business.  So perhaps what I wear will not be an issue at all.

Regardless of whether or not I agree with everything Mr. Thiel says, I will be buying his book.  I guess controversy does breed sales?



  1. I read somewhere that Tom Ford was quoted as saying “Wearing a suit shows respect for whomever you are around. You wouldn’t wear a t-shirt to a funeral”. I keep that in mind as I wear a suit to work almost everyday. Im in the hospitality business and Im constantly questioned why I always wear a suit. Besides it being very comfortable, it gives me a great opportunity to show the guest that I have the upmost respect for their comfort and satisfaction. Of course, it cant be that way with every job, but there should always be thought put into how you present yourself, whether in a professional or personal setting.

    • Tom Ford is definitely correct in saying that, charcoal suit with tieless shirt notwithstanding. (I’m not crazy about city suits without ties.) People give him less credit than he deserves. He’s probably helping classic proportions come back into menswear.

      Anyways, I relish the opportunities I have for wearing a coat and tie. When you look great, you feel great.

  2. What I took from this is that when pitching to Peter Thiel about something “tech-related” one should not wear a suit. To choose to invest not on the content of the pitch, but on the choice of attire again confirms the notion that people will judge you based on your appearance. For most, I still strongly suggest respecting the person you are asking to give you money – whether a pitch or job interview, by wearing a suit.

  3. I am a fashion writer in Philadelphia and completely agree with both fineyounggentleman, Tom Ford (of course), and the comment above. Though the word seems old-fashioned, a constant in fashion is “appropriate.” What is right at google may not be right on Wall Street and that may not be right on Seventh Avenue. It is indeed respectful, hospitable, and gracious to dress up for wherever your day takes you. Even gives you a bit of a powerful edge. Elegance & class never go out of style!

  4. I’m a network engineer, so the IT business is my profession. I recently went to a job interview for a job with the foremost producer of network equipment in the world. I wore a charcoal suit with subtle (barely visible) blue and pink pinstripes, a white shirt, gray tie with silver polka dots, a white handkerchief folded square so that a thin line barely peeked out of my breast pocket and black wing tips. The guys interviewing me were in shorts and t-shirts. I got the job.

    The only time I’ve ever worn a suit to work was a couple of special occasions but I routinely wear button up shirts and a blazer with various styles of business casual trousers. (The blazer usually comes off and goes on a hanger while I’m in the office.) This is a fairly sharp contrast to the ultracasual dress most of my peers wear, but it’s not nearly as formal as a suit. I get comments on occasion, particularly from people who don’t work with me daily, but they’re usually either complimentary or light-hearted ribbing. It’s never caused me any issues.

  5. I’ve worked in IT for decades. I used to wear jeans and polo with jungle mocs or whatever. Then I decided I was tired of the janitor looking better dressed than I was, and I started reading Gentleman’s Gazette, A Suitable Wardrobe, etc. Yes, even Alan Flusser. On the first day of the new year I wore my first suit to work ever, complete with collar bar, pocket square and Stetson Stratoliner fedora. I was dressed to kill and pretty much blew everyone’s mind. But guess what? People who passed me in silence for over a decade are now not only speaking to me but holding doors open. Ladies in the office are much more friendly and conversant. Even my manager is noticeably “better” towards me. In my experience, the vast majority of even IT folk will react positively towards dressing “up”. If someone doesn’t trust a man wearing a suit that much, they need to see a mental health professional.

  6. A people in suit can be cheater lawyers, scammers, corrupt politicians, etc. The rule is don’t assume anything, and be cautious.

  7. Wearing a suit, even at an occupation that does not require it is the right thing to do, most of the time. I notice that when I wear a suit, a few of the people I work with are uncomfortable about it; they don’t say anything but you can just “read it” by the looks on their faces. It’s odd. I don’t dress up to show anyone up, I dress up to show myself as I wish to be seen. People should stop wanting to be so dressed down – business casual is like the Degrowth movement in Europe and to a lesser extent in the U.S., but in terms of fashion instead of environmentalism. Essentially, what i mean to say is that there is a strain of anti-enlightenment and anti-refinement running rampant in society today. It aims to deconstruct what is and has been for quite some time, the uniform of the man. Not THE man, just man; as in, grown up, serious professionals.