Bravo, Banana Republic! We hail your valiant effort to inject some fashion sense into Silicon Valley. And purely from a fashion perspective, your new collection The Startup Guy is pretty on point; the clothes are unquestionably nice.
But we have to talk. It’s kind of tone deaf to try to “disrupt” Silicon Valley fashion without first understanding the culture and style that already permeates techland. Free startup-branded t-shirts, messenger bags, and hoodies are more on par for the real-life “startup guy.”
There’s also your approach to diversity in tech. With two white guys and one Asian male as models, The Startup Guy collection helps perpetuate the notion that there aren’t any women or many minorities beyond Asians in startups. (Neither is true.)
Still, I respect your desire to up SV’s male fashion game.
I scrolled through The Startup Guy collection on my daily ride into the city, and took a moment to close my eyes and imagine what a Caltrain car full of Banana Republic startup guys would look like. In my mind, there were jeans rolled up to the ankles, chunky wool sweaters, and all the loafers filling the seats. It felt a little “finance fratty,” if you get my meaning.
The fact is, people don’t look like this in Silicon Valley. I opened my eyes back into the real world, and it was peppered with backpacks, plaid shirts, and scooters. Your man-purses, salmon shorts, and earth tones would be more at home on a yacht off the Hamptons than they would be on Muni. The straight-out-of-university style rules in San Francisco startup land, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.
But the biggest problem here might just be the simple idea that you went and named this collection The Startup Guy. That pretty much guarantees that no actual person from a startup will forgo all self-awareness and buy these clothes.
Images courtesy of Banana Republic, illustration by Nigel Sussman and Madeleine Weiss