The real reason Steve Jobs wore turtlenecks

In a snippet from his upcoming biography of Apple's co-founder, Walter Isaacson reveals that Jobs once wanted all Apple employees to wear uniforms and that the black turtleneck resulted from his relationship with fashion designer Issey Miyake.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

I had thought--and perhaps I was not alone in this--that Steve Jobs wore black turtlenecks because they were lucky.

It is not uncommon for human beings--especially men--to have lucky shirts, lucky pants, even lucky underwear.

Yet the story of Jobs' black designer turtlenecks involved not merely the turtlenecks' designer, but Jobs' enthusiasm for Apple employees to all wear uniforms.

Walter Isaacson, Jobs' chosen biographer, donated a fascinating snippet to Gawker that explained the story.

It seems that Jobs took a trip to Japan in the 1980s and was rather moved to see everyone at Sony wearing a uniform. He was keen to adopt the same sartorial consistency at Apple. He thought wearing the same corporate garb would help Apple employees come together--something school uniforms never seem to quite manage.

CC Whatcounts/Flickr

Jobs discovered that the Sony garb was designed by the fine Japanese fashion icon Issey Miyake. So he asked Miyake to create, dare one even imagine it, an Apple vest for all of Cupertino to wear.

Strangely, Apple employees expressed aggressively negative reservations about such a 1984-ish suggestion. "Oh, man, did I get booed off the stage," Jobs told Isaacson.

The Apple CEO and Miyake, though, stayed in touch. Jobs' enthusiasm for a personal uniform remained undimmed, so he asked Miyake to make him some of his classic black turtlenecks. He received "hundreds of them."

Jobs then offered Isaacson a quote that now seems painfully poignant: "I have enough to last for the rest of my life."

Many will feel that Jobs understood that the more he was seen in public, the more he felt he ought to project a consistent brand image for his own personal identity.

Which still leaves one question that might perplex one or two people--even Miyake, perhaps: Why the Levi's?