This Monday, Banana Republic pretty much stunned the world with the unveiling of its Startup Guy line of clothing. While it seems that Banana Republic no longer has the line featured on its website, the collection of looks displayed on Monday were replete with perfectly tailored chinos, exposed ankles, and crisp, chambray button-downs. While it’s understandable that Banana Republic created such a “look” (you know, as an attempt to stay in touch with a generation that’s moving away from more traditional industries), responses from the startup community were mixed, with the majority of my own network brushing it off as a laughable offense to the low-pressure, chill, dress “code” for which the sector has become renowned.
When you look around the room at startup events, hackathons, or even just your everyday coworking space, you’re more likely to find men (and women) wearing t-shirts (often of some startup or featuring geeky references) and a pair of jeans or shorts. Sure – a good 20(ish) percent of the room take their time to actually dress up in a button-down tucked into jeans or even sport the occasional suit or blazer, but even in those situations, they’ve probably only done so because they have to meet with a new, potential investor or the like.
To show what it’s really like to work at a startup, we reached out to guys from several different startups and asked them to share with us descriptions of their own personal styles. We also asked them to show us pictures of what they’re wearing.
“I would have to say that my personal style is ‘comfortable business’ attire. I often go to entrepreneur or start-up events here in Kansas City and I try to look professional but not overdone. One consideration is that since I never know when I’m going to meet a new prospect or client I need to be looking as professional as possible most of the time, especially since I’m involved in money management. At the start-up events I often wear my suit however I sometimes wear comfortable polos or t-shirts with silly slogans like ‘What I really need are minions’ – LOL. It just depends on my mood and/or the venue, however comfortable with a professional look is the name of the game.” – Mathew Dahlberg, Founder of 111th Street Investments
“My style is casual chic, I prefer designer sneakers, jeans and t-shirts. I’m stylish and fashion-forward but still pretty relaxed. The way I dress for the office is the same as when I’m out with my wife or kids.” – Mark Ghermezian, CEO and Cofounder of Appboy
“I have a casual style and usually like to wear dress or polo shirts with bright colors or comfortable cotton shirts, denim jeans and brown shoes. I often stand while working, so I spend extra on my shoes for comfort, typically splurging on Santoni dress and casual shoes. Occasionally, I like to wear cowboy boots when working in hometown Austin.” – Brian Magierski, President and COO of Appconomy
“When meeting with florists, the guys wear nice jeans or nice pants with a button-down, sometimes adding a light sweater. When attending more corporate functions…they will get a bit more dressed up – a nice suit and stylish tie always does the trick.” – Brittany Sykes on their cofounders at BloomNation
“This might sound very geeky but nothing makes me happier than going back to my basketball days and wearing sweats with my sandals and socks. However now since I have to look (and act) grown up at times, you can usually catch me walking around in the same khaki shorts if it’s summer or blue jeans if it’s winter. I like to think I fool everyone by switching out the shirts I wear. You’ll rarely catch me in a suit, regardless of who I’m meeting.” – Shahzil (Shaz) Amin, Founder of Blue Track Media
Describing his style as “CTOoooh My!” and citing Marc Andreessen, Prince circa 1987, Grumpy Cat, and George Takei as style icons: “To me, fashion is about scalable code, service-oriented architecture, and chic accessories.” – Gabriel Flateman, CTO and Cofounder of Casper
“My style is crisp yet casual. I often am sitting down with our clients, and end the day with a press interview or a speaking engagement, so some level of presentability is called for. I like the mix of light and dark colors, of simple and complex patterns (ask me about my chalkstripe linen blazer with the paisley lining, custom of course). I’ve never really subscribed to the hoodie and flip flop look, not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because its just not what I look like. I think our clothes and our style are the first piece of ourselves that speak to the world — so I like to make mine sing.” – Vik Venkatraman, Cofounder of Clothes Horse
“I actually have been an entrepreneur involved in two startups over the last seven years. I rarely wear a tie, and I’m actually wearing a baseball cap half the time…I literally showed up like this to work today. Yesterday I was wearing a button up with a vest and pocket square…” – Emmanuel Lay, Cofounder and CEO Fashion Stork INC
“My whole life is an intelligent pursuit of my dreams and happiness, so I tend to wear what makes me happy. From the inside out I’ve dedicated my life to a strong body, spirit, and mind and my clothes demonstrate that. As we inspire others with why we’re doing this; what we do proves what we believe. My slim, tailor[ed] fit shirt shows my fitness, while my vest and tie display my professionalism. I am bringing a valuable service to the masses that only speaks [to] the truth of what’s best and disregards all else. So I don’t wear products in my hair and keep a beard for a genuine, uninfluenced appearance. My jeans fit properly and are clean to show I take pride in finding the right fit and again showing off why I never miss legs day in the gym. And lastly my shoes, my grandfather taught me a lot of meaningful things, similar to never eating at a restaurant with a dirty bathroom… never trust a business man with dirty shoes. That is my style, a representation of everything that I am in one wardrobe. To show who I am and what I believe, for there are leaders and those that lead, I dress to lead.” – Scott Young, Founder and President at Love Gifted
“I would say, I have a unabashedly prep style. It’s a look that dates back to gentlemen during the early 1900’s. Over the years, I’ve built a wardrobe of a select set of items that I will wear for the rest of my life. I don’t follow any new trends, I strictly stick to one look.” – Obi Onyejekwe, Creative Director and Cofounder of Nito
“It all starts with a tee, preferably crazy (teddy bears, violence, check). Adding jeans or bright colored pants to make sure people are turning their heads your way. Spicing up with matching sexy sneakers (bloody red, check) – and I’m set.” – Sasha Kovaliov, Marketing at PandaDoc
“For me it’s all about comfort and versatility. In sales you have to feel good about yourself 100% of the time, whether you’re pitching on the phone or in-person. Also, never underestimate a good thinking cap (credit Goorin). #OaklandSmart.” – Josh Gillespie, Sales at PandaDoc
“I’m absolutely killing it in gym shorts and an Under Armour T-shirt – standard Casual Tuesday attire (same as Casual Monday and Casual Wednesday to Friday). It’s good to be the boss!” – Yarin Kessler, Founder and CEO of PDF Buddy
“A while back I probably did dress to impress, but since bootstrapping my startup, I’ve been focused on comfort which probably includes wearing t-shirts and to dress up my polo. I’m currently working on Phroogal in NJ and with the humid weather you’ll see me wearing sneakers, shorts and a shirt. If I were to describe my style – ‘casual minimalist.’ Some of my friends describe me as ‘frugal chic’ to coincide with my startup…It’s more about comfort and ease without worrying about food or drinks dirtying my clothes which is bound to happen when I’m eating while in front of my computer. I’ve lost many a t-shirts because of pizza stains.” – Jason Vitug, Founder and CEO at Phroogal
“My daily style is almost always a dark denim jean, leather belt, and a standard slightly v-necked shirt, or short-sleeved collared shirt of various colors. I usually wear a dark blazer jacket on top. It would be hard to find me without a pair of Lucchese boots- always brown or black.” – Steve Papermaster, Chairman and CEO of Powershift Group
“[Chris] told me that he essentially only dresses up on days when he has meeting and that even on those days. Since LA is pretty casual, he generally does not have to stray too far from his normal attire. Living pretty much beachside in sunny Santa Monica, his normal day-to-day attire is a tee (normally his company tee with logo), shorts (or jeans if its chilly day), “flops” aka flip flops and a trucker hat usually a fellow Silicon Beach startup swag item…And lastly, let’s not forget the beard! After all, what busy startup founder has the time each morning to shave!” – Priscilla Vento describing her friend Chris Brereton, the CEO of PwrdBy
“I typically submit my proposals via video and I wear casual clothes, sometimes t-shirts. It takes away from the typical business, corporate structure while giving the proposals a personal feel. I went into a meeting last week in NYC wearing a nice solid color t-shirt, jeans and Converse sneakers. Thankfully I closed the deal. Even my professional head shots has me wearing comfortable clothes…If I’m not comfortable during my meetings, my business will suffer. When I am not recording a video or going into a meeting, shorts or sweatpants is my normal day-to-day wear.” – Jason Berkowitz, SEO Expert and Head of Operations at SEO Services New York
“Start-up guys are hipsters, complete with skinny jean cut-offs and a ‘stache. Here’s what one of our guys looked like at our Fourth of July company potluck.” – Stephanie Yang describing her colleagues at Spendgo
“The guys here like to wear print shirts with witty childhood images on it, some like to dress more rugged, some dress trendy.” – Alexis Valerio describing her colleagues at Sqor
“Tagboard men’s style is dominated by denim, earth tones, and tees. It’s smart, comfortable, and minimal, though extra points are given for Star Wars flair.” – Sean Sperte, Chief Product Officer at Tagboard
“My personal style is laid back and professional. Professionalism is my top priority when it comes to style, but I like to put my own twist on it to keep it interesting and forward thinking.” – Justin Rezvani, Founder and CEO of theAmplify
“I wear a navy suit, white shirt, red tie and brown shoes every day. It is my signature look every where I go. I make too many important decisions all day that I do not want to waste time figuring out what to wear. I did not always dress like Mr. Professional. I started my first business out of my college dorm room, DJ Connection, growing it to 4,000 events per year before I sold it. It wasn’t until my mentor, Clifton Taulbert, pointed out that looking like Eminem when I met with mother’s of the bride was not helping grow my business. As soon as I started wearing my navy suit, white shirt and red tie every single day, my business took off and I became SBA Entrepreneur of the Year.” – Clay Clark, CEO of Thrive15
“At UrbanBound, we are less about the details and more about FUN-ctionality. Our friend Mike over here on the right is never seen without his MacBook Pro. It’s really more of an accessory than anything else – sort of like the way girls wear bracelets. Tom, pictured in the middle, represents one of the best ways to get ahead in the startup world: wearing whatever your boss wears. He actually pays the doorman to snap a pic of the CEO, pictured left, walking out of the building so he can replicate his outfit every morning. But in the end, the most important factor in picking out your startup outfit is whether you can go out drinking in it after work.” – UrbanBound Team
“I like to dress comfortably, yet semi-professionally for work. I would call it ‘dressy-start-up with a splash of Texas.’ Always wear a collared shirt – often a solid or plaid button down – that I like to tuck in. Usually, you’ll catch me in a shirt from one of my favorite menswear designers, Jeremy Argyle. I usually either wear jeans or slacks, but if it’s hot enough, I might be tempted to wear dress shorts.” – Joshua Ernst, Cofounder and CEO of urBin Storage
“Our young team is known in the building and around our city of London, Ontario, Canada, as some of the best-dressed young professionals. Our male employees, in particular, are the epitome of ‘start-up style’ with their Sperrys, Clarks, and immaculate Converse sneakers, ‘skinny’ trousers and bermuda shorts – in a plethora of pleasing neturals – topped with the classic checkered dress shirt, artfully tucked in under an understated, elegant belt. There is the occasional cap placed carefully over a pomaded haircut, as well. It is a twist of West Coast cool with East Coast edge, with a bit of Canadiana street style thrown in. The stylish, city-dwelling men of our startup have a professional eye-catching look that is also practical for everyday responsibilities in the Google-esque, “living office” space of Voices.com. The roles of these well-dressed employees range from Account Managers to Business Development Managers, to Export Managers and our VP of Sales and our CEO, himself, David Ciccarelli.” – Voices.com team
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