My favorite item of clothing in the pandemic has been a Facebook hoodie. It’s the perfect garment for long days indoors, not too heavy but not too light. It zips so it’s easy to get on and off. It has pockets for stowing my iPhone. It’s got a snuggly fuzzy inside but a smooth cool texture outside. I’m not sure I’ve been more dedicated to a piece of clothing.
Years of living in New York, where dragging dirt and debris in from the city was a real concern has made me a almost compulsive aficionado of “indoor clothes” which were not besmirched by the grime of subways and pavement. My Facebook hoodie remains my default “indoor clothing” top layer. At night I unzip it and place it carefully beside my bed. In the mornings if it is cold I put it back on before starting my day. The chances are good that if you’ve been on a Zoom call with me I’ve been wearing this hoodie. It’s just on screen and a strange affectation for someone that has literally never been a fan of the traditional Silicon Valley boy wonder aesthetic. The only item I have gotten more wear out of is a pair of Gucci boots I’ve owned for 12 years now.
To say that they are very different garments is an understatement. One is a thousand dollars worth of black Italian leather crafted into the Platonic ideal of day boots. They are feminine with tight knee high lines that maintain the slightly militaristic echo that typify the Italian school of fashion. The other is a baggy slouching genderless sack of blue with an embroidered white logo that splits with a zipper tight down the middle between Face and Book.
You would not imagine the owner of one garment was the owner of the other. Even when the tech plutocracy decided it wanted to play with high fashion status games (thanks Marissa) the two stylistic poles never really gained much common ground. Still tech has inspired a significant portion of modern fashion and fashion craves the semiotic power of Silicon Valley. I’m sure Willian Gibson could explain the common lineage but I doubt I have the chops. Nevertheless I do consider both pieces to be emblematic of my personal style. Something about utility I suspect. The two garments are not from entirely different worlds
Ironically I don’t use Facebook anymore (though I still have an account) and I don’t even support what the company has become. So you might think it’s odd I own a piece of swag from the company. I got the hoodie after I had already given up on the place. But I got it from a Facebook employee who I consider to be one of the best humans I have ever known. His name his Dan.
I didn’t ask him if I could write this little remembrance so I won’t give his full name. Thanks to the efforts of one of my investors he was an advisor and investor to one of my startups and was unfailingly the kindest person I had the privilege of working with. On a trip to visit him in Menlo Park he took me to lunch on the Facebook campus. We had tacos. Afterwards as we were walking we passed the swag store. I said that I thought it was a brilliant bit of marketing that they sold hoodies. Pop culture has long cemented the status of the hoodie with both the company and with founders in general. To have a specific Facebook hoodie seemed a powerful talisman filled with irony and hope. Without missing a beat Dan bought me one.
There was no way of knowing at the time, for either of us, that this garment would end up a significant figure in my daily routine. It remains an emotional link to Dan and the support he always showed for me. He never wavered in his belief in me. This is a trait he has demonstrated consistently with those in his life. One particular example is a dear friend of mine who worked at Facebook thanks to his efforts. She is also brilliant and kind and at the time Dan worked with her the victim of a deeply Silicon Valley crisis. The kind you might even associate with tech bros who wear hoodies with logos on them. An irony that is not lost on me. The tech industry truly contains emotional multitudes.
I’d encourage you to inspect the garment in your life that holds the kind of significance and emotional resonance that this hoodie does for me. Fashion exists in even the places we think are furthest from style. Like corporate swag. Like a Facebook hoodie. There is always a story and a reason behind what we wear. Indeed this was a topic I thought I’d make my life’s work when I first stumbled onto the internet. I kept a fashion blog on WordPress maybe starting in 2004 or so. I didn’t end up being a fashion critic. But I still get to blog about clothing if I feel like it.