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How A Black Cashmere Sweater Changed The Technology World

Throughout history, the soft, supple and luxurious feeling of cashmere clothing has inspired countless people who have been fortunate enough to drape themselves in it, from style icons to Queens and Empresses.

However, a particular piece of cashmere clothing became influential to the look of an entire technological sector, and not just in the way startup founders dress when making keynote speeches.

The late Steve Jobs did not invent the personal computer, nor did he invent the MP3 player or the smartphone, but he was a pivotal figure in popularising all three with the Apple II in 1977 (and later the Macintosh/Mac in 1984), the iPod in 2001 and the iPhone in 2007.

He also popularised a particular way to dress in business that at the time was seen as iconoclastic but has since become the norm in Silicon Valley.

From roughly 1998 until his death in 2011, Steve Jobs regularly wore cashmere mock-turtleneck sweaters and jeans, claiming that he had a hundred of both clothing items that would later become a quintessential part of his appearance.

Part of the reason why he wore the same £600 sweaters at every conference, business meeting and work day was to reduce the number of decisions he had to make about his personal life and appearance, allowing him to focus on the needs of his company Apple, which he returned to in 1997 when they were weeks from insolvency.

This aspect has entered Silicon Valley lore and many startups that followed in his footsteps either outright wore the same cashmere jumpers or also established a personal uniform as part of their brand identity. 

The most famous example was medical technology innovator turned convicted fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, who wore similar black cashmere turtleneck sweaters.

The other part of this was the result of a 1980s meeting with Akio Morita, then the chairman at Sony, who inspired him to create a company uniform.

The idea failed, but the idea of a personal uniform became hugely influential, and the simplicity and elegance of cashmere inspired Mr Jobs to focus on minimalist design with his computer products, an approach that would ultimately lead to his success in life and lionisation in death.

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