Meet 46-year-old Mark Pincus, chief executive of Zynga, who dresses like someone half his age, despite his rapidly thinning pate and some pretty cavernous crow’s feet. Why does he do it? Is it to imitate the ingénue twenty-something tech founder in order to help his company get away with outrageous behaviour? Or is he, like Phil Dunphy from Modern Family, simply painfully, almost cringeworthily, out of touch when it comes to age appropriate dressing?
Regular readers of this column will know that I take a keen interest in the sartorial mores of Silicon Valley’s leading men. After all, women in the public eye are endlessly scrutinised, their every shoe choice forensically documented in the press and imbued with near-cosmic significance. Did she wear red shoes as a fuck-you to her ex-husband? What do you think? But men seem to get away with the most shocking sartorial offences without so much as a raised eyebrow from their peers.
It seems to me that Pincus’s wardrobe is indicative of a troubled psychology. Granted, the man makes games for a living. But no one over the age of 25 should be caught dead playing FarmVille – less still opening their wallet to pay for things that don’t even exist. Is Pincus’s retarded development in dress sense a sign of the eternal child, an innocent enveloping more capitalist impulses? And how “on purpose” is it?
That last analogy isn’t a bad metaphor for the successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, actually. Europeans often forget that beneath the glossy veneer of iPhone apps and swooshy web services hides American ruthlessness to match any oil company or Wall Street bank. Only the most naïve California-watchers are taken in by the hopey-changey rhetoric of Twitter and its mates. When all’s said and done, Facebook and Twitter are nothing more than fiendishly sticky internationalised advertising delivery platforms.
In Mark Pincus’s wardrobe we see the cracks in the veneer: the bald rage and pitilessness of middle age seeping out of a hot-off-the-press hoodie emblazoned with its host’s sightless and slightly creepy mascot. (Not for nothing is it a bruiser breed softened by a cartoonish drawing technique.)
It’s not just his clothes, either. There’s so much cringe here I don’t know where to start. And I’m utterly perplexed that Pincus’s younger and very attractive wife Alison hasn’t already stepped in to arrest her hubby’s criminal clothing. Surely she must see him leave for work in the morning and let out an exasperated sigh?
And you can imagine it when he gets in to the office, can’t you. Those board meetings with suited execs drafted in from EA and other competitors to help Zynga rip off its betters elsewhere in the gaming industry. New recruit Jerry Lewis, or whatever his name is, straight off the plane from Redwood City, CA, all set up to kick some corporate ass… and in bounds Pincus with that rictus grin, gilded by deep creases in his cheeks, dressed in day-glo American Apparel.
“Whassup, guys! Isn’t this awesome? We’re totally going to own it today!”
It’s a bit like the embarrassment most men feel walking up to the counter at McDonald’s and asking for “Chicken McNuggets”. These are words that just shouldn’t pass the lips of someone staring into the abyss of a half-century. So it is with the Zynga chief executive, whose insistence on wearing company “swag” is becoming seriously embarrassing. Is it any wonder the company’s stock is tanking when its chief executive dresses more like a skateboarder than a stockbroker?
Mark, seriously: when you’re balding and you’re nearing 50, it might be time to step away from the hoodie and the baseball cap. And if you need some advice about where to shop in future, let me guide you away from Urban Outfitters and towards any of the elegant, fashionable designers poised to enrobe you in appropriate but trendy ensembles.
Whatever you do, though, make sure you avoid the temptation to make your stylelessness into an asset and embrace the shapeless staples of portly middle age too enthusiastically. Because I’m not sure the Jeremy Clarkson look will play well even on Sand Hill Road, where the last time a well-cut Italian suit was seen, Europe owned the continent.