Case Study: Steve Jobs

Written by: Chiara Salomone.

(N.B. This translation was a little bit harder than the others. Actually, it was difficult to reduce italian paragraphs as english grammar requires)


When discussing fashion psychology, the assumption is that this model can only be applied to fashion enthusiasts.

But it’s not like that…

What can we say about Steve Jobs?

He is certainly not known for his passion for fashion and we all know that his look was so to speak “monotonous”, but why did Steve choose to always dress the same for decades?

Notoriously acknowledging that this is “one less decision to make every day”, the late industrial designer and founder of Apple was faithful to black turtlenecks, Levis’ 501® classic fit jeans and sneakers, usually New Balance.

Read also: Personal uniform: that’s why some successful people always dress the same way

You might think that his sartorial coherence clashes with the theory of fashion psychology (that there are deeper reasons why we wear what we wear), but actually Steve Jobs is the perfect ambassador of this theory.

Jobs’ choices were not purely functional, otherwise he could have chosen any other equally comfortable and casual clothing.

The fact that he had chosen this particular uniform to wear every day meant that there was something so strongly aligned between it and his personality, that he never needed to try anything else.

Let’s analyse Steve Jobs’ look starting from the Big 5 model of personality traits and let’s find out which were his most relevant personality traits.

HIGH OPEN-MINDEDNESS

Imagination, intellect and artistic interests are key subsets of the OPENING trait, which  evidently Jobs had greatly developed. Ironically, artistic, philosophical and intellectual people tend to dress in a very simple and minimalist way, as Jobs did. There is so much to do in their minds that they need their dress to be a bit of a blank canvas.

HIGH-MODERATE CONSCIOUSNESS

While someone else who accomplished what Jobs did should be conscientious,  he was very free, spontaneous. He preferred substance to form. 

The medium-high score is evident in his famous outfit: generally clean, but not entirely immaculate. Jeans were sometimes a little crumpled

 LOW MODERATE EXTRAVERSION

Although Jobs surprised us on stage when he unveiled a new Apple product or campaign, his personality tilts towards introversion. He never liked having many people around: when the then President Barack Obama asked him to join a “small” gathering of tech tycoons, Jobs refused – the president invited too many people for his taste.

 LOW PLEASANTNESS

This characteristic means how far an individual is able to put himself in the other’s shoes and act according to his emotions and concerns, and has characteristics that include altruism, cooperation, trust, sympathy and morality. From ruining his friend Steve Wozniak and firing people without warning, to the whole affair with his daughter, these qualities are not things that Jobs was known for, which makes him get a low score on pleasantness. 

We see it sartorially simply in the fact that he refused to steer from his only suit.

He has transformed his clothing into a brand: he stands out, canonizing himself in eternity.

MODERATE NEVROTICISM

Here we are with neuroticism, the most difficult personality trait. This dark quality is responsible for bad moods, anxiety and a range of interpersonal problems, but it is also related to creativity – remembering the stereotype of the misunderstood genius. 

The key is to be neurotic at the right point: neurotic enough to be inventive, yet stable enough to get things done. 

Basically, people who get a moderate or high score regarding neuroticism prefer to wear black, in line with Jobs’s choice of a black turtleneck.

Color psychologists claim that black has an emotionally protective quality and works to hold off the others, which is why sensitive people choose it as their daily armor.

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