Steve Jobs' Suits On The Auction Block: Are There Any Bidders?


Last December, a humble check that the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs wrote to Radio Shack in July 1976, for the sum of $4.01, was snapped up at auction for $46,063.

Obviously there’s an enormous market for Jobs-related memorabilia; it’s catnip for vintage tech collectors.

Yesterday, Julien’s Auction House “To the Stars” announced that a major lot of Jobsiana was going on the block on July 11, as part of a "Spotlight: History & Technology" auction. 

As the release put it, the lot includes "Tech titan Steve Jobs’ wardrobe worn in some of Apple’s most iconic photographs and in personal and public appearances.”

It starts with  “a navy blue pin-striped Brioni for Wilkes Bashford San Francisco suit worn in the 1984 Macintosh computer release marketing photograph.” (Currently, it has only one bid, for $10,000).



There’s also a “taupe and white striped wool, two-piece suit by DiMitri Couture for Wilkes Bashford, seen in a photograph as worn by Jobs to his friend Ben Rosen’s 1980 retirement from Morgan Stanley, in Palo Alto, California” (zero bids.)

It's amusing to see the two yuppie Wall Streeter suits, perhaps forced on him, especially the taupe and white striped one, because those expensive, sharply tailored,‘80s-era wide-shouldered suits could not be more off-brand for what became Jobs’ marketing vision of “radical simplicity.”

That simplicity is what informed the design of the technology and also Jobs’ and the company’s greatest advertising innovation, the Apple Stores. They seemed less like retail stores and more monochromatic retreats for proper device worship.

Eventually, Jobs developed the modern stripped-down style of what Bloomberg called  “the vestment of a secular monk.”  

I’ve always loved the story of what led Jobs to the casual, whiff-of-artsy uniform of a mock turtleneck black sweater, Levi’s 401 jeans, and New Balance sneakers. It took away the tyranny of choosing clothing day to day so he could “focus on the work,” he said.

His image became so anti-CEO, and properly iconic for an innovator in Silicon Valley, that Theranos founder (and current jailbird) Elizabeth Holmes adapted it as her own. She even stole the language straight from Jobs when she told Glamour magazine about her black sweater collection and said  “I probably bought like 150 of them. “ 

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs,”  the look started when Wozniak’s partner became fascinated by a uniform jacket that the late Japanese designer Issey Miyake created for Sony workers in 1981.

It was futuristic, and featured sleeves that could be unzipped to transform the jacket into a vest. But to me it had a baker-meets-parachuter-meets-hospital-worker vibe. Jobs liked it -- and the sea of unity a uniform could bring.

He asked Miyake to make a similar style for Apple employees.  But when he returned to Cupertino with the prototype, he was “booed off the stage,” he told Isaacson.  Unlike the comforting sameness of Japanese worker culture, Apple cultivated the “crazy ones," who were, as the ad goes, “the square pegs in round holes, the ones who think differently.”

Still, influenced by Miyake, Jobs ended up constructing his own uniform.  A key part was Miyake’s simple design. The basic black mock turtleneck, formerly the realm of poets and artists, here became, in effect,  a pre-hoodie. Unlike an actual turtleneck, the neck does away with the fold, so it’s simpler and never slouches.. He told Isaacson that he bought “like a hundred of them,” for $175 dollars a shot, and wore one along with the rest of the tech populist uniform until his death in 2011.

So though I’m sure the suits will sell, they are so “greed is good” -- which was not at all in the spirit of ex-hippie Jobs.

I gravitated to something on the site that was way more Jobs-like: the beige Birkenstocks he sported in his pre-NB days.

But apparently they’re already sold -- for $218, 750.

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