Fashion Review: Jeff Bezos
From "so swole" to "oh no."
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Where were you when you were first unwillingly exposed to that “can’t unsee” image of Jeff Bezos wearing heart-shaped sunglasses, a tight printed shirt, and tight white pants? I was scrolling Instagram on my phone at my mom’s house as a break from Omicron spiraling and saw the photo in Bezos’s own feed. Is he serious? I thought. The masses are getting sick and going to the hospital and having an extremely shitty and scary New Year’s and Jeff Bezos is Instagramming the dress-up party he decided to have with his hot girlfriend like a common jobless millionaire? And here I didn’t think his ex-wife Mackenzie Bezos could possibly look any better.
The photo, taken at a party seemingly held on land during a yachting trip around St. Barth in the Caribbean, turned into a fashion moment, the kind of thing we are destined to see in fifty years on a “history photographed” InstaTok or whatever social media horrors await us in the future. This is not just because fashion news is slow this time of year, but also because Bezos has for years been positioned in the media as a kind of magical businessman/fashion person centaur: half third-richest man, half impulse Mr. Porter shopper.
Personal style, in fact, is one area in which Bezos gets more attention than rival fellow billionaire and aspiring space cadet Elon Musk. No one really gives as much of a damn about what Musk wears, even though he has also attended the Met Gala and recently hosted Saturday Night Live wearing a $4,000 black Givenchy suit with a jacket bearing “a silver padlock closure.”
In a world where women’s clothes, bodies, and faces have long been scrutinized by the media, I’m fine with training a hypercritical lens on either of these men. But let’s discuss Bezos since he has just re-captured our attention with the same gusto as the first And Just Like That promo photos. And that disco shot is nothing if not a rebooted Bezos — And Jeff Like That.
To understand today’s Jeff Bezos, we must revisit yore’s Jeff Bezos.
In the nineties, as we see in this old 60 Minutes interview with Bob Simon, he was a huge geek who dressed like it, in billowy blue office shirts, pleated pants, and oversized cobalt blue rain jackets. Worth a mere $10 billion, he let the world get freely acquainted with his male pattern baldness. The telling part of the interview is when Simon asks Bezos to explain why he started Amazon and uses his answer as an example of what Bezos wants out of life.
“The way I made the decision to leave Wall Street and do this was — and it’ll sound geeky to you — but it was a regret minimization framework,” Bezos said. To which Simon is like, PLZ SPLAIN 4 DUMBS?
Bezos added, “I want to have lived my life in such a way that when I’m 80 years old, I’ve minimized the number of regrets that I have.”
In the 2010s Bezos notably seems to have started applying that thinking to his appearance. Which is cute given that a woman in his position would certainly not have had the luxury to put off her looks decades into being a public figure. But finally, in July 2017, the world met swole Jeff Bezos after he was photographed walking into a conference wearing a puffy vest, name tag, and aviators, with newly muscular arms testing the seams of a shrunken polo shirt, his head shaved. The photo became one of the decade’s defining memes.
In 2018, Bezos was proclaimed a “style icon” by the New York Times, thus giving birth to a type of story that could be repeated every time he made a fashion statement: reporter proclaims him better dressed than he used to be, reporter interviews men’s style expert analyzing what his look means, reporter reminds us that other tech executives/billionaires have no style, thus reinforcing the significance of Bezos choosing to simply try.
Here are excerpts from the 2018 Times story:
What am I talking about? The ascension, unavoidable when this sort of spotlight falls on you, of Jeff Bezos, a.k.a., the richest man in the world, to full-fledged style icon.
…In the vacuum left by Steve Jobs, amid the uncertain status of the gray T-shirt-and-hoodie proponent Mark Zuckerberg (thanks to Facebook’s changing fortunes), and as an alternative to the Hollywood velvets of Elon Musk and the folksiness of Tim Cook, Mr. Bezos offers a new kind of image of a tech titan.
According to Joseph Rosenfeld, a personal style adviser who specializes in the tech world in Silicon Valley and New York, and whose clients work at companies like Apple, Intuit and Google, “he is doing something with style that differentiates him from any one else in tech…
Can you imagine any expert praising a woman in power for differentiating herself because she started working out and wearing better fitting clothes? Anyway, now here are excerpts from this week’s Wall Street Journal article about Bezos’s disco look:
“It’s him embracing fashion as a tool to get some kind of attention,” speculated New York image consultant and stylist Peter Nguyen, who specializes in working with men in the tech industry.
…How can a controversial titan win in the public-image game? Many of those on Forbes’s current list of the world’s richest people are executives who dress in quietly professional ways, from Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway to Amancio Ortega of Zara. But Mr. Bezos, for several years now, has consistently broken from that mold, suggesting an interest in, if not always a flair for, fashion.
Backing up just a bit: after Swole Bezos, we got summer of 2019’s Yacht Bezos. This is the ongoing phase which began when Bezos, months after his divorce, like he’s J Lo or something, took to the high seas in boats so huge and luxurious they have showers and pool noodles on the back deck. He literally sailed into his glamour phase of middle age, his regrets theoretically trailing behind him like chum on an environmentally problematic tourist shark dive, as he now subjects himself and his girlfriend Lauren Sánchez to long-lens paparazzi shots of them rinsing off salt water, spraying each other with sunscreen, and kissing in skimpy clothes. (Once again I give you: Mackenzie Bezos!)
In the summer of 2019, Bezos received fashion attention for repeating a pair of octopus-printed swim shorts at least three times — twice in St. Tropez, after first appearing wearing them on David Geffen’s yacht off the coast of Spain. GQ’s Rachel Tashjian wrote at the time:
The shorts, the fashion search engine Lyst reports, were searched for more than 4,000 times from July to September, aka Peak Bezos Fun Hours. Overall, the brand saw a 105% rise in page views during this period, leading Lyst to rank the pair in question as the ninth hottest men’s product, right above a Vetements embroidered baseball cap but just below a pair of Amiri distressed track-stripe jeans. (Excited for those to get the Bezos Bump, too.)
Of course, Bezos has real incentive to become something of a fashion influencer. Amazon would love to sell high-margin luxury fashion, which is why for years, it has been trying — and failing — to become some version of Net-a-Porter, the same way it became some version of Netflix, Walgreens, Toys “R” Us, and Macy’s all rolled into one. But despite regular hangouts with Anna Wintour, co-chairing the Amazon-sponsored Met Gala, sitting front row at a Tom Ford show, and positioning himself as fashion’s pandemic savior, Bezos has never really become a full fashion person.
Yet these efforts are why Bezos’s personal style cannot be easily overlooked. His personal fashion sense seems in line with the way the luxury industry sees Amazon — aspirational without the taste level or quality controls necessary to be trusted with real high fashion. In other words, Bezos/Amazon: fashion:: ABS: Valentino couture.
Bezos may soon learn something many prominent women know all too well about fashion, which is that “regret minimization,” or “risk taking” in plebeian speak, easily turns into plain regret, such is the cruelty of the public eye. If he possessed a shred of humanity or true connection to the activist-minded fashion industry, he might feel a single iota of regret in the wake of posting those Instagram party pix. The masses spending even more money than usual ordering from Amazon to avoid Omicron or isolate while being sick from Omicron now know that Bezos aka “Mr. Worldwide Shipping” was having a disco New Year’s Eve party in the Caribbean wearing an outfit he’ll likely never wear again that cost at least around $2,000. We all know Bezos is rich and that he has a great life. But it’s galling that he would go to special effort to remind us of that as we face down a third year of the pandemic. Independent of aesthetics, it doesn’t get much more tasteless than that.
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