We all owe a round of applause to the techies of the world. Because of them, with a mere push of a button we can get anything we need, think we need, or just plain don't need. What's not to like?
Along with all that, tech-heads are making a more subtle statement. And it's surfaced in office attire.
The breakthrough: Simply the notion that ties suck.
Techies just don't wear ties. And they shake their head at those who do.
This cultural shift has practical applications. If you're pitching for some technology financing, for instance, here's a fashion tip: Lose the tie.
A friend, who I'll call Biff, recently went on a quest for venture capital. He's got 20 years' expertise in his industry. Still, he's more an idea guy than a techie. Confident that his tech idea is bankable, he goes to Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley's venture-capital alley, to pitch it.
But after lining up an appointment to pitch for funding, Biff suddenly realizes he isn't sure how to dress. So he calls up the secretary where he's headed.
"How do the guys that get money dress?" he asks the secretary.
"The ones with coats and ties never get anywhere," she says. "As soon as they walk in, they're not even taken seriously."
"And who gets money?" Biff persists.
"They dress like we do -- khakis and polo shirts."
So Biff makes his presentation in casual wear, sans tie. But after a few rounds, he comes up empty.
Biff shakes his head as he diagnoses what went wrong. "It doesn't take long before the "H" word comes up," he says.
The "H" word. That's Harvard, as in the alma mater of certain Silicon Valley VCs. It tends to make them look upon most mere mortals pitching them an idea about the same way the bankers looked at Jethro in "The Beverly Hillbillies."
So Biff switches coasts. He presents his idea to VCs in Boston.
There, he finds a variation of the new dress code: slacks, dress shirt and coat. But no tie.
Biff dresses for the part, makes his presentation, and this time he wins listeners and funding. In Boston, he finds, being from California makes up for not being from Harvard. The VCs see themselves in the role as finance guys. They like finding experts with a good idea. And the right clothes.
Coast to coast, the unspoken message is that ties are just not happening these days. Sure, they're OK if you're Regis in your trend-setting single-tone shirt-matching silk number, hollering, "Is that ya final ANSAH?!!!"
Other than that, in the techie world, it's the "business casual" polo shirt and khakis. If you're like me, though, you're wondering, how in the world did that happen?
Talk about your 180-degree reverses. It wasn't long ago when techies defined the world of dorks, geeks and technofreaks. They wore short-sleeved business shirts and pocket protectors stuffed with pens and pencils. They squinted through thick black glasses held together with white tape. They wore ankle-high floodpants cinched with an overly long belt somewhere up by their nipples. And despite their prodigious brainpower, they couldn't get girls.
But somewhere along the line the image changed. Since the late '70s, Apple Computers founders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, have defined both ends of the techie image spectrum. Wozniak was the quintessential technogeek; Alfred E. Neumanesque with his goofy grin and oversized brain. Then there's "think different" Jobs, the renaissance man who made techies Hollywood worthy. With his wire-rim glasses and slick haircut, Jobs is no Tom Cruise. But he's no nerd, either. Up on stage presenting Apple product roll-outs, he's a Hollywood swashbuckler in blue jeans and snazzy shirts. All he needs is a sword and some bearded pirates to skewer.
Nothing against ties, but this could be an important cultural breakthrough. Ever wonder why the tie got so stubbornly included in men's officewear? The first Cro- Magnon men surely had ties on while trading for larger clubs, cigars and Bic lighters. What's the deal with tying a piece of cloth around the neck so it can push into your windpipe and hang down your shirt in absurdly varying widths, colors and patterns? One decade, wide and garish lobster bib stain catchers are all the rage. Then, a few years later, mid-width one-tone numbers are popularized by orange-haired game show hosts. What gives?
Will this tieless movement take hold? Will ties go into the rag bin and become only the occasional adornment of fops and renegades? Or will Regis lead the charge in keeping the tie tradition intact?
Only time will tell. But hey, how about another big round of applause for all the tieless techies? Fashion revolutions like this are the stuff of heroes.