Reflecting on this year, one of the most significant events in the business world was the news that Facebook was going public. On the day of the initial public offering, CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed up on Wall Street wearing a hooded sweatshirt, a far cry from the room full of suits he was speaking to. Some took it as a sign of disrespect. Others came to his defense, saying that he was just being himself.
Zuckerberg’s fashion choice on that day was another symbolic representation of the differences between East and West within the US. The East Coast is the Old Guard: Suits, suits and more suits. Boston, New York, DC…it doesn’t matter. Business attire is business attire, and people fall in line.
The West Coast, on the other hand, has a very strong entrepreneurial culture. A quick look at some of the world’s most successful “new” companies in the past two decades—Google, Yahoo, eBay, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and of course Facebook—shows that they all call the West Coast home. (Granted, Facebook started in Boston, but since it has been a corporation it has been in the Silicon Valley).
When you go to work for someone else, you submit to their corporate culture. But when you create your own business, you call the shots. Walk through the offices of any of those companies above, and it’s clear that these companies (with the debatable of Microsoft) were built by a new breed of entrepreneur.
The concept of wearing shorts to work in offices featuring bright green or yellow or orange walls is foreign to most on the East Coast, but commonplace in the West. And in his choice of hoodie for his big wall street debut, Zuckerberg stayed true to that, for better or worse.