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back to article Woz's key to success: Burn the tie, wear T-shirts to work

Singapore is far too strait-laced, says Apple co-founder and engineering hero Steve Wozniak, and employers should let their workers wear T-shirts. Speaking this morning, Woz told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that a counterculture ethos was vital for creativity and it had a continuing influence on Apple. And a counterculture …

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Anonymous Coward

What happens

when everyone wears tshirts to work?

...and the counter culture becomes the predominate culture?

Kinda reminds me of the kids I used to see at punk shows, who intentionally showed up looking like their mom dressed them.

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Bronze badge

Those are called hipsters.

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Trollface

so long as they're apple t-shirts then they're still revolutionary

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cap'n

They were usually dressing that way to taunt other people into starting fights with them. They were punk, but were so punk that they didn't dress "punk" (quotes intentional) to screw with other people. They were, in their manner of dress, counter-counter-culture.

I don't think that means they were hipster... maybe it does(?) I'm old and boring now so hell if I know anymore.

/Shakes first and yells "Get off my lawn!" at the kids walking by...

: )

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Anonymous Coward

When I was in my early twenties I wondered what the next generation would do to shock me in the way younger generations had done for several decades before that (at least).

I went to see Kasabian last week and I finally got my answer.

They look completely and utterly normal and totally out of place at a gig. Other than an allegiance to iPhones, they didn't look like part of any scene at all. I guess this is what happens when you need to be an O2 subscriber to get tickets nowadays.

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I want some of what that guy is on. Look at a country which, like Singapore, is straight-laced. Japan. Their culture puts America to shame, you ever watched a J-Pop video? Great authors? Has he read twilight? People in other countries have their own stars based on their own culture, we have Mr Blobby, they have some other dude dressed in a rubber suit.

Wearing a T-Shirt doesn't promote creativity, it detracts from it, ask Einstein, having to choose what to wear each day is bad for the brain, but looking at Apple, don't all the Apple store drones all wear a uniform?

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Anonymous Coward

bollocks

When Japanese company Fujitsu took over ICL in the UK, they removed all dresscode rules.

And not having to wear a sweaty shirt and restrictive tie made me more comfortable, and helped my creativity.

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Yeah, but

Singapore has a future.

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Er...

I don't think ICL had a corporate policy on laundering. In fact I recall several ICL people who *didn't* look or smell like scruffy gits.

I'll give you that they were in the minority, but we did have washing machines and laundrettes in the 1970s.

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You may be why America is so low in STEM education.

I'm wearing a button down shirt with a collar and I have NEVER sweat at work - even with a tie AND jacket.

If Woz was "all that" he would be Steve Jobs.

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Bronze badge

So?

If Einstein where around today he'd have a dozen sets of black t-shirt and jeans.

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Anonymous Coward

Not everyone has a sloths metabolism or an office with A/C.

I get plenty of exercise, so have a healthy metabolism, so just a shirt and tie is enough to make me sweat in most (too warm) offices, let-alone a jacket too; I wear breathable clothing at work, to be tolerably comfortable, so that I can think clearly to do hard software work.

'Smart' clothing just makes for fatties and mistakes, I've seen it, so it isn't really that smart!

Steve Jobs was not all that, he was just a hypester 'hip' salesman with a very good industrial designer to back him up, but had some serious character flaws and judgement issues which directly contributed to his early death; this should not be confused with the productive creativity of an engineer like Woz; someone who did the actual work and is still alive!

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Bronze badge

bet the ones in the apple store cant wear what they want

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Megaphone

What pretentious rubbish.

"I'm a different and unique rebel" - spoken in chorus by one million iPhone owners.

Mr Wozniak is so proud of his 'counterculture' culture, that he does the same as so many other fashionistas and fails to see that all he's doing is conforming to another standard.

Having structure, discipline or a corporate dress standard doesn't stifle creativity any more than the act of wearing a t-shirt enhances it. Idiotic.

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FAIL

It's not pretentious rubbish: dress codes are only one visible expression of control...

Squeegee your third eye, drone. Think it through. And the facile "if everybody wears T-shirts, isn't that a uniform / new conformity" crap won't wash either.

Companies who mandate a dress code and enforce it are a controlling force from above. If your company controls from above, then unless the guy at the top is one hell of an excellent dictator who can second guess all creative acts required to create excellent products, you're screwed.

See, the control mechanisms will promote those who conform: those who conform are, by definition, not free thinkers: free thinking is a state of mind which applies to _every aspect_ of your life.

If those who control the company at every level are not free thinkers, they will not look kindly on free thinking - try getting a radical idea past your boss if he's risk-averse and you'll see the point.

Sorry, Woz is right: if you want creativity, either loosen up or have an arm of your company which _is_.

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Oh for God's sake

Another half-assed Bill Hicks acolyte-wannabe too ignorant of his own species' history to realize that, absent the concepts -- and implementations -- of hierarchy and authority which he professes so to loathe, he'd never have existed to utter such an ungrateful whine in the first place.

Sure, Woz built some neat computers; I grew up using one of them. But if Apple had been a company of Woz and a bunch of Woz-alikes, without Jobs, then we'd never have heard of them.

I used to be like you. Thank God I got better.

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FAIL

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I'll say it again. If that "Culture" is so great why is America so far behind in STEM education? Why are there more Liberal Arts majors than Science majors?

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Bronze badge

I'm not a Bill Hicks wannabee

I'm a Douglas Adams wannabee.

And anyway I wouldn't have existed if not for Hitler but that doesn't stop me being 21236468th on the list of people who get to have a crack at killing him should time travel ever be invented..

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"Squeegee your third eye"

gives the game away all by itself -- disbelieving third parties are invited to Google the phrase and see if I'm not right. If you want to come off as a Douglas Adams wannabe, you're going to have to put in some more quote-mining effort first, I think.

And that's not all that gives the game away, either, for someone such as myself who has some familiarity with Hicks' oevure. There's a certain stridency to the ignorant "there is no governor anywhere" ranting which I find extremely familiar and which, I'd argue, is fairly distinctive -- it's not unique, of course, but in order to encounter it elsewhere you have to be much more widely read in the anti-cultural literature than I'm willing to give you credit for being. Inasmuch as anyone could be said to have popularized that superficially exciting but completely hollow nonsense, Hicks is the man who did it, so it's upon him I lay the blame for the babble of yours to which I responded. (I will say, though, that Hicks-fannishness makes a pretty good indicator of approximate social maturity, to say nothing of the depth and breadth of a person's historical knowledge.)

As for the rest, I could cry Godwin, but let's face it: people who cry Godwin are tiresome, unimaginative gobshites foolish enough to believe that a catch-phrase equals an argument. So instead I'll say: You'd be willing to throw your own life away in order to take a pot-shot at someone absent whose actions you wouldn't exist, and who in any case has already been dead for going on seventy years now? That's...something. Not something particularly virtuous or respectable, granted, and certainly something which makes me wonder why you value your own life so cheaply -- but it sure is something, all right.

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Complete twaddle

>you wear what you want to wear

And as I look around the office I see a sea of jeans and t-shirts. There is no such thing as individuality when it comes to dress. Punks wanted to be different, goths wanted to be different, you name then they all wanted to be different and they all looked the same.

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Ummm... not really:

Goth, punk etc are pretty damned big nets... do an image search on "Trad Goth" for instance vs "Cyber Goth" - both are still Goth but the styles are worlds apart (not to mention the whole Steampunk thing)...

It's all about accessorising darling; even the standard jeans/t-shirt combo can be make unique with the right accessories; hell, I make a shirt/trousers combo unique(ish) :)

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Ooo, listen to her

Handbags at five paces.

Challenge declined.

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Yeah but nobody gives a fuck

Except goths, and who cares what goths think? Most of us aren't in high school any more.

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Trollface

O tempora o mores

It's "strait-laced", not "straight-laced". Strait means narrow or tight, confined, or strict. Straight means, er, straight.

Oh, and Woz, it's "want to", not "wanna". You'll never get anywhere using language like that.

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ISO standard public dotage

started early for ol' Woz, didn't it? I mean, since the Apple II, there's been --

-- I mean, there's been --

-- surely there's been *something*, hasn't there?

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Anonymous Coward

RESPECT AND AUTHORITY......

might work in Apple Land.

But there is a real world out there, I mean only last week I went to the bank to ask for a business loan, wearing. Bright pink flowery shirt, skin tight shorts, and flip flops.

The week before I quoted for a £700,000 service contract wearing blue and red t-shirt, combat shorts, hadn't had my haircut in three years and forgot to shave since last May. I propped my surf board against the desk.

Did I get the loan?

Did I get the contract?

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Silver badge

The correct answers to both questions are...

...Who gives a flying poptart cat?

Serious seven-figure-contract people are just as pretentious as hipster wannabes. The godawful abrasive cash-driven noise coming out of our financial centers is more than enough proof of that - as is the endless stream of self-aggrandising widdle-plop drivel in business communications.

Saying 't-shirts iz teh kewl' is stupid, but it's tragically less inane than the self-important wanky bollocks that gets pimped out as wisdom in business, management, and economics.

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Anonymous Coward

YOU HAVE

Some serious issues

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I think you may have missed our anonymous friend's point.

He's not saying "Woo, I gets teh big bucks!" I think he's pointing out that, whatever you wear within the confines of your own soya-scented solution exploration space, when you venture beyond that into the realms of traditional business (and there's a heck of a lot of that still going on, believe it or not...) it makes sense to adopt appropriate dress and tone. Nothing wrong with that; most people working in real business realise that, and are sufficiently mature to realise it isn't selling out, and it isn't going straight, it's just dressing appropriately.

You don't have to do it, but if you choose not to you'd better be exceptionally good in some other area, or prepared to fail to engage more often than you succeed.

Anyway, I don't see the problem. Everyone looks good in a half-decent suit. These days, you don't have to do up the top button and wear a tie... ;)

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Stop

@most people working in real business realise

You mean people like Sergey Brin and Larry Page I presume?

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Go

I think Sergey and Larry would qualify as being exceptionally good at something; at the very least, they're capable of peeling twenties off their pocket-wad considerably longer than most of us can manage. They can afford to dress like scruffs. My point stands.

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"I think he's got a lot of liberal counterculture thinking but then Apple does a lot of very conservative things, we control things and have very little tolerance. For example, if an engineer tells a friend something then he's fired."

Maybe that's part of the key to Apple's success - it appeals to people who like to think of themselves as creative but are actually quite conservative.

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I'm not sure that's exactly it...

... as conservatives tend strongly to believe in free markets whereas Apple explicitly curate their marketplace.

That said, I do agree with you that the quote you've copied was probably the most revealing part of the interview. Quite a lot of the commenters above don't quite seem to have bothered reading that far though, judging by the knee-jerk 'Woz is a hypocrite — look at how strict Apple is with its employees' comments.

I guess one argument could be that Apple succeeds as a company because it is somehow able to attract enough of the creatives while maintaining a strict business organisation? You know, navigating between the rhetorical poles of attracting a bunch of extremely creative people and never quite managing to pull everything together or being extremely good at money and organisation but managing to employ only routine thinkers.

Other real companies aren't polarised either but Apple's trade-off does often sound unique.

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Clothing is not rebellion

If everyone wears T-shirts, if that's what is expected, then you've a different sort of conformity.

If you hire the same sort of person (geeks or suburban kids or white guys or whatever) then you get a mono-culture. Yes, throwing a handful of subject experts in a room can often create sparks, but so can a bunch of experts in a range of things, and the sparks can cover a wider area. That's why cities are fertile with innovation: lots of people from lots of different backgrounds, with lots of different ways of thinking.

I don't know how you create an 'international', multi-race, multi-class, well-balanced gender mix if you aren't an actively talent-managing global company. Someone, the cutting-edge companies seem to manage. Perhaps because they hire only the best, with 'best' being the only criterion they look at?

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Linux

Pshaw and pish

Dear little Woz, happy little child - don't you know that 'the suits' decide everything in this world?

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Paris Hilton

Woz invented a computer that started the era of the personal computer.

And you changed the world by ....

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Woz built a neat machine...

...which, if not for Jobs, nobody'd ever have heard of.

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I thought that was IBM.

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A more reliable key to success

Be quite good at what you do (or at least learn how to do what you've claimed you can, before the delivery deadline). Then be the one in 100 million from the above group who just randomly happens to be in the right place, with the right people at the right time.

As for ties, tees or even trousers: what you wear is so completely irrelevant that you may as well ascribe your success to what you ate for breakfast or the colour of your socks.

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IT Angle

I agree..

I guess it's a good thing that someone didn't adopt those "Pulp Fiction" style gimp suits as the business standard dress.

I don't wear a suit, and I never will, I don't want a job that requires one. I am happy making the $60,000 I make, and wearing jeans and no tie, and I'll be happy if that is the most I'll ever make without wearing a suit.

It is absurd to judge a person's skill and intelligence based upon their ability to buy a suit, and then dress themselves in it. What are we peacocks?

Do you want people to fix your network, or play dress-up so that the office looks like a bank?

Someone made a comment about not getting a bank loan because they did not wear a suit. Not only do we pay them interest, they get to decide what we wear too? Will they also get first crack at our new brides too?

A suit does not add anything to a person, it doesn't make them smarter, it doesn't make the stronger. It is something we do because we are pressured into it by other people being pressured themselves, or by douches wanting to show off that they can afford to buy a $5,000 suit and you can't.

I don't know about feeling less creative, but wearing a suit does make me uncomfortable, feel hot and sweaty in the summer, restrict my movements, and make me feel like I'm being strangled.

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I like wearing a suit, I'd hate being made wear a T-Shirt just because my management decide it's more creative. Do you want people to fix your banking database or dress up like students?

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Facepalm

@Ken 16

I suspect you've misunderstood a key part of the phrase "you wear what you want to wear" in the original article.

You like wearing suits? Fair enough, knock yourself out. Some of us don't, however. Whether it's a purely aesthetic reason or a practical one is irrelevant. In a corporate culture that mandates suits, it is foolish to assume that "wearing a suit = is a professional business person", because the actual convention states that "wearing a suit = makes you *appear* to be a professional business person".

If you want an environment that fosters creative development and exploration, an overly-proscriptive environment where conventions are treated as though they were cosmological truths handed down by the Alien Marmite Gods is probably not a great place to start.

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Holmes

As long as they fix the banking database that's been broken, they could come to work in a florescent pink mankini for all I care!

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@Ken 16

Woz said: "let people wear what they like" he did not say: " everybody must wear T-shirts". If you feel good in a suit, wear it! If you don't, no worries. That is pretty much the attitude in our research school. I only wear a suit at BSc, MSc and PhD graduation ceremonies. Suits are to warm and stifling for me, others like them.

Authority is obtained through force of personality, prior achievements, and (most importantly!!) through the quality of arguments given, but not through suit and tie. Again, this is a research setting. Quite a few businesses work differently. They should make up their own minds whether an informal dress code would suit them.

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Gimp

Do you like wearing a suit, or do you like to feel important by wearing a suit?

A 3-piece suit has what, 5 layers of clothing, an undershirt, shirt, vest, jacket, then another thing wrapped around your neck. Are you planning to fix banking databases or prepping for your first walk outside the Lunar Lander?

If you asked me what I was wearing at 10am without me being able to look, I couldn't tell you. I don't care, it doesn't matter. All that matters is if it was clean, and was hanging up in the closet.

I'm not saying we should wear "Bikini Inspector" tee-shirts to work, just that we should be comfortable. Clothing should be clean and neat, and depending on who you interact with, maybe not carry any logos or words.

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WTF?

@ ken 16

I don't care how they dress, as long as they can do their job.

T-Shirts are the de-facto standard casual dress for just about everyone of every age, same goes for jeans too for that matter.

In general, offices that have a more casual attitude to dress codes, tent to be much more pleasant places to work.

And who's forcing you to wear one? Dress codes are usually a minimum code, not a max?

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Anonymous Coward

Ken 16

The point that you, and in fairness the majority of posters here, have missed is that by not enforcing any kind of dress code (other than stipulating decency) allows for a more relaxed workforce, which in turn allows for a more productive workforce. If you feel more comfortable in a suit, then that's just peachy.

"Do you want people to fix your banking database or dress up like students?" I couldn't give a fuck what they are wearing, so long as the end product was excellent. I certainly don't want the mindless corporate drones that currently proffer the absolute clusterfuck of shite that is online banking. With backward thinking like your statement, it's no wonder the UK is fucked.

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@Michael H.F. Wilkinson

> Authority is obtained through force of personality, prior achievements, and (most importantly!!) through the quality of arguments given, but not through suit and tie.

First, I must apologise - I laughed.

The thing about working outside of academia is that almost NONE of the decision makers one comes across have the background knowledge or time to assess each proposal, suggestion, argument or bright idea on its technical merits (or otherwise). Having your particular views accepted is essentially a sales process, possibly with some internal politics throw in. It's not a detached and objective weighing of benefits, costs, feasibility and risk. The primary assessment is of the person, not the task.

So, given that you are effectively trying to SELL your suggestion better than the proponents of all the alternatives are pitching theirs, what measures are likely (or: historically have been shown to be successful) to help you gain approval from a time-limited, risk averse and technically second-rate decision maker - possibly one whom you rarely have any contact with (presuming the idea you're proposing is big enough)?

Might I suggest that as well as knowing what you're talking about - just like all your competitors do - that the appearance of professionalism and the flattery that you're taking the process seriously would certainly not harm your presentation. If you can achieve that in a scruffy pair of old jeans and a Primark teeshirt then good on you.

To wind up, while I've taken an example of swaying the decision making process of a significant project here, people are judging you all the time at work. Maybe only in small ways and maybe they are people who are aware of your technical prowess. However, it's unlikely that you're the only person of any ability in your team, so what's wrong with boosting your profile by being both technically good AND presentable, both at the same time?

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Happy

@Pete

I don't disagree with you, exactly. You describe a very sensible pragmatist's approach to dealing with the current state of many (most?) businessplaces.

I suspect, however, that you're at least partially missing the point made by Wozniak in the original article - namely that, if your goals as an organization are to promote free thinking and a creative approach to solving problems, enforcing a restrictive culture with a particular set of values on all employees is not necessarily going to be achieve those goals.

Enforcing the long-standing convention that there is some sort of cargo-cult-like relationship between the attributes "Wears a suit" and "is a professional" doesn't *necessarily* do much to help this.

You're right in saying that challenging the long-standing convention may prove difficult - but personally I have a problem with the idea of continuing an irrational convention just because it's easier than having to actually use our headmeat to think about things (and, more troublingly, justify our thought processes afterwards). There have been plenty of absolute bounders who wore suits - certainly more than enough to scientifically conclude that the theorem "Wearing a suit marks you out as a professional" is acceptable without further evidence only to the sort of intellect that genuinely believes they've just been offered a chance to purchase the Brooklyn Bridge or similar.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh wow! It's soooo obvious

Apple = Singapore.

Pretty, functional, controlled.

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