Silicon Valley professionals get a bad rap for being uncreative when it comes to personal style. The common stereotype is that engineers live in hoodies, jeans, and flip flops, while venture capitalists constantly rock fleece vests and v-neck sweaters.
Menlo Park-based matchmaker Amy Andersen has seen her fair share of young professionals sporting these uniforms. She founded Linx Dating in 2000 when she saw that a surprising number of professionals were having trouble navigating the Silicon Valley dating scene. Since then, she’s coached a wide network of people in the tech, financial, and health care industries to better position themselves for success in dating.
Andersen shared her take on style in Silicon Valley as well as some tips for what young professionals should be wearing to impress their dates.
Business Insider: Do you think there’s a Silicon Valley dress code?
Amy Andersen: There is a definite Silicon Valley aesthetic and culture. The mentality is you want to fit in here and you don’t want to stand out. Employees want to blend into their company culture. I have heard stories about people taking jobs at Facebook, as an example and, before the job started, dying her hair to be a mousy brunette so as not to stand out too much as a platinum blonde.
With the kinds of perks that Google or Facebook or Palantir, for example, offer to employees, it is easy to see why an employee on the margin might stay at work rather than venture out and would certainly not focus on fashion. The goal is to work and stay on the company campus, while having some fun too. If you think about it, the culture at these companies for 20- and even early 30-somethings is not unlike the dorm experience at a top university — project teams bond over what they do all day. It’s more about living to work than it is about working to live, and so you do everything together.
In Silicon Valley, in the fields of tech and engineering, there’s no focus on outward appearance unless you have a client-facing role, like in leadership or sales. In that case, you are expected to be polished and dress the part.
Expression outside of the campus environment is totally different — techies and those in those circles express themselves through a variety of ways to their inner sanctum of friends. This could be through the new Italian wheels in their garage at home, artwork displayed on their walls, recently purchased memberships at private social clubs like The Battery in San Francisco, or epic new multimillion dollar pied-a-terres in San Francisco.
BI: Is the clichéd hoodie a reality in the tech community?
AA: For many, hoodies are a way of life in the tech community, as fleece vests are a way of life in the venture capital and hedge fund community. I see a ton of guys (and girls) walking around town in their respective company hoodies.
Let’s not just focus on hoodies though! Tons of guys wear frog feet shoes “5 finger footwear.” They say it is good for posture. I think they’re completely hideous and a huge fashion offence!
The Adidas black and white sneakers are very popular, and backpacks are a way of life here as well. The ironic thing is most all of the major fashion houses for women are using backpacks for Spring 2014 as part of their look for women — not a Jansport backpack but more Chanel, Louis Vuitton, or Chloe.
BI: How often are wardrobe consultations part of your coaching?
AA: A few times a month. Some clients hire me to do this for them and other times I match the client to the right stylist according to their budget and personality. I have a roster of great stylists for every type of person that contacts me.
BI: What kinds of things do you tell your clients as far as dressing better?
AA: First impressions are so important. If you are coming from work, do what it takes to put your best foot forward and freshen up. No one likes a sweaty, frazzled date!
Women will often put a lot of time and thought into their first date outfit. It is not uncommon for her to get a manicure, maybe even buy a new dress. A woman doesn’t need a guy to look impeccable, but she does want him to look presentable … “Nice” could be a pressed dress shirt and nice pair of dark denim, brown belt, nice brown loafers or dress shirt and pair of Banana Republic khakis. This is not hard to achieve and will send a signal that a man is taking the early stages of dating seriously.
BI: What should guys wear out on a date?
AA: This is all situational and depends on the context of the date. It also depends on the person largely. If going for sushi and cocktails, throw on dark denim, a cool t-shirt, and unstructured blazer for a little bit of an edgy look. If you are reading this and saying, “Huh?” then do dark denim and a Rag & Bone basic long-sleeve t-shirt with the right shoes. That is definitely more Silicon Valley code for casual, yet on the right guy and body could look totally hot.
If it’s a more dressy date, I would suggest a nice pair of slacks and dress shirt or fantastic blazer paired with dark denim, gorgeous loafers (or drivers), and a dress shirt with cuff links. Totally polished, put together, and making a stand-out impression.
BI: What should women be wearing out on a date?
AA: Like advice I would give to men, let’s start with being confident. Once you are there, rock it out and have fun with your clothing. What men tell me they find appealing is a woman who is confident and sexy in her own skin.
At Linx I get a lot of demands for a woman who is classic, ladylike, stylish, not trying too hard, not showing too much skin, but perfectly presentable. For better or for worse, men are impossibly visual creatures. A universal message is that men like a woman who accentuates her figure.
What does that mean from a style perspective? Think more Olivia Palermo than Pamela Anderson. For a casual to more dressy date, do a pair of skinny pants, a great silk tank style top, an edgy leather jacket (so hot for Spring 2014), the right costume jewelry, and some nude pumps. If it’s a fancy sort of restaurant and you want to seal the deal, do a body hugging Herve Leger bandage dress paired with a great blazer, hair in a loose bun atop the head or at the nape of the neck, and statement heels.
BI: Why is style important to dating more effectively?
AA: I would say style and first impressions are important considering people generally make up their mind in the first 60 seconds if they are interested in getting to know you better romantically or not. Why not do everything you can to substantially increase your odds of success from the start?
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