December 9, 2022

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Sam Bankman-Fried and the power of dressing badly

2 min read

One of the horrifying things we have recently learnt about Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the crypto exchange/fraud/morality tale FTX, is that his clothes were not a power play. Running a multibillion-dollar business while wearing a T-shirt, rumpled shorts and beaten-up trainers appeared to be bog-standard techno-peacocking. I can dress like a failure-to-launch video-game addict because it’s all about meritocracy here at FTX, we’re too busy disrupting to care about clothes, and besides I’m richer than you.

How unpleasant to discern that Bankman-Fried actually was a failure-to-launch video-game addict, just one who somehow got hold of a lot of other people’s money. That is one possible interpretation, at least. A less charitable suspicion is that Bankman-Fried was a pure criminal all along and his clothes were part of the grift, a contrivance designed to project idealism, single-mindedness and creativity. I leave it to readers to decide which interpretation they prefer. The question that concerns me is the power of dressing badly, and how it can be harnessed.

The obvious example, as tired of it as we are, is former president Donald Trump. I used to wonder why he preferred his suits several sizes too large. I was being stupid: he wears them that way to conceal that he is very fat, and it sort of works. The shiny, overlong ties help the tenty suits look more proportional and, again, distract from the gut they rest on.

Donald Trump in large suit jacket and long tie in 2019 © AFP via Getty Images

It is easy to laugh at all this, and I do. But one must acknowledge that Trump’s poor clothes, whatever his reasons for choosing them, are a fantastic success. They fit perfectly with what he is trying to project. They are evidently expensive, attention-grabbing, brazen — and he was elected president in large part for embodying wealth, drama and a refusal to apologise.

This is Rule No 1 of dressing badly for success:…

2022-11-22 07:55:04

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