Jean-ius: Denim, The Official Fabric of Silicon Valley

Levi Strauss & Co.
June 25, 2014

There’s a scene in the first season of HBO’s new comedy, Silicon Valley, wherein a fictional tech CEO describes the stereotypical organization of coding teams. And while he goes into some detail about the usual suspects of a coding group, we couldn’t help but notice a different common attribute: denim.

Indeed, denim makes more than a cameo in the HBO show, gracing the legs of not only the startup team protagonists, but also the tech titan Peter Gregory (played by the late great Christopher Evan Welch), who invests in them. And while Silicon Valley might be the funniest outpost to correlate denim with the tech world, it certainly isn’t the first.

The folks over at ReadWrite have been following the denim-in-tech trend for the better half of the year. Their article “Does Silicon Valley Look Like “Silicon Valley?” (spoiler alert: yes) includes a great infographic on the average denim-clad techie one might find in the SOMA district of San Francisco.

In fact, denim is so ubiquitous in the startup-studded streets of SF, that Marketplace recently ran a piece featuring a ‘techie detector;’ a man who could actually identify members of the industry just by assessing their denim-heavy outfits.

Here at LS&Co., we’d like to think our love of denim has inspired our tech neighbors—after all, some of the industry’s biggest stars have done their best work in denim.

From Apple Founder Steve Jobs, whose main uniform was  a black turtleneck and Levi’s® 501® jeans (he owned over 100 pairs!); to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose wardrobe became etched into our pop culture cache when he famously wore a hoodie and jeans to an interview with President Obama. Even Twitter and denim have an innate link: founder Jack Dorsey doesn’t just love jeans, he nearly went into apparel design to become a jean artisan, he once disclosed to Wired.

Do denim and tech have an inherent link?

Unzipped asked Cristos Goodrow, Engineering Director at Google, to weigh in on the matter. “I think that denim is the fabric of people who build things, and technologists are builders,” he said. “Denim is simple and utilitarian, it handles lots of situations without getting in the way.”

Truly, denim’s been the fabric of choice for other transformative movements in SF: from the iconic miners of the late 1800s to the jeans and tie-dye-donned social revolution of the 1960s, and now to the blue jeans-clad tech visionaries driving Silicon Valley, denim has been an important part of innovation in the Bay Area.

“Denim is relaxed,” Cristos says, “it’s the opposite of anxious, and people do their best, deepest thinking when they are relaxed.”

“Innovation often requires deep and focused thinking about what problem you are trying to solve and how you will solve it,” Cristos says. “This kind of thinking happens more easily when you are relaxed, and you’re more likely to be relaxed wearing denim.”

Whether it’s coming up with the fictional ‘Pied Piper’ or the very real Apple, Facebook and Twitter, or continuing to create innovative products for major tech companies like Google, it seems the comfort and resilience of denim reigns in the tech attire realm. And if we’re getting specific, it seems there’s a particular penchant for wearing Steve Jobs’ favorite 501® jeans—“they fit well and they’re easy to wear,” says Cristos.

Here at LS&Co. we’re thrilled to see so many visionaries wearing one of our favorite articles of clothing in such innovative places—but of course, we’ve always encouraged our employees to wear denim to work. Maybe LS&Co. has more in common with our tech neighbors than a shared love of denim; at 161 years old, we might very well be San Francisco’s original startup.