Archive for October, 2007

Tom Wolfe, the profoundly brilliant journalist and competent novelist, can wear a white suit. He has done so for forty years. If you had written the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and watched very carefully where you sit for all this time, you could too. If you haven’t, don’t.

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(photo Pedro Parga’s flickr)

The starched high collar, pocket handkerchief and “hats tie” are pure Radical Chic. Impeccable.

Tom Wolfe chronicled a generation.  DFOF fondly remembers carrying a  copy of The Pump House Gang around at university. It was the only hip thing he possessed.

Unless this is some deep American-Hawaiian cult thing of which DFOF is entirely ignorant, these gentlemen pictured below are about as far away from the Right Stuff  as is sartorially possible. This is not good to be looking at over breakfast, or indeed any time. (thanks Zoli and Vinnie!) 

(photo Brian Solis, via Zoli. The DFOF spy network is gradually infiltrating the digerati.)

DFOF has understood that these fellows are serious players in the valley. The photo is taken on a golf course, but even that is not a mitigating factor. This look should be consigned to the bonfire of the vanities or worse. It is cruel and unusual punishment. Even Americans could surely agree that a white suit in the wrong size is tantamount to torture?


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If you are more accustomed to wearing these…

…rather than these…

Gucci tuxedo shoes

…then I say you are a lazy geek, L-A-Z-Y. It’s time to step it up a little. Your feet are your friends – and you can tell an awful lot about a person based on their shoes (same-old-same old, or unexpected complexity and daring?). These days, (for me) footware seems to involve a lot of patent leather – but what that telegraphs to the universe, I’m not sure. Perhaps just that I’m drawn to shiny things.

Okay – maybe patent’s not really ideal everyday wear for boy geeks, unless you’re in the habit of wearing a tux (though as far as I’m concerned, every male over the age of 18 should own a properly-fitted, quality tuxedo. I don’t care if it costs $3000 and you’re only going to wear it once. That once, you’re going to look really, really good. Is that not enough?)

Anyway, the point of this post is twofold – to tell you about some footware that I bought recently (because I know you are fascinated by my shopping habits) and to explain how the right shoe can be your friend in a geek setting.

Exhibit A:


I got these Aquatalia boots at David’s in Toronto a few weeks ago and apparently they’re waterproof or something. This is great because they have absolutely no tread, so when things are wet and slippery and I fall on my ass, the boots will be fine. They’re low-heeled, Italian patent leather, with white stitching and zippers on both outer and inner seams. They’re very cool with rolled-up jeans and also skirts. But bestly of all? They’re an awesome combination of comfort and cool – I’m not suffering to be fashionable wearing these suckers (until I fall down in them, that is). I would actually wear them on a plane, rather than kickin’ it old school in my DC hightops, like I usually do.

Exhibit B:


I picked up these Stuart Weitzman croc-printed patent “car shoes” (note the rubber running up the back of the heel, this prevents the leather from becoming scuffed while driving) at Nordstrom’s in Seattle in September. I was there for a geek-ish event, the Ford/Microsoft launch of Sync (an in-car technology that lets you operate your iPod, phone, etc. with voice commands… but enough with the client pimping).

As it turns out, they came in very handy in early October, when I was in Las Vegas for SAP’s TechEd, which, of course, is a delightfully geeky event. These shoes look fancy, but they’re as good as a pair of Nikes (minus the sweat shop stuff) – as evidenced by my repeated victories in casino footraces against RedMonk’s James Governor. I understand he has still not recovered from being beaten so throughly by a girl. Suck it up, James!

In other words, these shoes are magic – not only screaming professionalism (with suits or skirts), but also perfect for impromptu 100-metre dashes.

Today’s lesson? Taking the time to spend a little extra dough and thought on your footware can add a disproportionate amount of style to your wardrobe. Even if you’re dressed like a slob or in a “short-sleave, conference shirt over the long-sleave [sic] shirt“, cool shoes will erase a multitude of sins.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: in a way, what’s on your feet provides a window into your soul, and you don’t want everyone to think you have a boring soul, do you?

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As a geek, the ultimate fashion accessory – perhaps item – is the laptop. If you don’t even have a laptop, whao-boy, it’s time to figure out how the door-man let you in.


Let’s start from the beginning: laptop selection.

Sorry, Old Faithful Don’t Fly with the geekinistas

The first trap here is to use whatever PoS your place of employment has assigned you. More than likely, something along the lines of a Dell Crapititude 3000:

Ubuntu on the Laptop

Showing up to a group of geekinistas with a Dell is like wearing Levi Signature, Kirkland, Cherokee jeans. We all know where you got those, you cheap bastard.

While there’s a certain utilitarian, Sam Walton business efficiency (why get your own room when you could share one with Harry from accounting?!) feel to Dells for the purpose at hand, brining a Dell is like declaring to the world: “I don’t give a crap about my primary tool, I shop off the rack. Quit lookin’ at me, I gotta go write some Excel macros.”

Lessons from My Sister

Now, we all know your company is going to be too cheap to buy you a better machine. You’re gonna have to lay out your own cash. I know, it just doesn’t make sense. But, it’s like my older sister told me once when I watched her wincing at cutting away her cuticles and asked why she did it if it hurt, “well, Mikey, being beautiful is painful.”

Indeed, get ready to pull out your credit card. Let’s hope the mag-strip still works.

Above the Crapititude 3000, there’s a fork in the road: you go Thinkpad or your go Apple.

The Thinkpad

If you’re lucky, your work will supply you with Thinkpads. The question here will be if you get the standard issue, 15″ Thinkpad, or you can customize it down to a tiny one. The tinier your Thinkpad, the better. Again, the point of the laptop as accessory is to say, “I put a lot of thought and effort into this.” A tiny Thinkpad will always draw lots of ooo’s and ahh’s from the geekinistas. The best result however, is that insider winking nod from a fellow tiny Thinkpad-ite.

Also, be sure to talk about the trackpoint all the time:

Say things like, “oh, Nadia and Larry, you know I’d use an Mac if only they’d have a trackpoint! I needs my trackpoint. I just can’t figure out that nasty trackpad.”


Which brings us to option two: Apple.

First let me say that there is only one option if you’re going to go Apple: get the full-blown silver ones, the MacBook Pro. I mean, sure, you can get the plastic, black case. But that just says, “Waaa! I didn’t want to needlessly spend more money for something that looks better! Waaa! (Where’s my FileMaker 2003 Developer Conference shirt?!)”

Now, there’s the chance to go retro here with 12″ PowerBooks. They don’t make tiny MacBook Pro‘s, so you if you’re the kind of person who likes to talk about Joust and how awesome Atari was – ugh – you can complete your whole “pop-culture stopped for me in 1987” thing with a 12-incher. This is respectable until Apple comes out with a similar offering in the Pro line. Milk it while you can if you need something edit your Gobots en Legos reenactments with.

One final note: soon, I’m sure we’ll se the OLPC showing up:

My advice: save the pioneering to the Tommy Bahama, mid-life crisis geek-set. See how they manage to work it in instead of taking the early risk yourself. This DFoF advisor rates it as a neutral for now.


Showing up with a naked laptop is like showing up, well, naked. What am I talking about here? Stickers. That’s right. It’s not just for people who carve their own glasses frames anymore.

As a practitioner, I’m a rank amateur here. The field is wide open, and, except from people like Andy Rooney in training Zed Shaw — kisses! — stickered laptops will get you geek-fashion points no matter how crappy you are at it.

That is, there’s a fabulous fashion arbitrage window open at the moment: you need no skill to look good with laptop stickers! That window is probably fast closing, so get in while you can.

With that said, let’s consider the thinking-process for selecting stickers. In general, you can divide it up into 3 methods of stickering:

The Jackson Pollack, aka, The Cubical Punk, aka, The Sticker Harlot

This is the style where-in you just keep layering anything with adhesive on one side and something (preferable) outrageous on the other side (a sticker). There’s no need to worry about alignment, or even covering up stickers – you’ll be getting so many stickers that there’ll always be something new on the top layer.

So called “creatives” should look into this style. Also, consultants who are supposed to bring “a fresh look” or know what “The Kids” are up to are strongly advised to Harlot it up.

The connoisseur’s question here is: do you cover up the laptop’s logo? The Apple has the glowing, well, Apple in the center. The Thinkpad throws its brand-sign on the corner. In general, my advice is don’t cover it. With few exceptions, your fashion-foo cannot defeat the those two brand titans. If you have a Crapititude 3000, cover that junk up like you’d cover a distended liver.

Pro-tip for Apple-ites: get one of these.

The Christo, aka, Full-Body Mod, aka, Old Laser Hide

When plastering your laptop with stickers just won’t do, there are other options: full encasements and laster etching.

More popular and available in Apple stores world-wide are the plastic encasements. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the plastic-wrapped-couch look when it comes to hardware. That crap is gonna get scratched, live with it.

Others love the “skins” for iPods, iPhones, and laptops. I begrudge them nothing.

First, you have the plastic exoskeletons, e.g., the Speck SeeThur. These comes in various colors – red, blue, purple – and give you laptop a sort of weird, but (I guess) cool look:

Then, you have the full-out stickers that cover the whole laptop:

These have a certain charm if done right, e.g., definitely, yesnot so much.

Finally, there’s the “I subscribe to Make and laser etched my laptop look”:

This look has varying degrees of success, but mostly good because it’s so novel.

The Bukowski, aka, The Genius-Bum, aka, Leanin’ on a Lamppost

If you sort of don’t give a crap – you know, the whole “if you think I looked bad during the keynote, you should see me when I’m at home” set (big hugs!)- this is the Peacock Tail for you. I first encountered this when checking into my room for a consult up in Redmond when Danny Ayers came up to me and started enacting that old Oscar Wilde quote.

Once we sat down – Danny having pulled a bottle of wine off the wall and attempted to carve out its cork with some keys, finally just corking it so we could get a damn drink (the lobby wasn’t open in mid-afternoon on a Sunday for some crazy reason!) – I checked out his splendid Bukowski: it was splattered with an ubuntu sticker, a handful of airline bag check stickers (!), and what could best be described as “some other random crap.” It was style-genius!

While a good picture isn’t available, and I didn’t think to take one at the time, you can see a sort of tidier incarnation here.

However, we do have a great picture of Bruce Sterling‘s Bukowski:

As Sterling might say, “oh yeah…baby.”

The Mondrian, aka, The Anal, aka, The Middle-Ground

If you’re not for the “oops! I just spilled all these stickers on my laptop, golly!” look, you can go for the more well arranged look. It’s sort a mix of all of the above for the geekinistas wannabes – you know, like me:

Current Peacock's Tail

Overlapping is allowed as needed, but definitely not encouraged. More importantly, there is only one layer of stickers. You must think before you stick a sticker, namely, “what does each sticker say about me? What story will I tell for each one?”

More than likely, the stickers will be tech related. Deviation into non-tech subjects is allowed, but you open yourself to being discovered as a poseur in that topic. If you find yourself trapped there, you can whip out, “oh! yeah! I just liked the way it looks. Gosh! Look at the time! I need to change my pants!”

The Most Important Accessory

While keeping your trousers cut right, or your jacket well seasoned with retro-hipster-Kiwi-itous is of great importance, the actual basis of your geekdome is, without question, one of the most important aspects of your look.

So be wise: get yourself a Thinkpad or an Apple, and stick something on it.

Whatever you do, though, avoid the death-stroke of the Peacock Tail: the solo business card. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen them at the airport security line. They tape their business card, and only their business card to their laptops.


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The answer is always, always a very strong, and very loud: no!

(Note that whurley‘s face has been photoshopped on to the above.)

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Tie Time!

The good man Thomas has seen fit to add me to the “editorial team” here, as he likes to call it. Like that old fool Socrates, my first confession must be, “oh, dear Agora of fashion, I know nothing of fashion.”

In this case, it’s true. It’s only in the last 6 months that I can tie a tie unaided. Seriously.

Until very recently, I was what you might call a victim of spending my Friday nights editing .ini files instead of scheming how to further The Man agenda with The Ladies. That is, I was a severe geek.

Of late — over the past 5-6 years — my dear wife has done much to reform me. Not having any inner gauge of fashion, I have no idea what the progress is. Sansei The Wife seems to find new things frequently.

That said, I can proffer several tips and learning that have been passed down to me. And, I enjoy being snarky, which seems to fit around these parts.

Top of my mind at the moment are two things:

  1. Halloween! Coming fast is Halloween. As geek adults, you know what this means:

    That’s right: you’ll eventually have to come up with some costume to wear. I had a bit of a Halloween costume tragedy a few years ago when I couldn’t find gray hair color and thought silver would do. The result was a robo-Hemmingway look. Yow!

    The question here is balancing that fine line between “yeah, I know how to install anti-virus software” and “one of the programmers came as a tentacle.” Yeah. It’s a mine-field.

  2. It’s Fall/Winter! This means jackets, coats, and sweaters and, as I understand it, dark clothes. The problem for geek fashion here is that the jacket wagon is wide open, even accepting of what I’d call hipster-ware.

    I recall walking the streets of New York several years ago in February and marveling at all the black, wool thigh-length coats all the dashing folks wore. They look sharp, you bet: but, come on, the geek ware thing is more about peacock than fitting in.

    At any rate, the agenda item here is to get some good snaps of jackets, coats, and warm-covering combos that work and don’t work in geek-land. Feel free to send them in. I’m awaiting the short-sleave, conference shirt over the long-sleave shirt look: geek fashion straight outta the back wall at Target, buddy!

  3. Get my hair did. A few years ago, my friendly fashion advisor (see above) told me I needed to start using hair-gel. I had no idea what this meant and, indeed, feared it. I still have no idea what I’m doing in the morning when I stick a bunch of sticky goop in my hand and mess it up in my hair. Pursuant to that ineptness, I’ve decided I should take a picture of the resulting mess everyday and see what evolves.

    In addition to displaying my own ineptness with “product,” I’ll be on the lookout for those who’re more skilled than I.

Enough of this meta-content. Onto something real.

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Maggie Fox, Canadian social media mogul in the making, has invested. And wisely. Rather than attempting to step into the deep quagmire of female fashion reporting, I’ll  simply post the pictures and her email.



By email from Maggie.

The coat is Robert Rodriguez, wool & acrylic twill, purple 50’s  A-line-ish, cropped sleeves (now I’ll need to get long gloves…) with some cool modern touches including rounded pockets. I bought it because purple+50’s style = awesome; I seem to be endlessly drawn to 50’s-inspired coats (was there ever a better time for outerwear?). It was also stupidly expensive, but I had to have it because

a) I was cold and

b) it’s PURPLE and

c) the buttons look like big, foil-covered chocolates.

There’s also some military stuff going on with the piece just under the neck, which is okay but not something I completely dig – I find it a little odd to see people marching around in military-inspired gear if they’re not actually required to kill anyone.

DFOF has asked Maggie to join the ranks of the editorial team.


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The evil tennis sock

DFOF spies at work at Colgate.


Tennis socks are fine for tennis, but DFOF recommends they remain as close the tennis court as possible, and that they should, by law, only be sold to people who can prove they own a tennis racquet. Combined with polyester pants that are heading towards a health warning in terms of tightness, this look is plain evil.

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