Business Advice

Why Mark Zuckerberg and other business leaders wear the same clothes to work each day

Eloise Keating /

For business owners and entrepreneurs, making a large number of decisions on a daily basis comes with the territory.

Whether it’s making high-level strategic decisions or completing routine tasks, the day-to-day running of a business can feel like a never-ending list of decisions to make.

For some business leaders, like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, being able to make the right choices means getting enough sleep each night.

But for others, the answer has been to scale back the actual number of decisions they must make so they can focus on the ones that matter.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is well known for always wearing the same clothes to work: a gray t-shirt, a hoodie and jeans.

As he said back in 2014: “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

Writing on Medium earlier this month Charles Chu explains Zuckerberg is not the only executive to use this strategy. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck and blue jeans became his signature look; Ray Dalio from hedge fund Bridgewater Associates wears the same suit to work every day.

And it’s not only business leaders that opt to wear the same “uniform” each day. US President Barack Obama has previously spoken about his decision to only wear gray or blue suits while at work.

“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” he told Vanity Fair back in 2012.

As Chu explains, for these people, wearing the same style of clothes each day is about “beating decision fatigue”.

“We aren’t Mark Zuckerberg. We aren’t Steve Jobs. But decision fatigue affects our life,” he says.

“Each decision digs into our willpower ‘HP bar’. Each decision makes us less creative, less in control and less focused.”

And adopting a “work uniform” can have other benefits too.

Naomi Simson, founding director of RedBallon, has been wearing red ever since a colleague told her years ago, “if she wanted to be a CEO she better start looking like one”.

Wearing a red dress has become Simson’s “uniform” and powerful symbol of the RedBalloon brand

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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  • wormseye

    Simple – because it was pointed out to him years ago that he still looked like an idiot no matter wht he wore – so it made no difference.

    • Proud Feminist

      Not limited to any one individual or side of politics – remember, Tony Abbott and his ‘white shirt with blue tie always’ rule.

  • john

    omg,
    Barack and the others above have gone down in my estimation
    Re
    “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,”
    If those are considered decisions then he shouldnt be running a country
    So he eats corn cob every night also – to avoid decisions !! 😉

  • Proud Feminist

    Hmm . . . apart from Naomi Simson (who wears the same colour but not necessarily the same clothes), what do all these individuals have in common? Gosh, they are all men . . . and Karl Stefanovic’s experiment of wearing the same suit every day on television showed that society has very different standards for judging what men and women wear. I’m all for cutting down choices – but I think that it is impractical for half the population to follow this advice. Of course, women do not (yet) make up 50 per cent of CEOs – but my guess would be that aspiring female CEOs who wore identical clothes every day in the Zuckerberg manner would be seen by their superiors to be boring, lacking in creativity and possibly a bit odd – and definitely not CEO material . . .