As far as American icons go, Steve Jobs’s mockneck-and-Dad-jeans ensemble is as indelible as the man himself. One Minnesota company, reaping the benefits by so-called association, has seen sales of its Classic Techno-Cotton Mock Pullover double overnight since the late Apple CEO’s passing at the age of 56, despite the not-insubstantial price of $175. Handmade-to-order in the United States—and currently on backorder until October 28—St. Croix’s Style No. 199 sweater was widely reported to be Jobs’s go-to topper, most enthusiastically of all by Bernhard Brenner, whose company, Knitcraft, owns St. Croix. Brenner told the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal that Jobs purchased roughly two dozen black turtlenecks each year, even calling Brenner on occasion to report how much he liked them. “Obviously we’re going to miss Steven Jobs as a customer,” Brenner said. “But the country will miss him, period.”
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
You can’t blame St. Croix for milking the alleged relationship, of course—Jobs is a hot commodity, perhaps even more so after his death from complications due to pancreatic cancer. (The label even goes so far as to donate $20 from the sale of every turtleneck to the American Cancer Society as a “tribute to Steve.”) But an upcoming biography by Walter Isaccson has a different spin on the sartorial legend, according to an excerpt obtained by Gawker.
On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.
Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple, Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”
In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”
The sweater, it turns out, was as one of a kind as they come. And with his haunting closing statement, Jobs, as ever, was right.