Fifth Contest: Viridian Couture

Deadline: July 21, 01999

Key concepts: design contest, formal clothing for computer elite

Attention Conservation Notice:
Beware all enterprises that require new clothes.

And the winner is:

Reid Harward (**) at, for cruelly dashing our hopes by demonstrating how computer people will actually dress twenty years from now. They'll be standing in a sleazy junkyard full of useless, obsolete twentieth century machinery. In baggy clown pants. Messing with some handheld gizmo. While their godforsaken *t-shirt* takes an urgent videophone call from somebody they don't want to talk to.

Reid Harward wins an all-too-ironic copy of THE NEW LOOK: THE DIOR REVOLUTION by Nigel Cawthorne.

Entries in the Viridian Couture Contest:

The following fashion note came from Dave Farber's "Interesting People" List:

Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 18:40:52 EDT
Subject: Computer Casual
To: (Dave Farber)

Dave, Please recall our telephone call regarding 'Computer Casual.' Following is a one page description of the concept. What do you think of it?

"Define a line of unisex clothing called 'Computer Casual.' The fundamental objective is to communicate the trend toward casual dress and simultaneously capture the spirit of the computer revolution.

"'Computer Casual' is characterized by clean, neat, usually cotton shirts, trousers, and sometimes jackets or vests, sometimes worn with fabric athletic shoes.

"'Black tie,' 'semi-formal,' 'western wear,' 'white- tie,' 'business attire,' 'business casual,' 'cocktail attire' are terms that people understand. These two or three word phrases define the dress style appropriate for certain social occasions or work environments.

'Computer Casual' has a clear meaning. People who are creative, cerebral, or compulsively attentive to their tasks, regardless of day or hour, appear to ignore conventional dress codes; but have generated a look of their own.

"This dress code arose in the computer and communications business environment where employees work in casual surroundings, primarily with computers and other electronic equipment. 'Computer Casual' is not limited to the computer business, but is worn in telecommunications, media, and other related technology areas.

"Computer Casual dressers are professionals as well as technicians, usually engineers, programmers, software analysts or test engineers who are doing clean work. There is no dirty work or heavy lifting. The style of dress usually consists of a cotton dress or sport shirt, sometimes a golf shirt, rarely a T-shirt, but no tie. The trousers are usually cotton, often blue jeans, but might be khaki or some other color. They are distinctly not dress slacks, not gabardine or gray flannel. The colors are not important, but are usually solid colors (blue, tan or brown) not pastels, not plaids, not herringbone and not conspicuous contrasting colors or patterns.

"Rarely does 'Computer Casual' require a jacket or sport coat; an informal jacket or sweater is acceptable, but not expected. The shoes are comfortable. They can be any form of athletic shoe, boot or moccasin. Usually fabric, but can be leather, definitely not a wing-tip, patent leather or other form of formal or informal dress shoe.

"Use of the term, 'Computer Casual,' will allow a further sharpening of the look. Additionally, selected items, such as shirts, trousers, belts, vests, can be named with generic computer terms, e.g., the web, the keyboard, the monitor, the mouse, the switch and/or software, hardware, firmware, vaporware. More technically sophisticated terms for certain items, i.e., RAM, hard drive, modem, motherboard, daughterboard, fiber optics, CPU. Similarly, the secondary names could include telecommunications terms, e.g., switch, bandwidth, video, sound, compression.

"What is your reaction to this idea?"


Robert J. Potter

R. J. Potter Company

Williams Square Suite 1110

5215 North O'Connor Boulevard

Irving, Texas 75039


(((Well, my own unsought reaction to this screed is rather mixed. First, Mr. Potter is very accurate: that's just how computer people dress. It's shocking news: Dilberts dress like nerds. The computer aristocracy is the first aristocracy in the history of the world that doesn't have any decent clothes.

(((Computer engineers don't dress like this because they hate nice stuff. Techies dressed like this in order to assert their class interests against the formally- dressed MBA-educated management of IBM circa 1965. There is nothing particularly "casual" about 85-hour-weeks, start-up conditions, Initial Public Offerings or becoming fully-vested. Those blue jeans were just trench-warfare gear in a 20th-century corporate struggle for power that is pretty much past us now.

(((Computer people also dressed like this because they were young back then, and they are no longer young. Computation is not a young industry any more. Middle-aged people really need nice clothes, because they look much flabbier than young people do. Furthermore, the "computer revolution" is over. Henceforth, it's all about the "computer provisional government." As Joschka Fischer has learned, you don't get to dress like Che' Guevara when you're the guy ordering air strikes.

(((The natural question then arises: what should really wealthy, technically proficient, middle-aged people dress like? What kind of clothes will garner them the rewards incumbent on their age and station: the best seats in restaurants, obliging hotel staff, admiring glances from demimondaines half their age, and so forth? They certainly don't want to dress like bankers. They don't *look* like bankers. These are tubby, Dilbert-shaped characters, their eyes shrouded in cokebottle lenses from years before the monitor, guys with fuzzy programmer's beards, carpal-tunnel and unfocussed stares, who laugh aloud at injokes about the structure of UNIX.)))

(((Therefore, to meet this obvious social need, I propose the new Viridian Couture Contest. We're going to specialize first in male fashion, a distinctive suit of "Computer Formal" clothes for "Mr. Computer Casual." It's a heartening sign that Mr. Potter vaguely realizes how badly dressed he is, but he can't resolve this problem alone. Only a true-blue nerd would think to name his clothes after chunks of hardware ('motherboard' indeed).

(((Let's face it: rich engineers aren't any more fit to dress themselves than other rich people. Rich people need to be dressed by couture people, as rich people always are. A new class of couture designers is necessary. Viridian couture designers have wisely come to recognize that nerds have all the money now, and nothing in their closets. Dressing nerds is by no means an impossible task == Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are by no means any uglier than members of the Hapsburg aristocracy. And they're not stupid, either; if they thought it was to their advantage to wear something other than Ban-Lon, they'd be in dandy new suits in a hot second.

(((Keep in mind that you're not creating clothes that *you yourself* would want to wear. Your task in this Viridian Couture Contest is to create a formal, distinctive, 21st century subcultural caste costume for rich male computer geeks. You have to imagine rich millionerds, Microserfs and Dellionaires actually buying this stuff == (well no, you have to imagine their wives buying it for them) == but you have to imagine them feeling genuinely *proud to wear it* and being totally convinced that it was *really ultramodern, sophisticated and cool.* They're wearing this garb on the steps of their corporate jets; they're wearing it as they ostentatiously sign charity checks; they're wearing it as they receive the National Medal of Technology.

(((So we are looking for a male-model catwalk shot, something suitable for the pages of GQ, circa 2007. Create your contest image, and load it to the web. Tell me where it is, and I will tell everyone where they can see it. The winner of this contest receives a copy of Nigel Cawthorne's book THE NEW LOOK: THE DIOR REVOLUTION. This book describes what happened when the Second World War ended in Europe, and people who'd been desperately struggling in mud, blood, and khaki for six years could finally afford nice new clothes again. The deadline for the Viridian Couture Contest is: July 21, 01999.)))

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O V FOR VIRIDIAN VICTORY O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O