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Zuckerberg, his suits, and his hearings on Capitol Hill

Thirty-three-year-old Zuckerberg is a carefree dresser or a consciously careful one, depending on which side you are of the #DeleteFacebook divide.

world Updated: Apr 12, 2018 19:48 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill , Washington on April 10, 2018.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill , Washington on April 10, 2018. (AFP)

Only one of the over 60 US lawmakers who questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over two days about his company’s slack privacy practices remarked on his looks — his hair used to be curly when they last met years ago, he offered — but no one had anything to say about his suits, shirts or ties.

Zuckerberg’s outfit was a big part of the conversation that preceded his first visit to Capitol Hill and has continued since he left for Silicon Valley, where he is presumably back to his preferred jeans, gray t-shirt and sneakers.

Radio hosts, lifestyle page guides and gurus and late night pundits were all having a go.

The verdict — the suits were large and ill-fitting. GQ urged readers to think of them as “a sartorial dog collar: hiked up around his ears”. The shirts were a size or two larger as well, and the ties looked as if they were pre-knotted and slipped over his head just before he walked into the hall.

The New York Times called it Zuckerberg’s “I’m sorry suit” in reference to his mission — to apologise for allowing London-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to use inappropriately harvested personal data of Facebook users, including his own. And for being slow to respond to Russian manipulation of his website he founded and continues to run.

And the hair? It was “cut so close that it was more like penitence than grooming”, according to The Washington Post.

That’s probably why a congressman couldn’t stop himself. “You hair was curly back then.” he suggested, hoping, perhaps, to trigger Zuckerberg’s memory of their meeting eight years ago.

Thirty-three-year-old Zuckerberg is a carefree dresser or a consciously careful one, depending on which side you are of the #DeleteFacebook divide. He has said he prefers the same gray t-shirt, or a hoodie of any other colour, and jeans every day because he doesn’t think it’s worth his while to spend time choosing a different one every morning.

Former President Barack Obama cited exactly the very same reason for sticking to his dark suits. Until he showed up in the White House news briefing room one say in a light tan suit, which he never wore again in public, the backlash was so intense.

Zuckerberg switches to suits when he wants to, and sometimes, forces everyone else to fall in line as well.

The day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected at the Facebook headquarters at 1, Hacker Way, Menlo Park, California, in September 2015, a directive went out mandating a dress code for everyone planning to attend.

Formal attire for men — formal suit and tie, easy — and “nice dresses” presumably for women. Sleeveless shirts and shorts were outlawed for the day, even for reporters.

Modi, an occasion-conscious dresser, also showed up in a semi-formal suit — dark pants, white shirt and a dark waist coat. But no tie — the prime minister hasn’t been seen in one in decades.

Zuckerberg wore one, as he as for meetings with Obama and a state dinner at the White House — and Pope Francis in the past, and now the congressional hearings.

But Zuckerberg also used four-inch thick booster pads on his seat to achieve the right eye-level elevation to be able to glare back at lawmakers, some of whom were twice his age and treated him as they would an errant grandchild, indulgent but impatient.