He was famous for it, and sales soared in the days following his death. Jobs’ signature look was unmistakable: a black mock turtleneck, paired with some Levi 501 jeans.
Though St. Croix, who makes the famous turtlenecks, is reaping the profits, Jobs’ rationale behind his simple and effortless attire can be attributed to a relationship with none other than designer Issey Miyake.
(MORE: Brand Behind Steve Jobs’ Iconic Turtleneck Sees Sales Boost)
Inspired by a trip to Sony headquarters in the early 1980s, Jobs became fascinated with the idea of a “corporate uniform” and tried extending the idea to Apple. While the idea didn’t exactly fly, Jobs and Miyake became close friends in the process, according to biographer Walter Isaacson:
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…
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.”
Walter Isaacson is the former managing editor of TIME Magazine. His much-anticipated biography, Steve Jobs (based on more than 40 exclusive interviews conducted with Jobs over two years) is coming out October 24.
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Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.