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Mark Zuckerburg as a poor role model

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Esther Cepeda
May 14, 2012

My plea to Mark Zuckerberg: Please just grow up already -- you're messing with my ability to raise my sons right.


In case you haven't heard, last week Zuckerberg showed up on Wall Street to sell potential investors on Facebook's initial public offering in his -- and every young boy's -- trademark sneakers, jeans, T-shirt and hoodie.


A few finance guys felt dissed by a company's chief executive strolling into America's financial center and asking for billions of dollars -- dressed like he was on way to the laundromat.


"He's actually showing investors he doesn't care that much; he's going to be him," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "I think that's a mark of immaturity."


I agree wholeheartedly, but others have rushed to Zuckerberg's defense, turning on Pachter nearly instantaneously and claiming it didn't matter what the zillionaire wore. Comparisons to Steve Jobs' black turtlenecks were trotted out as well as admiration for Zuckerberg's refusal to bow to Wall Street's pressure, give up his "hacker" street cred, or shed the symbols of his unselfconscious genius.


No surprise there -- adults of all ages have surrendered themselves to slovenliness, and it seems as though every day fewer people feel the need to show up to work dressed like they care about their employers, co-workers or customers. And no one seems to mind.


From fast-food workers manning cash registers while wearing F-word-emblazoned jewelry to managers who preside over offices looking like they rolled out of bed 10 minutes prior, the notion of showing ourselves and others respect through our manner of dress is going the way of the dinosaur.


Last fall, a suburban Chicago mom pleaded with the board of her children's' school district to create and enforce a dress code for teachers after she observed educators in the classroom wearing tank tops and flip-flops. Sure it was warm, she said, but "This isn't your backyard. This isn't the beach."


And funerals, weddings, job interviews, graduations, church services -- none have inspired a 100 percent rate of appropriate attire for years.


As a result, I have less credibility on the topic with my tween sons every day. We got into a row last winter when I insisted they wear a shirt and tie to an evening theater performance, and they got their comeuppance that night when it quickly became obvious that our family was the only group of people not dressed like they came from a ballgame. Now the hoodies are on Wall Street.


The rumpling of society isn't Zuckerberg's fault, of course, and he didn't invent individualism or cults of personality. Plus, it's great that he was worthy of having an Academy Award-nominated film made about his business venture and was named Time's Person of the Year at age 26.


But the endless adolescence act sure isn't making things easier on those of us who aren't rich celebrities and must care about dressing for success. And it makes it nearly impossible to pass such stodgy, old-fashioned values on to a generation with few boundaries and even fewer successful young male role models outside of sports and entertainment.


Please grow up, Mark. How you dress definitely matters.


Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

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