I Wore A Fleece Vest To Work To See If I Felt Like A Tech Bro

My five-day journey into the heart of cold arms.

As a heterosexual woman over 30, I have been haunted by this photo of Jeff Bezos looking surprisingly swole since it appeared during the Sun Valley Conference last summer. I don’t want to get into it, and neither do you, but let’s all agree that his vest and aviators are definitely a LOOK.

Bezos’s vest showing off his sun-dappled biceps is perhaps the perfect example of what I’m calling the “Power Vest” — fleece or quilted vests that are favored by all kinds of bros:

  • tech bros of Silicon Valley,
  • finance bros of New York,
  • sales bros and
  • finance bros all over the country

(I have no evidence that this is an international trend, and presumably this doesn’t apply to warmer parts of the US).

The Power Vest is practical and casual, yet it somehow enhances the illusion of a man’s professional competence, unlike, say, flip-flops. It’s a contradiction: It shouldn’t be office appropriate, and yet it’s ubiquitous.
I should clarify here I am speaking about vests worn by men. Yes, people of all genders people wear vests of all kinds. But this is a particular slice of bro culture. Women’s business attire has a whole different set of rules, even in these same industries. The Power Vest flaunts a very cruel male privilege: being comfortable.

Clothes send a message. The vests are not just a convenient warmth layer. There is meaning there. There are layers to this layer. The adoption of the vest by men who work in industries like tech and finance says something about this garment.

The vest means power. And as a lowly woman, I would like some power. Or at least to FEEL powerful — like a master of the universe, able to make snap decisions and be feared and respected by all I come in contact with. Which is why I decided I would wear a vest to the office for a week.

My first order of business was to decide what kind of vest to wear: fleece or quilted. I talked to my editors who are based in San Francisco, and they both emphatically said quilted, specifically Patagonia Nano Puff. But I was imagining a more dressed-up bro look — a fleece vest over a crisp white shirt and maybe even slacks and brown leather shoes.

I think here is the divide: West Coast tech bros always wear quilted vests, and East Coast finance bros still wear fleece.

It was clear I needed an impartial person who thinks really hard about different types of Power Vests and what they mean. It would be useless to ask the bros themselves, because everyone knows bros can’t be asked for opinions, at least not for articulate ones about fashion. So I reached out to possibly THE perfect expert for this: Eric Daman, the costume designer for the TV show Billions, which is about people who work at a hedge fund, but also about the depravity of toxic masculinity amplified by the excesses of money. Which is to say, a show loaded with Power Vests.

Not all Billions characters wear vests: The main character, Bobby Axelrod, never wears them (Daman explains his look is more of perfectly fitting Tom Ford tee) — and his lieutenant “Wags” sticks to suits, a kind of throwback to the precrash era. But one character on Billions, “Dollar” Bill, has been my fleece business vest inspo. “Dollar Bill always wears his Axe Capital [the name of the fictional hedge fund] fleece,” Daman said. He’s older, less hip, and notoriously cheap, hence wearing the free company swag. It’s also a statement of his character’s willingness to do anything for his boss. “I think out of devotion and honor that he chooses to only wear the fleece,” explained Daman. “It’s kind of like how the Scottish clans have their own tartan.”

Two other vest-wearing characters are also carefully chosen. One analyst, Ben Kim, who is younger, wears an Arc’teryx brand vest, made of a thin performance fabric, which is hipper and more youthful than a stodgy fleece or puffer. Another character, Everett, who was poached from another fund and therefore already has his own money, wears a Burberry vest to signal his higher financial status.

Indeed, I learned that vests can get quite expensive. That Jeff Bezos vest? It appears to be a $995 Ralph Lauren. You didn’t think Bezdaddy was going to slum around in a Patagonia, did you?

My vest budget was more limited. My editor informed me that BuzzFeed News was certainly not going to expense a $150 Nanopuff, so I decided to stick with something more modest: an L.L.Bean fleece vest I got as a teen in 1995 and was still at my parents’ house.

Monday

I was pretty into my first outfit: loose black jeans, off-white vintage button-down with a weird scene of a pond and ducks on the front, and of course, my vest. A jaunty masculine look. Looking in the mirror at home I saw a savvy businessperson. The Power Vest was working!

I got to the office and my deskmate, Joe, looked at me and said, “Nice vest. You know what you look like?”

“What?” I asked.

“An asshole.”

Mission accomplished!

At midmorning I experienced a moment of extreme powerlessness. I noticed our floor was out of milk for coffee, so I went to grab a gallon from another floor. The BuzzFeed office has several floors, broken up by department. I sit on the news floor. I see these people every day, I know them, I don’t feel ashamed of wearing a relatively ugly vest around them. The next floor up, where I was getting milk, is where the fashion and lifestyle team sits.

All of a sudden I felt a deep sting of shame, aware of how utterly uncool I looked in front of these people who were dressed much more fashionably. It was that burning shame feeling of when you walk into a room of strangers and realize you’re extremely over- or underdressed. I wanted to scream “It’s for an article!” as a disclaimer, but that would’ve been very weird since no one was asking.

Tuesday

It was harder to figure out what kind of outfit to wear for day 2. I settled on a black button-down blouse with white piping and black jeans again. I don’t really think it worked quite as well — it seemed mismatched to have a casual vest over this dressier top. I didn’t feel powerful.

However, I did find that the vest was the perfect weight to wear under my light raincoat on a chilly April day. Useful!

Wednesday

My other deskmate, Davey, overheard me talking about my vest experiment and said, “Ooooh, I thought you just looked really bad this week for some reason. Like, your outfits just looked…awful.”

Dara, who sits across from me, also seemed relieved. “I was wondering why you were wearing that weird maroon and teal vest every day.”

This was not empowering at all, although I appreciated their candor. I’d also like to remind Dara, who is 23, that I acquired the vest when she was 1 year old.

Thursday

I paired the vest with blue jeans and an olive green shirt that is pure polyester but kind of MAYBE can pass for silk (if you are very unaware of what real silk is), so is something that can be sort of dressed up a bit. This is a shirt I wear a lot, since it fits into my current personal style of “looks professional but is machine washable.”

At this point, I realized I just looked bad. Power levels were very low.

Friday

It was even colder, and I really struggled with what I could wear under the vest that would keep me warm enough. The vest was too bulky to fit under my warmer wool coat, and a sweater would be too hot once I got to the office. I settled on a black T-shirt with an aqua cardigan sweater. This was truly a terrible, horrible outfit.

Once I got to the office, I shed the cardigan and just went with the T-shirt. I can’t even really describe this outfit other than like spinster aunt horseback-riding instructor, but even worse.

After work, I went out for drinks with coworkers. I probably should have felt embarrassed for wearing a dorky fleece vest out in public (other than the office), but by this point I just didn’t care anymore and solely focused on enjoying some happy-hour-priced wine (I guess I’m cheap, like “Dollar” Bill).

The Power Vest is a form of male privilege, a hideous fleece totem of the patriarchy’s oppression of non-cis-male people in the workplace.

The Power Vest was a complete failure. Instead of feeling powerful, I felt like a fucking dork. I’m not the most fashionable person in the world, but I like to look nice and I care about clothes. A good outfit can make me feel good, and wearing a blazer makes me feel professional. Looking like a total idiot in a shitty ‘90s fleece vest makes me feel like shit.

Week-long experiments about trying a new fashion or beauty routine are a staple here at BuzzFeed –”My Boyfriend Dressed Me for a Week and This Is What Happened” or “This Is What I Learned Going Makeup Free for a Week.” Typically, these have a happy ending, and the guinea pig comes away with a positive learning experience about self-acceptance or willingness to try new things. There was no happy ending to my Power Vest experiment. I came away more sure than ever that I needed to stay in the conventional lanes of “professional attire.” It’s easy to say you should dress for yourself, but you can’t also pretend that we aren’t all judged in the workplace for our clothing, and doubly so for women. If you find it tiresome to ponder what minute variations of men’s vests can mean for professional status, just imagine the war zone that is womenswear.

Dressing casually while still looking powerful and important at the office doesn’t really work the same for women. The Power Vest is a form of male privilege, a hideous fleece totem of the patriarchy’s oppression of non-cis-male people in the workplace. The Patagonia Nano Puff is complicit in the power structure that led to #MeToo.

The Power Vest’s power was out of reach for me. Not only did I feel like a slob, I had a less productive week at work than usual, and I blame the vest for that. I only hope that my journey into the vest life can help others. I suffered so that you don’t have to; I carefully considered the sociological elements of sleeveless outerwear so that you can comment “I can’t believe someone got paid to write this” in the comments. Yes, I am that brave journalist putting my life on the line to set the truth free. Thank you for your consideration of this for next year’s Pulitzers.

Trump Fired His Most Effective Lieutenant

The outgoing attorney general did more to enact the president’s priorities than any other member of the Cabinet, but that didn’t save him from White House hostility.

The paradox of Jeff Sessions’s tenure as attorney general is that no member of the Trump administration was so beleaguered and disparaged by President Trump, but no member got as much done.

Even as he endured persistent verbal abuse from the president, Sessions steamed forward on a range of conservative social-policy priorities, aggressively reorienting the Justice Department’s stances on immigration, civil rights, and criminal justice, among other issues. In an administration plagued by incompetent and ineffective figures, Sessions was a paragon of efficacy—a distinction that horrified his many opponents, but did nothing to win Trump’s trust or affection.
  • When it came time for Trump to pull the plug on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as he had promised he would during the 2016 campaign, the president got cold feet, but Sessions was happy to be the public face of the withdrawal. It was Sessions who
  • tried to follow through (unsuccessfully) on Trump’s threat to cut off funding to sanctuary cities. It was Sessions who issued new guidance to immigration judges. And, most prominent, it was Sessions who
  • went to the border to announce the Trump administration’s decision to separate migrant children from their parents.
Sessions openly said the plan to split families up was intended to deter migrants, even as other administration officials said otherwise. The policy was met with widespread and appropriate horror, and Trump eventually pulled back—but he had backed the plan before that, and Sessions had followed through.

.. But these weren’t just Sessions’s pet issues. They were Trump’s as well. Hardline immigration policies, giving police free rein, fighting phantom voter fraud—these were all signature Trump projects. Sessions had been the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump, and Trump took from him a range of policy concepts—especially on immigration—as well as a top adviser, Stephen Miller.
But Sessions’s stewardship of those projects didn’t return him to favor with Trump, who, according to Bob Woodward’s book Fear, called Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner.”

.. When McGahn’s departure was announced in August, I wrote that he’d been the most effective person in the West Wing, through his stewardship of judicial appointments. But Trump disliked and distrusted McGahn, and seemed eager to have him gone.
.. Of course, the same issue poisoned both Sessions’s and McGahn’s relationships with Trump: the Russia investigation, and especially Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s takeover of it.
.. Trump was angry that neither man had protected him. He raged at Sessions’s lack of “loyalty” and complained that Attorney General Eric Holder had “totally protected” Barack Obama. (What he meant by that is unclear.) He twice instructed McGahn to fire Mueller, and McGahn twice refused, once threatening to resign.
.. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker assumes control of Mueller’s probe. Whitaker was outspokenly critical of the special counsel’s inquiry before joining the administration, so Trump may now have a leader of the Justice Department who is more pliable on the Mueller front. But the president is unlikely to find an attorney general who will do as much to move his priorities forward as Sessions did—and the new attorney general will come into the job knowing that loyalty and efficacy aren’t enough to garner favor with Trump.

Why Women Don’t Get to Be Angry

When men get angry, their power grows. When women do, it shrinks.

.. While parents talk to girls about emotions more than they do to boys, anger is excluded. Reflect with me for a moment: How did you first learn to think about emotions, and anger in particular?

.. My mother may have been livid, but she gave every appearance of being cheerful and happy. By staying silent and choosing this particular outlet for her feelings, she communicated a trove of information: for example, that anger was experienced in isolation and was not worth sharing verbally with others. That furious feelings are best kept to oneself. That when they do inevitably come out, the results can be scary, shocking, and destructive.

.. My mother was acting in a way that remains typical for many women: She was getting her anger “out,” but in a way that explicitly separated it from her relationships. Most women report feeling the angriest in private and interpersonal settings.

.. While we experience anger internally, it is mediated culturally and externally by other people’s expectations and social prohibitions.

.. in some cultures anger is a way to vent frustration, but in others it is more for exerting authority.

.. In the United States, anger in white men is often portrayed as justifiable and patriotic, but in black men as criminality, and in black women as threat. In the Western world, anger in women has been widely associated with “madness.”

.. At home, children still learn quickly that for boys and men, anger reinforces traditional gender expectations, but that for girls and women, anger confounds them.

.. It’s as children that most of us learn to regard anger as unfeminine, unattractive, and selfish.

.. Many of us are taught that our anger will be an imposition on others, making us irksome and unlikeable. That it will alienate our loved ones or put off people we want to attract. That it will twist our faces, make us ugly. This is true even for those of us who have to use anger to defend ourselves in charged and dangerous situations. As girls, we are not taught to acknowledge or manage our anger so much as fear, ignore, hide, and transform it.

.. There is not a woman alive who does not understand that women’s anger is openly reviled.

.. They want to know how to stand up for themselves “without sounding angry or bitter,”

.. told we are “crazy,” “irrational,” even “demonic.”

.. Our society is infinitely creative in finding ways to dismiss and pathologize women’s rage.

.. When a woman shows anger in institutional, political, and professional settings, she automatically violates gender norms. She is met with aversion, perceived as more hostile, irritable, less competent, and unlikable

.. The same people who might opt to work for an angry-sounding, aggressive man are likely to be less tolerant of the same behavior if the boss were a woman.

.. When a man becomes angry in an argument or debate, people are more likely to abandon their own positions and defer to his. But when a woman acts the same way, she’s likely to elicit the opposite response.

.. Black girls and women, for example, routinely silenced by “angry black woman” stereotypes, have to contend with abiding dangers of institutionalized violence that might result from their expressing justifiable rage.

.. men, as studies find, consider anger to be power enhancing in a way that women don’t. For men, anger is far more likely to be power enhancing.

.. Anger has a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of all our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response to trespass, violation, and moral disorder..

.. It bridges the divide between what is and what ought to be

.. By effectively severing anger from “good womanhood,” we choose to sever girls and women from the emotion that best protects us against danger and injustice.

.. I am still constantly being reminded that it’s “better” if women didn’t “seem so angry.” What does “better” mean, exactly? And why does it fall so disproportionately on the shoulders of women to be “better” by putting aside anger in order to “understand” and to forgive and forget? Does it make us “good” people? Is it healthy? Does it enable us to protect our interests, bring change to struggling communities, or upend failing systems?

.. Mainly, it props up a profoundly corrupt status quo.

.. It took me too long to realize that the people most inclined to say “You sound angry” are the same people who uniformly don’t care to ask “Why?”

.. They’re interested in silence, not dialogue.

.. A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women, not as human beings, thinkers, knowers, active participants, or citizens. Women around the world are clearly angry and acting on that emotion. That means, inevitably, that a backlash is in full swing, most typically among “moderates” who are fond of disparaging angry women as dangerous and unhinged.

.. It is easier to criticize the angry women than to ask the questions “What is making you so angry?” and “What can we do about it?” — the answers to which have disruptive and revolutionary implications.

Trump Shows Us the Way

Donald Trump slipped into the Oval Office through a wormhole of confusion about the American identity.

.. We were moving from a white-majority, male-dominated country and manufacturing base to a multicultural, multilateral, globalized, P.C., new energy, new technology world, without taking account of the confusion and anger of older Americans who felt like strangers in a strange land.

.. And we certainly don’t want men like Rob Porter who have punched, kicked, choked and terrorized their wives to be in the president’s inner circle, helping decide which policies, including those that affect women, get emphasized.

.. We don’t want the White House chief of staff to be the sort of person who shields and defends abusers — and then dissembles about it — simply because the abuser is a rare competent staffer. Or a man who labels Dreamers “too lazy to get off their asses” simply because they didn’t apply for legal protections in time.

.. John Kelly served as a character witness not only for Porter, after he didn’t receive security clearance because F.B.I. agents had heard the harrowing tales from his battered ex-wives. Kelly also testified as a character witness for Gen. Robert E. Lee and a former Marine who pleaded guilty to sending inappropriate sexual messages to female subordinates; who drove drunk to an arraignment; and who got charged in Virginia with sex crimes against children.

.. As a more lucid Trump tweeted in 2012 about Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown, “A beater is always a beater.”

.. We don’t want a president who bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators — or who is a sexual predator himself.

.. We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance, to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.

.. We don’t want a president who is too shallow to read his daily intelligence report and too obsessed with the deep state to deal fairly with our intelligence agencies.

.. We don’t want a president who suggests that Democrats who don’t clap for him are treasonous and who seems more enthralled by authoritarian ways than democratic ones.

.. who loves generals but trashes Gold Star parents

.. who wants the sort of chesty military parade that we mock Kim Jong-un for, a phallic demonstration of overcompensation that would only put more potholes in the D.C. boulevards.

.. one who could be so easily trapped in lies that he can’t even be allowed to talk to an investigator.

.. And, finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.