My personal uniform defines me

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During a question-and-answer session at Facebook's Menlo Park, California, headquarters last year, Mark Zuckerberg fielded a range of queries: How do you deal with obstacles? How accurate is the movie The Social Network (2010)?

But it was a question about his attire that generated the most headlines: Why do you wear the same T-shirt every day?

Dressed in his usual grey T-shirt, the Facebook founder offered a rationale that was equal parts Zen and Type A.

"I'm in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people," he said. "I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything, except how to best serve this community."

He may not seem like a fashion role model, but he is arguably the most visible member of a self-selective group of men who have chosen to adopt a personal uniform.

Members of this confident fraternity can be as diverse as Giorgio Armani, who can be spotted most days in a navy blue T-shirt (he owns more than 40), cashmere sweater and navy drawstring pants; photographer Terry Richardson, an early adopter of the lumbersexual look (flannel shirt, Levi's 501s, sneakers); and, of course, Steve Jobs, who will be remembered for his black turtlenecks and dad jeans, among other things.

"Past a certain age, men have to know who they are and what kind of clothing best defines their persona," said Jey Perie, the creative director of Kinfolk, a menswear boutique in Brooklyn.

The oft-cited reason is decision fatigue, the notion that not having to choose what to wear each morning frees up the mind for other (subtext: more important) matters such as making money or saving the world.

It is a viewpoint espoused by men such as Zuckerberg and even President Barack Obama, who told Vanity Fair in 2012 that he wears only grey or blue suits because he has "too many other decisions to make".

Creative types are not unattracted to this no-fuss approach.

"By wearing a very simplified clothing style, I can pack travel bags in advance, but most importantly, I am not wasting my time on a daily basis thinking about what I have to wear," said Klaus Biesenbach, director of the Museum of Modern Art PS1, whose uniform consists of a fitted blue suit and blue shirt, all made by Zara. He recently posted a photo of his monochromatic closet on Instagram.

Uniforms can also serve as a means of self-branding.

Richardson's "Where's Waldo" look cuts an unmistakable figure on the art-and-fashion circuit.

"Terry understands the virtue of fashion: 'This is my thing; it's going to become my signature'," said Joe Zee, the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Style and a stylist who has worked with the photographer.

Others who fall into the camp include architect Peter Marino (black leather regalia), Tom Wolfe (white suit) and Karl Lagerfeld (high-collar white shirt, sunglasses and fingerless gloves).

Zuckerberg's uniform, on the other hand, is meant to be anti-fashion.

Lawrence Schlossman, editor of Four Pins, a men's style site, said Zuckerberg's no-frills look cries out, "Know me for other things besides my wardrobe".

Few have taken this approach as far as Karl Stefanovic, a television anchor for the Australian news programme Today.

Last November, he revealed that he wore the same suit on the air for a year without viewers even noticing.

He told The Sydney Morning Herald that the stunt was a gesture of protest at the way his female colleagues were regularly scrutinised for their clothing choices.

"I'm judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour, on how I do my job basically," he told the paper.

Women "are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear".

 
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