May 9, 2014
In HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” a comedy by Mike Judge about a group of young Internet entrepreneurs, Costume Designer Daniel Orlandi had to incorporate the notion that Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are real-world fashion icons.
Jobs’ black turtleneck and Zuckerberg’s hoodie are fundamentals of a kind of anti-fashion dress code that rules the tech capital.
“It’s a studied attempt to look like you don’t care,” said Orlandi. “Yet it’s also a very careful study of people who very much want to look a part.” The tech uniform also includes rugby shirts, corduroy pants, Levi jeans and T-shirts sporting logos of cool tech companies.
The series centers on Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch, an awkward computer programmer who lives with his friends in the Hacker Hostel, a startup incubator where rent is waived in exchange for a stake in their projects. He and his fellow hostel mates look, at first glance, like ordinary fraternity brothers. Orlandi set out to find their distinguishing characteristics, helped by long conversations with Judge, who incorporated his 1980s experience as a Silicon Valley engineer.
“Richard is sort of the straight man. He’s really smart, but he’s unsure of himself. And he doesn’t want to stand out in any way,” Orlandi says. Richard’s defining costume includes a gray sweatshirt hoodie, an oxford cloth button-down shirt, khaki pants and well-worn dark sneakers.
“We wanted Richard, the college dropout, to look collegiate. His clothes are probably the clothes his mom bought him when he went to college. It’s like his uniform, almost a security blanket,” says Orlandi, who designed the pilot. After the series was picked up, Orlandi brought on Costume Designer Suzanne McCabe to take over the remaining episodes.
Orlandi scoured thrift shops and the rentals at the Universal Studios Costume Department for the principals’ wardrobes. Richard’s hoodie is a likely Goodwill find, while the Brooks Brothers shirt and khakis were procured from thrift stores and the less-pristine sections of rental houses.
“We wanted everything to look like they’ve had it for a while. There is almost a conscious decision to not spend money on their clothes or to look like they don’t spend a lot,” he says.
Throughout his research, Orlandi rarely spotted blazers or sport coats, and avoided them for Richard. Says Orlandi: “It’s like the hoodie is the sport coat of Silicon Valley.”
“Silicon Valley” airs on HBO Sundays at 10 p.m.