Illustrations: Shira Inbar

Into the Valley

Allbirds, Vejas, Common Projects: The Definitive Ranking of Silicon Valley Shoes

Matching pairs

OneZero
Published in
7 min readFeb 28, 2020

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This article is part of Into the Valley, a feature series from OneZero about Silicon Valley, the people who live there, and the technology they create.

TThe stereotype about fashion in Silicon Valley is that tech employees are schlubby beyond repair, dressed at all times in startup T-shirts and hoodies and jeans — that the Patagonia fleece vests beloved by venture capitalists are as close to a suit as you’ll find in the Bay Area. Tech workers are, allegedly, the most boring dressers on earth, unless they’re Jack Dorsey, in which case they occasionally look like high-fashion moon men.

And yet onlookers like myself are obsessed. We want to understand what makes a guy with the outsize cultural, economic, and political influence of Mark Zuckerberg pick a plain gray T-shirt as his uniform. It might be the most obvious way to try and decipher the people who make the products that run and ruin our lives.

If you want to analyze Silicon Valley fashion, a fruitful place to start is footwear. Certain shoe brands have reached levels of undeniable ubiquity in tech offices — famously so in the case of Allbirds, the gentle-looking wool sneakers that became a favorite of tech executives and their underlings several years ago. It’s not surprising that lifestyle trends take root with such force in Silicon Valley: Its strong culture of early adoption means that tech workers want the latest and greatest, including when it comes to business casual sneakers.

As one software engineer who lives in San Francisco explains it: “Tech is all about the new. You don’t want to be dated. You don’t want to admit that you don’t have fiber internet.”

So what do the shoes of Silicon Valley say about a person? Here’s a not-at-all scientific nor comprehensive survey of the matter, explained by their critics and fans.

Allbirds

Though the brand now sells models called “Breezers,” “Loungers,” “Skippers,” and…

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Eliza Brooke
OneZero

Eliza is a freelance journalist. She lives in Brooklyn.