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New year, new style: San Francisco stylists dish on how dudes in tech should dress in 2024

Four men look at a laptop
Shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley shaped helped to define the tech worker fashion as boring, grey and seriously uncool. | Source: Courtesy HBO

Starting around 2010, shows like Silicon Valley and movies like The Social Network shaped the basic male San Francisco tech worker aesthetic: a sea of gray Patagonia vests and neutral zip-up hoodies, beat-up jeans, flip-flops or woolen Allbirds sneakers, utility backpacks and disheveled T-shirts with company branding.

Over time, a knowing irony coalesced around the stereotype, with a website called VC Starter Kit selling a $500 package for aspiring Sand Hill partners that includes a pair of Allbirds, books by Peter Thiel and Sam Altman-approved thinker Yuval Harari and, of course, the infamous gray “Patagucci” fleece vest. 

As 2024 approaches, perhaps your New Year’s resolution is upping your personal style game. Or maybe you just want to give the gift of fashion to a techie in your life in sore need of an upgrade. 

Where to start? Fear not, dear reader: The Standard consulted three stylists across San Francisco, all of whom have conducted their fair share of tech bro glow-ups, to shore some easy steps to leveling up a man’s wardrobe from drab to dapper. 

Ditch the ‘Birth Control’ Apparel

Getting a client in the door with an open mind is the initial hurdle for many personal stylists. 

Eddie Hernandez, a San Francisco-based photographer, dating coach and image consultant known for his spendy dating profile punch-ups, said he takes on less than one-third of people who send him inquiries. He specifically looks for those who are willing to put time and effort into improving their personal style—rather than just trying to hack their way into fashion.

People make their way up an escalator with Salesforce signage in the background
Dreamforce attendees—many sporting wearing Salesforce-branded backpacks—flood San Francisco's Moscone Center each year. | Source: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

“I can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to,” Hernandez says. “Similarly, I don’t want to misrepresent them … or make them uncomfortable with their new look.”

Hernandez, who describes himself as a “digital version of Hitch”—as in the Will Smith rom-com—often uses a Pinterest “inspo” board to help clients curate a personalized online lookbook before getting into specific pieces of clothing. 

One of the main services San Francisco personal stylist Mimi Glumac offers is a wardrobe audit she dubs a “closet consultation.” Glumac, who worked as an attorney before embarking on a side gig as a stylist, joked that her professional background makes her especially convincing. 

Her clientele tends to gravitate toward a more sophisticated version of their apparel that still centers comfort, utility and versatility. 

And once these stylists get a sense of a client, they get to work—first, rummaging through closets to cull anything that doesn’t fit, match their style or is way, way out of trend. 

Techies already on board are willing to make changes—and even endure a bit of roasting, Glumac says. If she spots, say, a pair of jeans from Jersey Shore-core brand Affliction in the back of a client’s closet, she’ll give them a good ribbing to make sure the advice sticks.

“I will usually joke around with my male clients: ‘I think you do realize that this is like birth control, right?’” Glumac said.

San Francisco stylist Lili Henry sitting on a wicker chair with a rack of clothes behind her and a large vase with pampas grass
San Francisco-based stylist Lili Henry offers a range of in-person consultation services and online classes for the sartorially challenged. | Source: Courtesy of Lili Henry

Lili Henry, a personal stylist in Cow Hollow, tries to emphasize specifically what her clients do in their day-to-day work. Even within tech, there are variations on work duties—are you spending your time meeting with VCs? Or at a standing desk leetcoding?

“All of those questions that I ask you will help me define the style and the image they want to project,” she said.

Henry’s in-person consultation services start at $900, but she offers a range of less expensive digital options as well, including online courses on professional wardrobe makeovers and a class to define what colors look best. A closet revamp from Glumac, meanwhile, costs $550—and she charges a couple of hundred dollars an hour for personal shopping and styling services.

Stylist services can stop at a closet overhaul, but many also opt for a personal shopping experience. It costs a pretty penny—Glumac suggests a shopping budget with a minimum of $3,000.

“I have no vested interest in how much money the client spends at Bloomingdale’s because I’m not making a commission there,” Glumac says. “They end up saving money by not wasting it on the wrong purchases or clothing that’s wrong for them.”

A crowd of Dreamforce attendees cross the street in San Francisco.
A crowd of Dreamforce attendees donning some of the hallmarks of the techie uniform, including plain hoodies, branded t-shirts and the ubiquitous lanyard. | Source: Constanza Hevia H. for The Standard

What stylists look for is a spark when their clients shop—the moment when they see a version of themselves that feels like the models and influencers they’re inspired by.  

“Clients will look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t even have picked this out of the rack because it’s something that didn’t really catch my eye’ or ‘I couldn’t pull it off,’” Henry said. 

But what if a personal stylist is out of the cards? Or you’re just a techie looking to zhuzh up a pre-existing closet? 

Glumac’s keyword for any techies looking to punch up their sartorial sensibilities is “elevation.”  Sure, you can still wear jeans, sneakers and a hoodie, but any of those categories can be classed up. 

Wear This, Not That


A comparison of a Allbirds shoes and Common Projects
Local stylists say it's time to ditch the Allbirds and On Cloud sneakers in favor of leather sneakers that can go from the office to a nice restaurant. | Source: Illustration by Lu Chen/The Standard

In lieu of a run-down pair of Allbirds, Converse or On Cloud shoes, Glumac suggested a minimal leather sneaker from Common Projects ($482) or, if you’ve just cashed out your stock options, swanky Italian brand Ermenegildo Zegna ($950). 

There are other options she suggests that don’t quite break the bank. People who are fond of their beat-up All-Stars can try something like Converse’s collaboration with Comme Des Garcons—you know, those Converse with the peeking heart on the sides ($150). For folks craving more arch support with their leather sneakers, Glumac recommends Cole Haan ($110) or Ecco ($150). 


T-shirts will always be a key aspect of any wardrobe, but Glumac advises disposing of those hackathon and startup swag shirts in favor of a higher-end plain tee from Norse Projects ($80) or John Varvatos ($98). 

Hernandez suggests men go for long-sleeve henley shirts with a two or three-button top, which adds a layer of polish to an otherwise plain T-shirt. (Uniqlo has a solid waffled option at $30.) But even something as simple as wearing a forest green or maroon tee—perhaps like this one from Abercrombie & Fitch ($19)—can break up the black, gray and navy colors “that are dominant in SF,” he adds.


A comparison of a jogger pants and ABC pants.
Up your pants game by replacing joggers more at home on the track field with something like Lululemon's ABC Pant, which looks sharp while remaining comfortable. | Source: Illustration by Lu Chen/The Standard

Jeans, like T-shirts, are always going to be a staple. But dump the baggy, holey denim you’ve had for years, Glumac says, and go for something a bit more tapered. 

That’s not a hard-and-fast rule though. Henry is partial to a slim-straight fit, which she says is generally more flattering than tighter jeans. But denim comes in all fits, and it’s worth finding a pair that best suits your lifestyle—whether that’s a lot of outdoors-ing or desk-sitting. Banana Republic ($130, though they run a lot of sales), Paige ($199) and AG ($125) make solid denim, Henry says.

People with a predisposition for softer pants—a jogger or sweatpant—could also consider the ABC Pant from leggings-maker Lululemon ($128).


A comparison of a Dreamforce Trailblazer vest and Cashmere hoodie.
Everyone likes a hoodie, but stylists recommend ditching the conference swag with a version made of a high-quality fabric like cashmere. | Source: Illustration by Lu Chen/The Standard

Part of the reason for the puffers and vests that exemplify techie fashion is the perennially chilly San Francisco weather. Our stylists suggested a few switches to help upgrade the look while staying warm.

Rather than a zip-up hoodie from, say, Dreamforce—sorry Marc Benioff—Glumac suggests a cashmere hoodie from a brand like J. Crew ($178), or, if you’re looking to emulate the Benioffs and Zuckerbergs of the world, Brunello Cucinelli ($2,495). (Both stores have outposts Downtown.)

A comparison of a Patagonia vest and quilted jacket.
The Patagonia vest is a stereotype for a reason, but stylists say there's a way to keep warm in chilly San Francisco while setting yourself apart. | Source: Illustration by Lu Chen/The Standard

Henry adds that layering up with a quilted jacket from a classic brand like Barbour ($240) or a bomber jacket from Theory ($395) achieves a similar, but chic-er effect compared to throwing on a bog-standard Patagonia puffer or fleece. 

Glumac’s clients are also fond of shirt jackets (shackets!) made of flannel or high-quality wool for layering. (Gap, for example, currently has one for under $100.)

“They can layer it as a standalone piece or they can wear it as a jacket on a moderate-temperature day with just a T-shirt underneath it,” she said.

Where To Start

Much of achieving a new personal style, stylists say, is psychological. 

“People have different levers for implementing change,” Hernandez says. “Many folks can feel attacked with unsolicited advice.” 

Even without buying anything, an effective way to improve techies’ self-confidence is by taking a more real-life approach to style. That can mean anything from trying on clothes at a store to get a feel for what works—even without buying anything—to complimenting someone out in the wild.

“I do this myself all the time at cafés, bar seats at restaurants and social events,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez has this tip for nudging someone toward style: “Walk into a store with them with the excuse that you are shopping for yourself,” he says, “but then suggest they [would] look good in a particular sweater, jacket, or shirt you notice on the rack.” 

Maybe they’ll take a chance. If you’re ready to take matters into your own hands for your sartorially challenged loved one, consider gifting them an article of clothing you think they’ll love—and shower them in praise.

“If you can get them to try something new, and they get a compliment from someone soon thereafter, that makes it much easier for them to continue updating their wardrobe,” Hernandez said.