Adulation for Steve Jobs, for his unflagging passion for Apple’s ambitions and his genius for technological innovation, was pervasive. For some, to achieve his bearing and presence was aspirational. In millennial parlance, we would call it ~goals~. In Brian Merchant’s The One Device: the Secret History of the iPhone, we get a droll glimpse into the cult of Steve Jobs.
At Jobs-led Apple, [Scott] Forstall rose through the ranks. He mimicked his idol’s management style and distinctive taste. BusinessWeek called him “the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
One of his former colleagues praised him as a smart, savvy leader but said he went overboard on the Jobs-worship: “He was generally great, but sometimes it was like, just be yourself.”
Elsewhere in his history of the iPhone, Merchant speaks with Joshua Strickon, who was brought on to help develop touch-based sensor tech. Starting a new job is stressful, sure, but when Strickon began at Apple in 2003, he found it, in turn, both harebrained and humorous. Here, he relates his confusing first few days:
Meanwhile, the Cupertino campus teemed with Apple “fanatics,” a number of whom made no secret of their Steve Jobs idolatry. “Apple is kind of a weird place,” he says. “You’ve got people dressing like Steve.” There were so many Steve look-alikes, in fact, that Strickon couldn’t pick out the real thing. He’d been on the lookout for Jobs since he got to Cupertino — his thesis adviser had worked for Apple years before, and Strickon wanted to say hello on his behalf. But when he found himself next to the CEO in line for a burrito at the cafeteria, he just assumed Jobs was an acolyte. “At the time I didn’t realize it was him,” Strickon says. “I thought it was just somebody who likes to dress like him.”
The custom Issey Miyake turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans, and dad sneakers, are all staples to the Jobs-ian uniform.
And this Cupertino version of Where’s Waldo? is clearly a portrait of a man who was idolized by his employees and whose sartorial choices, meanwhile, could befuddle the uninitiated to mistake the actual Jobs for another acolyte.