In celebrating the life of Albert Einstein, who was born on this day in 1879, one could look at his amazing achievements in physics and scientific philosophy, but perhaps more interesting are the parts of his life not regularly mentioned: his fashion choices.
For efficiency in his later life, Einstein often wore the same ensemble every day: no socks, a grey suit, and his leather Levi’s Menlo Cossack jacket—particularly noteworthy because he bought it around the time he was becoming an American citizen in the mid-1930s. The unlined brown jacket quickly became his signature staple, and he wore it on his famous daily walks, while smoking pipe tobacco, while working. Leopold Infeld, Einstein’s colleague while teaching at Princeton, remembered him wearing it every day—and even later on the cover of Time magazine in 1938.
In July 2016, the coat was auctioned at Christie’s, still smelling of smoke (Christie’s specialist Thomas Venning’s exact words were “rather pungent”) and acquired by Levi’s. The head designer of their vintage division procured another Cossack jacket so it could be accurately duplicated—Einstein’s was stored safely away. Then the brand reproduced the jacket in an edition of 500 in 2018, offering with it a D.S. & Durga fragrance that smelled of “burley pipe tobacco, papyrus manuscripts, and vintage leather,” a scent translation of the piece.
Oh, and the socks? Einstein was annoyed that holes would always develop in the big toe, so he just stopped wearing them. “When he couldn’t find his sandals, he’d wear [his wife’s] sling backs,” the BBC wrote in 2017.
Uniform dressing has roots in not just physical but mental efficiency: people who have to make immense decisions every day will sometimes choose a consistent ensemble because it allows them to avoid decision fatigue, where making too many unrelated decisions can actually cause one’s productivity to fail.
In this way, Einstein is perhaps one of the forebears of normcore. That oh-so-2016 trend coined by the K-Hole creative group a few years prior, normcore found freedom in a total lack of uniqueness, in purposely excluding oneself from the fashion world to avoid becoming a clone. While for K-Hole it was sarcastic, making fun of our generation’s need to label everything, the idea evolved into an anti-trend, causing adopters to reject traditional fashion choices and favor traditionally mundane attire (comfortable, not necessarily stylish sneakers, fleeces, stonewashed jeans, basketball shorts, etc.). While Einstein didn’t fear becoming a clone, he did reject the standard fashion of his day–eschewing the ties, suspenders, and even socks that were the norm and favoring instead his long hair, suits, and leather jacket–to free himself from excess decision making and focus on what mattered to him.
Steve Jobs, with his black turtlenecks with Levi’s, is another example, as is Barack Obama, who had a preference for gray or blue suits while in office. When it came to Einstein, it also didn’t hurt that he thought of aesthetics as “the necessary result of a correctly solved mathematical problem,” as Professor Ingrid Loschek wrote in her 2009 book When Clothes Become Fashion: Design and Innovation Systems. There could be only one answer.END
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createdAt:Wed, 13 Mar 2019 19:03:44 +0000