The way Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) dresses himself is worthy of study because clothing choices are a silent language. The saying that “clothes make the man” was not only ignored by SBF, but it was thrown into a Bahamian dumpster and set on fire.
Why does this matter? Because SBF’s clothing could provide lessons for the future so we may prevent leaking ships like FTX from going down with everyone’s treasure inside.
If you need to catch up, SBF was the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange called FTX. Here is the backstory. Turns out, the whole thing was managed horribly and a lot of people lost their life savings in the collapse.
The SBF signature look
SBF is a man who always managed to look like there was no line between what he slept in and what he worked in. His T-shirts looked like they had been dried by throwing them on the path outside. His shorts were crumpled at all times like they had been used to dry the tears of corporate investors in FTX.
None of his apparel ever fits correctly. It’s like his clothes were worn by the infamous beanbag first, before being allowed on his body. Stretched beyond all recognition, like the truth.
His frizzy hair was never tamed, despite millions of TikToks available for advice. Looking at it just reminded us all of having headlice in primary school.
Sam Bankman-Fried fashion: Clothing and mental state
Now in retrospect, the way SBF dressed should have been a red flag that signaled the oncoming explosion. According to the internet hive mind, there are two outstanding theories here.
One is that SBF dressed badly because it was a sign of his degrading mental health. With a history of depression, and a clear addiction to an array of stimulants, his clothing seemed to be a clear distress signal that he was not coping with the utter trash storm he had created.
Behavioural Psychologist Professor Carolyn Mair wrote a book called The Psychology of Fashion. She says that when people are clinically depressed, they don’t care about their appearance.
“However, for psychologically healthy people, physical appearance matters. We make judgments about whether we like someone based on appearance alone in under one second and then attribute positive (or negative) psychological characteristics accordingly.”
Sam Bankman-Fried fashion: The long con
The other theory thanks to the internet hive mind, is that SBF was busy crafting an image of the loveable rogue, the unmaterialistic whiz kid who wanted to make billions so he could give it away to altruistic causes.
Except that he wasn’t that person at all.
In fact, SBF was buying favour in political circles with other people’s money. And he was spending a seriously evil amount of other people’s cash on luxury real estate and private jets, all to feather his own nest.
Entrepreneurs and other successful people often wear the same thing every day, to cut down on decision fatigue. While this is evident in people like Zuckerberg, Bezos and the late Steve Jobs, none of these people dressed like they were just pulled out of a well, unlike SBF.
A lot of people say the Sam Bankman-Fried fashion look was all part of a long con, and if this is indeed the case, it is a con that he is still committed to playing even today. As he fronts up in court, he wears badly fitting suits that look like they have been ironed using a can of Coke.
What we can learn from SBF and his clothes
While we can’t do anything about what has happened, we can learn for the future. If a young mathlete dressed like an old shoe, asks you to put your life-savings in his exchange, it might be better to say no, rather than yes.
It turns out that the clothes really might make the man.