Sorry, tech and finance bros, you need to find yourself a new uniform. The days of wearing your trusty Patagonia vest with your company’s logo are over.
For more than a decade, banks, investment firms, and tech companies have eagerly co-branded Patagonia vests for their male-dominated workforces, making these garments ubiquitous on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. But this week, Patagonia announced it will no longer put corporate logos on its products. In its official statement, the company said the policy change is out of concern for the planet, arguing that logos reduce the lifespan of a garment, since people change jobs and it’s hard to pass logo’d gear on. But couched beneath this diplomatic language is a deeper conflict, since Patagonia has been trying to disentangle itself from tech and finance companies for years.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial downturn, corporate dress became more casual and workers in high-powered industries searched for an alternative to the suits of previous eras. The Patagonia fleece vest—specifically the Nano Puff model—eventually emerged as a favorite among male workers, who wore them over button-up long-sleeve shirts. In New York, this look was dubbed the “Midtown Uniform” and carefully documented by an Instagram account of the same name. The choice of garment made sense: Patagonia is a cool, cult brand (sometimes dubbed Patagucci) and the vests added a layer of warmth in climate controlled offices.
Then, companies began making customized products through Patagonia’s corporate sales division. According to the Wall Street Journal, around five years ago, brokerage houses and trading platforms began giving branded vests to traders to get on their good side. (Since the customized vests cost less than $100 a pop, they adhere to financial regulations that cap the amount for gifts.) This trend spread, with companies like Google, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley giving branded Patagonia vests as gifts to their employees.
Then, in 2019, Patagonia abruptly stopped partnering with these firms. Buzzfeed reported that Patagonia had quietly changed its policies and would exclusively partner with brands that shared its commitment to social and environmental issues. One finance firm that reached out to Patagonia to create co-branded products got a polite rejection email that read: “Patagonia has nothing against your client or the finance industry, it’s just not an area they are currently marketing through our co-brand division.” The email went on to note that it was largely interested in co-branding with outdoor sports, regenerative farming, and environmental activism. Churches and political organizations also got the axe.
This time around, Patagonia is publicly posting its updated policy on its website. Its decision to no longer embroider logos on its clothing extends to all brands, even those that share its values. The brand’s rationale is that it’s in the business of creating long-lasting clothing and embroidering a logo on a garment effectively shortens its life. Basically, the only people who want to wear company swag are the employees of that company, so it’s unlikely to be passed on to someone else or sold on a resale marketplace. (Patagonia has its own website for secondhand goods, and it does not sell gear featuring corporate logos.)
In the post, Patagonia says this move could have an impact on its bottom line. According to Bloomberg, the company’s revenues exceeded $1 billion in 2019. But as a private company, Patagonia does not publicly disclose its financials, so it’s unclear exactly what percentage of its business came from corporate sales. “This is part of our daily efforts to examine the full life cycle and impact of our products,” said Tessa Byars, head of brand and internal communications at Patagonia. She added that the company was exploring “nonpermanent” co-branding opportunities as well.
If you still want a personalized Patagonia vest, you can always hit up a third party supplier to embroider your gear. Alternatively, you might branch out to The North Face, whose cool factor recently went up a notch thanks to a collaboration with Gucci.