The Facebook CEO shunned his trademark hoodie and T-shirt to defend virtual reality company Oculus.
When $2 billion is at stake, Mark Zuckerberg wears a suit.
Facebook chief executive traded his famous hoodie and T-shirt for a dapper suit and tie on Jan. 17. The occasion: His appearance in a Dallas courtroom to defend Oculus, a virtual reality company owned by Facebook, from accusations that it stole important headset technology. ZeniMax Media, a privately-held gaming company, sued Facebook in May 2014 for $2 billion, the price Facebook paid to buy it two months earlier.
While Zuckerberg’s testimony was perhaps unsurprising — he denied any wrongdoing, telling the court that “the idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong” — his sartorial choice was anything but. Experts say this is a signal that he’s taking this case very seriously — and it may give him an edge up in the courtroom.
— Ken Kalthoff (@KenKalthoffNBC5) January 17, 2017
It “shows that he is respectful of the judge and the process,” says Los Angeles-based trial consultant Cynthia Cohen. A hoodie in court would almost certainly send the wrong message to the judge, even for one of the wealthiest people on the planet: “It would be saying, ‘I am beyond your court rules,’” she says.
This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg has donned a suit, but it is rare: The handful of other suit-wearing occasions include his wedding and meetings with heads of state like Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy. And he’s clearly uncomfortable taking the hoodie off and has said that he wears it “so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”
While his clothing will only play a minor part in how jurors see the Facebook honcho, experts agree that it doesn’t hurt that he’s buttoned up. “I can’t see a downside,” says Beaton. “It’s totally appropriate,” says Cohen.
How you look — everything from what you wear to your nonverbal cues — is so important in court that firms with high-profile clients often hire specialists to fine tune their client’s appearance. (It is not clear if Zuckerberg had help in picking out his outfit in this case.) Plus, research suggests that looks matter in a courtroom: One study found that putting a defendant in glasses may help him get off for a crime, and many others have found that physical appearance can sway a jury .
Zuckerberg isn’t the first high-profile defendant to change up his signature look. Though his case is obviously different than these cases, the change-in-look for these defendants was similarly drastic: Actress and party girl Lindsay Lohan famously donned a number of conservative looks, including a Hillary Clinton-esque pantsuit, for her court appearances, and reality TV star Kim Kardashian wore a buttoned up, muted look to divorce court; both women are known for wearing more risqué outfits.
This story was originally published on MarketWatch.
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved