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Zuckerberg-inspired pinstripe hoodie and the art of viral apparel

May 14, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Betabrand's executive pinstripe hooded sweat shirt might just redefine business casual.
Betabrand's executive pinstripe hooded sweat shirt might just redefine… (Betabrand )

For journalists casting around for yet another take on the Facebook IPO, online retailer Betabrand's executive pinstripe hoodie was like manna from the gods.

Pictures of the pinstripe hoodie -- a zip-up hoodie made of superfine worsted merino wool -- had been floating around Betabrand's site since Febraury, but the company did not put it on sale until Wednesday of last week, two days after Mark Zuckerberg ruffled sartorial feathers by arriving at a pre-IPO roadshow in New York wearing a hooded sweat shirt to meet with investors in New York.

Road to IPO

The next day, Zuckerberg's sister Randi tweeted about Betabrand's hoodie writing, "Inspired by Facebook's IPO roadshow, Betabrand is now selling "executive pinstriped hoodies" Opening bell worthy? ;)"

And with that, stories that mentioned Betabrand's pinstripe hoodie, which retails for $148, showed up in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post and the New York Times among dozens of other media outlets, and Betabrand sold out of the 400 executive pinstriped hoodies it had in stock in just 24 hours.

"We would have had an amazing week of sales anyway," said Chris Lindland, who founded Betabrand in August of 2010, "but Hoodiegate was like pouring nitroglycerin on the fire. We thought we might get lucky and have a couple of blogs write about us, but it was not planned to be a chapter in the Facebook IPO saga."

But, to be clear, the timing was not accidental. Strange as it may sound, Betabrand specializes in viral clothing.

As Lindland explained, Betabrand makes and sells clothes that it thinks people will talk about on the Internet.  Think of it as an apparel version of BuzzFeed or the "Trending" videos on Yahoo.com.

"To the best of our ability we are influenced by the Internet attention cycle," said Lindland. "We put out two or three products a week, and the question we ask is, 'Who would want to talk about this online?'"

To that end, Betabrand created the Farmer's Market backpack to reach the hyper-active online food blogger community, and bike-to-work pants to reach an engaged biking online audience.

Another recent hit for the company was dress pants sweat pants -- pants that look like dressy work pants but are made of a soft sweat shirt material. Those got picked up by Engadget and Time Magazine, and "went bonkers for us," said Lindland.

Now, Lindland said, the executive hoodie has become its own chapter in the Facebook IPO story, and perhaps even a footnote in the cultural war between the laid-back West Coast and the buttoned-up East Coast.

"Is the executive pinstripe hoodie the appropriate attire for a Silicon Valley guy going to meet with New York investors?" he said. "I'm putting that out there as a question. I'm just saying that our sales appear to indicate that enough people are like, honestly, that's not bad."

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