MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Pull up a picture of Mark Zuckerberg. Pick any occasion other than this week's testimony, and as likely as not, he's wearing a gray T-shirt and a hoodie. The Facebook founder may have made billions, but his sartorial style has not evolved much from his student days back in Harvard's dorms, which piqued Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan's curiosity as to what kind of an effort Zuckerberg would make for his turn on Capitol Hill. We reached Robin Givhan via Skype. Robin, welcome back to the program.
ROBIN GIVHAN: Thank you. Nice to be here.
KELLY: Nice to have you here. OK, so blue suit, blue tie - anything more to say about the outfit? Describe it for us.
GIVHAN: This was sort of a grudging suit and tie. The tie wasn't really knotted very well. It kind of hung loosely from his neck. His shirt looked like it was a bit too big. The suit kind of looked like, OK, here's the most basic suit I can find.
KELLY: So this is - he wore a tie, but you're suggesting it kind of looked like he didn't want to be wearing a tie. And he showed up in the uniform known to, you know, generations of Washington interns, not in the billionaire's version of a dashing navy suit and tie.
GIVHAN: No, and that's not to say that the suit wasn't expensive. It simply wasn't tailored. And this was not a situation that he wanted to find himself in, and the clothing reflected that.
KELLY: What is his traditional uniform - the T-shirt, the hoodie - what is that meant to telegraph to the world?
GIVHAN: Well, he has said that one of the reasons why he wears the same thing is because it frees him from having to make that decision because there are so many other decisions that he has to make any given day. It is extraordinarily youthful and boyish, which underscores the sort of next-generation nature of his business. And it also has an element of rebelliousness which, you know, speaks to what his tech universe is all about.
KELLY: You make the argument in your column in The Washington Post Mark Zuckerberg - he's a suit now. He's one of them, so he better get comfortable wearing one.
GIVHAN: This was a moment when this 33-year-old sort of disruptor really had to come face to face with the fact that he was no longer disrupting. He was in a position in which he had to fix things. And the suit really just underscored very visually that he was crossing from being an outsider into now being an insider.
KELLY: Let me ask you the contrarian question that I can hear my dad shouting at the radio right now. Why does it matter what Mark Zuckerberg wears to Washington?
GIVHAN: Well, it matters because he has, one, used fashion as a way to distinguish himself and to send a message about what it is that he believes he's doing and where his company is situated in the broader cultural context. But I also think it matters because one of the reasons these hearings are in fact televised is because they are political theater. Part of theater is the costuming, and that helps us understand who the players are, what their goals are and what the messaging is.
KELLY: Will you be watching for him to revert to usual uniform?
GIVHAN: I will be curious to see if he can wait until he's on California soil before he slips into his T-shirt or...
GIVHAN: ...Or if he heads right back into, you know, his hotel and pulls off that suit jacket as soon as possible.
KELLY: That's Robin Givhan, fashion critic for The Washington Post. Thanks very much.
GIVHAN: (Laughter) Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.