At the highest levels of power in the finance and tech industries, there is one gold standard, one unifying symbol that binds together all self-styled masters of the universe, all the titans of industry: the Patagonia Nano Puff vest with an embroidered corporate logo, also know as the Power Vest.
This look will now vanish to distant memory, like Gordon Gekko’s pinstriped suits and Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck (which disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes fully ruined) due to a policy change at Patagonia that will — effectively — exclude certain clients.
The company is getting selective, and told BuzzFeed News it has changed its policies for corporate sales clients: it will focus on selling to do-gooder B Corporations, i.e., companies with a charity element or that have committed to supporting causes like “community” or “the environment.” All those evil hedge funds and “Uber-for-X” tech startups can go pound sand.
“While I think new fintech startups are going to be devastated if they can't get co-branded Patagonia vests, I'm not too surprised that Patagonia is taking a closer look at how their brand is being used, and probably trying to not let Patagonia be synonymous with the ‘finance bro,’” said Binna Kim, who first noticed the change.
Kim, president of the communications agency Vested (the reference is to the finance term, not the sleeveless layer), attempted to place an order for a client, something her firm had done in the past through a reseller for Patagonia’s corporate sales.
But she got back a rejection email from the reseller saying, “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. While they have co-branded here in the past, the brand is really focused right now on only co-branding with a small collection of like-minded and brand aligned areas; outdoor sports that are relevant to the gear we design, regenerative organic farming, and environmental activism.” Patagonia, the person said, is “reluctant to co-brand with oil, drilling, dam construction, etc. companies that they view to be ecologically damaging” and while orders are approved on a case-by-case basis, this includes “financial institutions.”
A representative for Patagonia confirmed it has recently changed its policy, but declined to say exactly when this change happened. Here is the company’s statement:
“Our corporate sales program manages Patagonia’s sales to other companies, non-profits and other organizations. We recently shifted the focus of this program to increase the number of Certified B Corporations, 1% For The Planet members and other mission-driven companies that prioritize the planet. This shift does not affect current customers in our corporate sales program.”
The outdoor sports brand has been noticeably political. The company took a stand over President Trump’s plans to reduce the size of two national monuments. And now, Patagonia, which even describes itself as “The Activist Company,” is leaving lucrative corporate bulk orders on the table to commit to their values.
It’s unclear how industries will be impacted by a legion of workers with chilly midsections. It may not result in a Black Tuesday–like crashing of the Dow, or cause all the tech IPOs this year to crater, but it’s an alarming development to those who have watched the rise of the corporate vest trend from the sidelines.
The person (who asked to remain anonymous) behind the Instagram @midtownuniform, a collection of images of finance bros in vests caught in the wild, told BuzzFeed News, “In light of its recent big branding moves towards awareness of environmental issues, I was wondering when Patagonia (also referred to as Patagucci) would be putting the kibosh on outfitting the finance world. It was only a matter of time.”
The name of Kim's company, Vested, was misstated and Gordon Gekko's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.