What Was Elizabeth Holmes Trying To Prove With Those Black Turtlenecks?

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images.
Elizabeth Holmes is the subject of not one but two documentaries, new podcast The Dropout, and Jennifer Lawrence’s next movie (Adam McKay’s big-screen adaptation of Bad Blood, the bestselling book about her rise and fall by The Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou). The face behind the once-famed biotech company Theranos first came into the public eye after Carreyrou drew attention to the holes in her blood-testing start-up and essentially proved that Holmes had lied about its true capabilities.
In other words, we absolutely can't stop talking about this high-profile scammer — Refinery29 included. We want to know if Theranos is still around, about Holmes' natural hair color, her voice, and even what happened to her wolf, er, dog. And, over here at R29 Style, we're really curious what message she was sending — or thought she was sending — with her carefully calculated corporate fashion.
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Emulating the biggest tech mogul of all time, Holmes favored a Steve Jobs-like wardrobe of black turtlenecks, which she claims to have worn exclusively since childhood. Back in 2014, someone who briefly worked with her recounted her uniform for Fortune: “During my four days at Theranos, Holmes dressed identically every day: black jacket; black mock turtleneck; black slacks with a wide, pale pinstripe; and black low-heel shoes,” the colleague said.
Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images.
And, yes, that "uniform" was completely intentional on Holmes' part. “My mom had me in black turtlenecks when I was, like, eight," she told Glamour in 2015: "I probably have 150 of these. [It's] my uniform. It makes it easy, because every day you put on the same thing and don't have to think about it—one less thing in your life. All my focus is on the work. I take it so seriously; I'm sure that translates into how I dress.”
It seemed that Holmes was drawn to Apple founder Jobs’ commitment to perfectionism, and the legacy of his company's world-defining tech aesthetic. She even hung a framed screenshot of his Apple Internet bio, “printed out on Aug. 24, 2011, the day he stepped down as CEO because of pancreatic cancer,” the one-time coworker told Fortune. Reportedly, Holmes was so obsessed with owning the exact Issey Miyake black turtleneck Jobs wore in his iconic key note presentations (and every other day of his working life) that she reportedly tracked down and stocked up on the pieces, which were reissued in 2017 for $270.
In addition to her beloved turtlenecks, Holmes often wore black flared pants, oversized suit jackets, and puffer vests, recalling a bygone era when many women felt pressured to dress a certain way to be taken seriously in the workplace. More than that, Holmes’ anonymous, colorless, lifeless and tightly regimented daily uniform — even if it was partly a tribute to one of the most influential creators/businessmen in history — was a costume, one disguising a massive act of fraud. In the end, this Empress had no clothes at all.
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