The Party Style of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Hits a Nerve On Social Media

From a Wall Street Journal story by Rory Satran headlined “Jeff Bezos’ New Year’s Disco Style Hits a Nerve”:

Jeff Bezos, 57, is having fun with accessories, and his haters are having fun mocking them. In July 2021, the founder of Amazon and aerospace enterprise Blue Origin, flew to space while wearing a rather on-the-nose cowboy hat from upscale Aspen store Kemo Sabe. “I guess space turns you into Kenny Chesney,” joked Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” then. Mr. Bezos’ girlfriend, journalist Lauren Sánchez, was photographed kissing him the day of the space flight while shielded by her own cowboy hat. Recently, the couple made headlines again by doing little more than posting a photo to Instagram of their outfits for a poolside disco-themed New Year’s Eve party.

But, oh, what a photo. In it, Mr. Bezos beams in a pair of tight white pants, a gaudy patterned silk shirt and heart-shaped sunglasses (at night), while Ms. Sánchez wears a racy sparkled jumpsuit with significant cutaways. They look like a couple that does little but work out and make out—the billionaire version of the cast of the reality show “Jersey Shore”—an impression reinforced by other photos taken of the pair during their 2021-2022 holiday break spent on a yacht with friends and family near St. Barth in the Caribbean….

Mr. Bezos’ garments are not your typical beefcake threads. His tight, cream-colored jeans would appear to be from cerebral, uber-luxe Italian purveyor Brunello Cucinelli, judging by the logo of a mythological creature and castle tower embroidered on the change pocket. Luxury e-commerce site Mr Porter sells a similar pair for $875. The silk shirt is a dead-match for one from French brand Casablanca that can be purchased for $1,247 on Farfetch. As for those optimistic heart-shaped sunglasses, they might be Saint Laurent (the brand offers a similar pair for $505), or they might just be—Amazon.

“It’s him embracing fashion as a tool to get some kind of attention,” speculated New York image consultant and stylist Peter Nguyen, who specializes in working with men in the tech industry. “He’s put in all this work, with his style and his fitness, to change his appearance from what he was before, this nerdy former finance guy, bald in ill-fitting chinos in the ’90s. It’s part of a new rebrand, and it’s him having fun.”

It’s also riling people up, at least on social media….Anish K. Mitra, 33, a former investment banker in Los Angeles, has been churning out mocking memes and reactions to Mr. Bezos on his yacht. Mr. Mitra pointed out the dissonance between Mr. Bezos’ flashy social media accounts and what most folks worldwide are experiencing due to new Covid restrictions as Omicron cases rise: “He’s living his best life at a time when most people are living their worst, and I think that’s rubbing people the wrong way,” he said.

That might explain why so many of the over-8,000 comments on Mr. Bezos’ New Year’s Instagram post are negative. While some followers call out the tightness of his pants and the mogul’s resemblance to the rapper Pitbull, others evoke Amazon’s treatment of workers and the environment….

How can a controversial titan win in the public-image game? Many of those on Forbes’s current list of the world’s richest people are executives who dress in quietly professional ways, from Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway to Amancio Ortega of Zara. But Mr. Bezos, for several years now, has consistently broken from that mold, suggesting an interest in, if not always a flair for, fashion.

In 2012 he served as the honorary chair of the most prestigious fashion event of the year, the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute gala benefit, wearing a tuxedo alongside co-chairs Carey Mulligan, Anna Wintour and Miuccia Prada. That event, for which Amazon contributed a sizable contribution estimated at $1 million, was a kind of debutante ball for Mr. Bezos in the world of fashion. In the intervening years he appears to have developed a growing interest in his image, as shown by a more toned physique and trimmer tailoring. In 2020, he sat front row next to Ms. Wintour at a Tom Ford fashion show, wearing a suit and knitted polo.

The image consultant Mr. Nguyen mused that Mr. Bezos’ new look might be a strategic play for more social-media influence as he embarks on new endeavors including commercial space travel. Mr. Nguyen has worked with tech founders who seek his services because in part they want to boost their Instagram presence. “It’s sort of that influencer angle,” he said, “another tool for them to get their name out there, and a big part of that is getting photographed.”

If Mr. Bezos’ goal is to be photographed and get his name out there, then he’s succeeding. His next step might be to get more of his followers on board with his new look.

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