Skip to main content

The story of Steve Jobs and Issey Miyake's friendship...

Justin Sullivan


While Issey Miyake's black turtlenecks are well known because of their association with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the impact that the famous Japanese designer had on Apple could have been even larger, with Jobs initially wanting Miyake to create a uniform for all Apple employees.

Miyake died from liver cancer at age 84 on Aug. 5. As the news of his death has spread, many are revisiting the designer's work, including his connection to Jobs.

In his biography of Jobs, author Walter Isaacson details how the tech juggernaut found himself in the company of Miyake as Jobs gravitated toward the Japanese style.

Isaacson details how the idea for an Apple uniform came from a trip to Japan in the 1980s when Jobs visited Sony and saw that all workers in the factories were wearing matching uniforms. Jobs asked Akio Morita, then the chairman of Sony, about it.

"He looked very ashamed and told me that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day," Jobs said.

Miyake had worked with Sony to create a taupe nylon jacket that easily converted into a vest courtesy of removable sleeves. Isaacson wrote that the uniforms became part of Sony's "signature style" and "it became a way of bonding workers to the company."

"I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple," Jobs said. "So I called Issey and asked him to design a vest for Apple. I came back with some samples and told everyone it would be great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea."

An Apple uniform from Miyake wasn't meant to be, but it opened the door to a friendship between Miyake and Jobs and ultimately a uniform for Jobs himself that included Miyake's black turtlenecks and Levi's 501 classic fit jeans.

"So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them," Jobs said, adding that it was enough to last him the rest of his life.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.