Silicon Valley retailers are running out of black turtlenecks, and it could be because people are going as Elizabeth Holmes for Halloween


Elizabeth Holmes

  • Halloween can be an opportunity for party-goers to break out their most culturally relevant costumes, such as VSCO girls and Area 51 aliens.
  • One relevant, Silicon Valley-specific costume this year is dressing up as Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of failed blood-testing startup Theranos known for her signature black turtleneck sweater.
  • At the same time, some popular retail chains in San Francisco area are running low on, and even selling out of, long-sleeved black turtlenecks.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The perfect mix of Halloween and Silicon Valley might have turned the simple black long-sleeve turtleneck into a hot commodity in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Several retail chains in the San Francisco Bay Area are currently running low on, and even selling out of, the staple top for the fall season. Quartz first reported that Uniqlo stores in the area seemed to have run out of the sweater, and Business Insider has found that there are similar shortages at local Gap, H&M, Target, and Kohl’s locations.

The black turtleneck has long been an icon in Silicon Valley: First, for its association with late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, and more recently as the iconic look of Elizabeth Holmes — the infamous cofounder and CEO of Theranos, the Silicon Valley-based blood-testing startup that was once valued at $9 billion before shutting down amid accusations of criminal fraud.

Most of the photos you’ll find online of Holmes show her in an all-black ensemble, with the same black long-sleeve turtleneck, often with a vest or suit jacket over it. Holmes has readily volunteered in interviews that her self-described “uniform” — as well as her office furniture and perchance for secretiveness — is borrowed from Jobs, her idol. In a 2015 interview with Glamour, Holmes said she’s been wearing black turtlenecks since she was eight years old, and estimated she owned 150 black turtlenecks.

The look is both distinctive and easy to replicate, making it the ideal Halloween costume. Multiple outlets have offered their suggestions for how to dress like Holmes for Halloween. Turtleneck-clad Holmes lookalikes can be found on Instagram and across social media from Halloween celebrations this month. 

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Everyone’s favorite documentary super stars #fyrefestival #theranos #elizabethholmes #billymcfarland

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Quartz reported on Monday morning that black turtlenecks were not available for purchase at the five nearest Uniqlo stores to reporter Daniel Wolfe’s location in Oakland, California. Business Insider couldn’t replicate those results: Uniqlo’s website showed that the sweaters were in stock at most locations near our San Francisco office, though in “low stock” at two stores.

However, we did find that several other retailers appear to be having black turtleneck shortages of their own.

elizabeth holmes halloween turtlenecks

According to Gap’s website, its cheapest medium-sized black turtleneck was sold out Monday afternoon at eight of its 10 storefronts in the San Francisco area.

Additionally, only three of H&M’s six locations in the area had its $10 black turtleneck in stock, according to its website. While Forever 21’s website doesn’t offer an option for seeing whether items are in-stock in brick-and-mortar stores, the retailer’s black turtleneck is marked as a “going fast” item, with over 1,100 purchases this week.

At Target, none of the 20 stores within 20 miles of San Francisco had a black turtleneck in stock. Some of the stores offered a pick-up date of November 2 at the earliest — three days after Halloween has already passed. 

Holmes has become a household name in the last year, largely in part because of society’s obsession with watching the downfall of alleged scammers. There’s also been no shortage of media coverage, including a best-selling book, an HBO documentary, and two upcoming projects separately featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Kate McKinnon each playing the embattled Theranos founder.

But particularly in Silicon Valley, Theranos and Holmes have become symbolic of the downfalls of a system where innovators are encouraged to move fast and break things. Prior to Holmes’ fall from grace, she was put on magazine covers, given a $4.5 billion net worth, and lauded as “the next Steve Jobs” — even before her blood-testing devices hit the market.

As BuzzFeed News’ Alison Willmore wrote last year, Holmes has become “an illustration of Silicon Valley hubris” who is “the perfect fuel for our 24/7 take economy.”

Additionally, Holmes is still spotted around San Francisco with her hotel-heir husband Billy Evans, as she awaits her trial beginning in summer 2020 in San Jose, California.

That said, the apparent difficulties in purchasing a black turtleneck in the San Francisco area could simply be a function of the season. A black turtleneck is a simple, functional fall fashion staple that can easily be layered for additional warmth. 

Still, it seems like too much of a coincidence that they’re so hard to find, just days before Halloween.

SEE ALSO: Photos from WeWork’s famed extravagant annual Halloween parties, with performances from Rick Ross and Busta Rhymes

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