From puka shell necklaces to five-finger shoes: A pop cultural history of douche

The toolbag tech overlord of HBO's "Silicon Valley" wears gloves on his feet -- and other icons of douchebaggery

By Prachi Gupta
April 9, 2014 6:00PM (UTC)
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After just one episode of HBO's new series "Silicon Valley," it is clear that Gavin Belson, new-agey billionaire of fictional tech giant Hooli, is the show's resident douche. There is plenty of evidence for this: He has a spiritual guru. His hair is slicked back with an excess of gel. He regards underlings with the thousand-yard stare of a man who would rather be on a yoga retreat. But perhaps most egregiously, he wears five-finger shoes on his feet.

This is not the first time that these glove-shoes, formally called FiveFingers, have made a pop cultural cameo. Celebrities from Shailene Woodley to Channing Tatum have been pilloried for wearing them in public. They are just the sort of sartorial status symbol that screams “I EAT KALE AND RUN A LOT," which makes them a perfect fit for the gluten-intolerant, Soul-Cycling zeitgeist. But FiveFingers are only the latest fashion symbol to rise to the forefront of pop culture as the ultimate symbol of douche. So here is a brief history of the phenomenon:


Puka bead chokers

Puka beads hearken back to an era when TV teens bleached their hair and were all named Logan or Lance. Like lead douche Logan Echolls in “Veronica Mars.”

Two-tone collared shirts

“Office Space,” another Mike Judge classic, features the monotone toolbag Bill Lumbergh, humorless boss and dedicated wearer of suspenders. But nothing says "business-not-so-casual" quite like a two-tone collared shirt.


Quail-hunting attire

Who has a full quail-hunting outfit? Sack Lodge, legendary douche from “Wedding Crashers,” that’s who. Don’t be Sack Lodge.

Ed Hardy T-shirts

“The Jersey Shore” turned douchebaggery into an art, but Ed Hardy T-Shirts, beloved by Pauly D, managed to become an ironic luxury icon.


Long sideburns with big hair

Let Jean Ralphio's hairdo on “Parks and Recreation” teach you a lesson: "business in the back" and "party on the sides" is a pretty weird party.

Bluetooth earpiece

The next time you are with your family, piled into your sedan and singing a pitch-perfect a cappella cover of “Sweet Child of Mine,” make sure you do it without a bluetooth earpiece. Otherwise, you'll look a lot like like Adam Scott in “Step Brothers,” who played Will Ferrell’s douchebag younger brother.


Beats by Dre headphones

The commercials for Beats by Dre headphones certainly deserve the endless parodies they've been pelted with. They do, after all, cost $300 a pop. Here's one from Daniel Tosh of Tosh.0 (who is not only a douche but also conveniently dresses like one).


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Dressing in all white

Leonardo DiCaprio in “Wolf of Wall Street” may be the most recent, but he was far from the first. See also: P Diddy.

Google Glass

What might be our biggest douche icon du jour is also gifted to us from Silicon Valley. “SNL’s” tech blogger Randall Meeks, played by Fred Armisen, does a spot-on "glasshole" parody.


Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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