We recently received the comment below from one of our readers. I thought it was very interesting and very relevant. Here it is, and I’ve added some thoughts below.
I happened on your site while doing some personal research on old money style and its contemporary applications, like the trendy of the concept of sprezzatura, or nonchalant elegance, which some people seem to so naturally possess.
My wife recently read the memoirs of her great, great grandmother who, it turns out, was a Prussian baroness from a very old aristocratic family. Sadly, none of the perks of such a connection have passed down (to us, anyway) but it has piqued an interest in this subject.
I’m seeking to answer questions of application, while making no pretensions about who I am or where I live (in a fashion-less midwestern city), but because it means something to me, how and where do I begin? I don’t even work in an office anymore; I’m at home, feeling a bit like a clipped bird. What are the intrinsic meaningful old money qualities one might cultivate when no one is around to see the exterior manifestations?
Relating this for a moment to the above fellow, I’ve always believed what truly makes an individual part of the “club” is an air of graceful decency and generosity combined with an implacable sense of self and an easy, individualistic, timeless style. It seems to me if a person has to try so hard, they are immediately disqualified.
The ticket to entry is never to need a ticket. One just belongs – or does not. He almost should be pitied were the scent of desperation not so overwhelming. But no, he should be pitied. He is only scratching the surface – aimlessly wandering in the vacuous periphery. There is something of duty and service in old money. Queen Elizabeth is the quintessential example. If you’re focused solely on yourself, you miss everything. Just a note of personal conviction there.
Anyway, it’s this sense of natural, intrinsic being as it applies to old money that might be a topic for you (forgive me if you’ve already written about it – as I said, I am a newbie to your work). It is deeper than money. It includes fashion but is more than fashion. When someone has it, it’s both immediately recognizable and defies grasp or quantification. Any thoughts on the matter?
First, thank you very much, David, for joining us on the blog. It’s very astute of you to recognize that Old Money Style may focus on clothes, but that wardrobe is only a small part of Old Money culture. You also talk about life not being ‘all about yourself’, which is another key element to fulfillment and happiness, and a marked characteristic of many Old Money Guys and Gals.
I know that the members of the tribe will have much to offer on this point. Let me distill my thoughts as follows: yes, it can be difficult to get a grasp on a concept and apply it when living in relative isolation. You don’t have an outside context (the workplace) to relate to and get feedback from, and you don’t have the opportunity to communicate to others on a regular basis. Such is a dilemma of the post-pandemic world, it would seem. Still, you can improve and it’s great that you want to.
My best advice is to adopt this Old Money culture and its values, priorities, and habits. (All of these are detailed in The Old Money Book.) Doing that will slowly but permanently reshape your identity–the way you see yourself–which will feed changes in your wardrobe, lifestyle, and quality of life.
To adopt a purpose in life is key. Something worthwhile, outside of yourself and bigger than yourself. Do your duty to fulfill that purpose (as you noted). To remain private is important. To remain modest is important. To constantly learn and grow is important. To laugh a lot is important.
You might read The Proper Bostonians as well. It’s a definitive volume on Boston Old Money, and very entertaining.
That’s my advice in nutshell, but there is obviously so much more. What say ye, gang?
As always, thank you all so much for your insights, and thank you again, David.