The Application Process

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.

  • BGT

13 thoughts on “The Application Process

  1. David & wife,

    Hello and welcome!

    David, I enjoyed your note immensely. As one begins learning new things or when taking a new journey, it can be overwhelming starting out. Take your time and learn the basics and then dip your toes into others. You may be doing these things already without realizing it. These are in no particular order.

    Our neighbors. We are friendly in a way which requires us to not speak much. While listening to their conversations in the obligatory glory of oohs and aahs from others, my family images money flying needlessly out the window like time. Like time, once lost, it can not be recovered. I am not sure about the gang here, but I tend to be more impressed with trips taken with interesting people or experiences in order to share with others. On this site is an interesting story Byron shared with us on a trip he took back in 2013. I think you will enjoy it!

    https://theoldmoneybook.com/2013/05/14/etiquette-italian-style/

    Things- From a publication read years ago, “If you want to know who does not have money in your neighborhood, just look out your window at their driveway.”

    Clothes- (speaking for myself) Treat it as a game. When you locate something, place it onto the back-burner, and think on it seriously, then leave the thought alone. Sometimes, wonderful things happen and the price goes down, or it goes up. In the time of waiting, you are saving.

    Treating others- Acquire patience and genuine compliments. In turn, it will pay back in dividends, either in the form of a compliment or expedient shipping. Follow the golden rule. IT is a rule which does not tarnish nor decrease in value.

    Dressing/outings- It has been a handful of times when someone accuses me of being rich. The first time can be very unnerving. Upon the second, my curious nature spiked, and I asked how she could tell. She started because I was not dripping with jewels, gold or rings and was polite. ( a simple sundress, large straw hat, no make up with sunglasses. I did however see the woman I was being compared to with gold necklaces as it was sweltering outdoors) Old Money is mindful of the weather in dressing.

    Books- if you love reading, begin. Recently, I watched a video on learning how one can read up to 6 books at one sitting by spending 30 minutes on each book. I did not try that, but finished one out of 3 and am currently leafing through Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice, adding others in a queue. One recommended is Class by Paul Fussell. If reading is not a favorite past time, audio books can be delightful by wearing a wireless headset or listening to an audio book on long drive to a destination. In my experience, audio books also make wonderful and thoughtful gifts for any season. Our first audio book set was from a garage sale in an affluent neighborhood years ago. It was The Chronicles of Narnia retold by vintage Hollywood stars.

    This is what I have learned thus far, but please check in with us as we all glen from one another.

    WESIS…. work. earn. save. invest. spend.
    (and in that order)

    1. Forgot to mention I had *FREE EXPEDITED SHIPPING.

      It pays to be kind. Courtesy counts a lot.

  2. Good morning to you David,

    Something that you might consider, if not already part of your make-up :

    ‘Punctuality, is the courtesy of kings’.

    Regards,
    David.

  3. I think it’s two things. First, internal resources. A life of the mind, a love of reading and learning, intellectual curiosity and an ability to appreciate all aspects of life, including the finer things in life, are what we have when the people and circumstances of our normal, everyday life are taken from us.
    Second, the balance between conformity and non-conformity. When you have internalized the values and habits of old money you are free to be yourself, including whatever non-conformist or idiosyncratic traits or characteristics that may involve, secure in the knowledge that you won’t go to too far off the rails. At that level, the rules and regulations, habits and traditions, don’t feel limiting or confining. They feel liberating. They provide a secure foundation on which you can build your own life any way you like.
    In other words, it all comes from within. You don’t need other people around to live the old money life. It’s just what you are.

  4. Byron, I need some quick, off topic, advice. I’m leaving for Paris next week. My wife and I will be visiting for a week. It is supposed to be very warm. I have read that the Parisians frown on shorts. This is problematic, in that khaki shorts with a polo shirt and boat shoes is my go to summer ensemble. Do I need to suffer through long pants? Also, I’m assuming a fair bit of walking will occur. Are tennis shoes verboten? Thanks for any insights!

    1. Karl, I used to be in Paris regularly because my aunt lived there. From what I saw there, my suggestion would be to wear thin weave long trousers. That way, you’ll blend in much more. I didn’t see Parisians wearing sport shoes much either, except for the very young generation.

      May I also add something that is essential to being polite in France that doesn’t appear in many other languages?

      When saying “good morning, thank you, please…”, it’s very important to always add “Madame” or “Monsieur”.
      For example, “Bonjour Madame”, upon entering a bakery. It even might open you some unexpected doors.

      I hope that helps, enjoy your journey.

    2. Bonjour, Karl…! It’s great you’re coming to Paris this week. Excellent comments from our tribe members. My advice is similar…the polo shirt is an excellent choice. The shorts will serve you well, let’s say, half the time, as will the deck shoes. My reasons for hedging…the shorts will mark you as a tourist (pickpockets) and limit the restaurants you can comfortably enter, as previously noted. Also note: we had 100 degree temps yesterday, but things have cooled off. Temperatures are supposed to be in the high 70s next week. Low humidity, so ‘suffering’ is not really something you’d be doing in cotton long pants, IMHO. It’s going to be comfortable in the mornings and evenings, mid-60s to low 70s, so take that into consideration. But shorts are fine. As also noted, etiquette is paramount. (Thanks, everyone, on the great insights.)
      On the deck shoes, good choice, but you might want sneakers, too, if you plan to walk a lot. They’re more comfortable, obviously, and, as noted, everyone wears them. Consider a cap as the sun is out and directly overhead at this time of year.
      If you have an elegant evening on the agenda, a blue blazer and long sleeve dress shirt will suffice with khakis in most places. But double check. Traditions are strong here.
      If you are visiting the Louvre and have time for a coffee, please let me know. My office is right across the street. (David can give you directions to our cafe! Ha!)
      In any event, I hope you and your wife enjoy the city. Au revoir…! – BGT

  5. Good morning Karl,

    If I may jump in and answer. Shorts abound. T-shirts abound. Tennis shoes are not verboten. They too abound. It is summer here and the last two days in particular have seen temps hit historic highs. Obviously, if you would like to enter a high-end restaurant dressed in the above you might meet some resistance. Otherwise, no one is going to judge you. Just watch out for pick pockets, especially in highly touristic areas such as around the Eiffel Tour and below Sacre Coeur. Don’t put your cell phone in your back pocket. Your wallet either. Just be street-aware and if you can try and use the buses late at night rather than the metros. If you’re coming on or after the 22nd you’ll be in time for the sales. You can stock up on T shirts and shorts !

    Regards,
    David.

  6. “Im 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?”

    Mr. Tully’s book is about adopting a lifestyle that improves the quality and elegance of ones life. While at the same time teaching frugality. (The pandemic has all made us a bit lonely at times.) See if this morning routine brings clarity. You wake up in the morning in a bed that has real cotton sheets and feather pillows. From there put on your robe over your striped pajamas (think Norman Rockwell). Next you walk the dog around your property and get the physical newspaper from the mailbox (Digital is annoying). Take a look at your vegetable garden and pick the vegetables for your lunch (plant based diet). Afterwards brew some fresh coffee (Pour over no machines) and maybe an egg over easy on whole wheat toast. Then read your paper cover to cover. (Keep the TV in the back family room- good for sports). Afterwards luxuriate in a shower then get outside. To ward off loneliness maybe find a “nice” pub for an afternoon drink.

    Think soft old leather chairs and reading books. Not what people see.

    1. Thank you every for your insights, they are much appreciated. This is a rescheduled trip from 2020, and we are looking forward to it! This comment section community is a wealth of help and information!

  7. One just is. . . Gracious and kind. Even when met with the opposite. As far as gradual change, look up the concept of ‘growth mindset’ developed by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. Many explainer videos about it on Youtube including quite a few by Dr. Dweck herself. Her approach — to cultivate positive change of any kind — seems especially apt in this case.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  8. Good evening Heinz-Ulrich,

    If one ‘just is’, and your example is being gracious and kind although there are of course others, can one “cultivate” such a state of being so that it becomes natural, so to speak ? Especially as an adult. Striving for it in its absence is of course a noble endeavour but when does one stop striving ? Will it become exhausting ? The person born into such surroundings and raised by parents who instill such values and ethics where a child learns them by assimilation has every chance of them being ‘just is’ but what about those who are not (?)

    My view is that this all begins in childhood and is the reason so many societies are in such a pickle today. Young people are not receiving this mentoring in their homes and they are certainly not receving it is their schools. Those who do see ‘the light’, especially as young adults, face a lifetime of striving and trying to achieve ‘growth mindset’. I once heard someone say that when a person who does not have ‘natural’ manners and graces is in the company of someone who does, they subsconciously realise it and ‘resent’ the fact that they don’t. Some might even subconciously resent their parents where they feel it all began (did not).

    We have so many self-help programmes but are we looking in the right places ? Should we not begin at the beginning ? I am not suggesting we give up but real self-discipline begins almost before comprehension, extends into schools, and is proactive. Later on, it is reactive.

    What is that famous expression in America ? – “Fix The Broken Windows !”

    With much respect,
    David.

  9. Hello David, and thank you for your reply. You raise a very valid point, something my late mother and I came back to again and again in our rambling conversations about life and humanity whenever we met up in the US, UK, or Mexico. I would agree that grace, kindness, tolerance, forbearance, benevolence, and a host of other practices/examples start in childhood and must be continually fostered by the parents into young adulthood when, hopefully, we take over and continue to cultivate these qualities in our own daily lives. And yes, it is a daily struggle. Especially when so much of the rest of society no longer seems to operate with the same values or speak the same “language” if you will. That said, it is the rare individual who can, or is willing to, recognize personal deficiencies in these areas once he/ or she reaches adulthood. Making up for lost time, determining, and taking concrete steps forward to improve oneself is daunting. It is very difficult to catch up if one has not had the benefit of parents or care-givers who instill these virtues, to put it very simply. Not impossible, but very difficult. And yes, I would also agree with you that this is just one of the many reasons Western society continues its race to the bottom morally, ethically, politically, and socially. Things don’t look particularly good right now, but we have to keep trying both on a personal and societal level. I am not overly optimistic, but I remain hopeful.

    Kind Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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