Happy New Year, and An Update…

I hope 2023 has begun wonderfully, and that the entire year will be filled with health, joy, and prosperity for everyone.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who purchased a copy of How To Be A Rich Man…or Woman! If you haven’t written a review on the Amazon product page, please feel free to do so. It really helps with readers who are unfamiliar with my books.

If you wrote a review in 2022 and don’t see it posted on the product page, please let me know. Amazon sometimes puts a pause on reviews. I don’t know why.

Second, I wanted to address a couple of emails I’ve received recently. One was from our intrepid foreign correspondent David, who noted that the iconic Kiwi brand of shoe polish will no longer be sold in the UK. Kiwi shoe polish in black and brown was a staple for my grandfather’s and father’s generations. It was a part of their shoeshine kit. Most young men today probably have no idea what a shoe shine kit is, but I inherited mine from my father, though now I simply take my shoes to a local cobbler and have the polish and heel repair done at the same time.

The reasons for Kiwi’s demise in the marketplace are, sadly, obvious and probably permanent: men are wearing casual shoes (sneakers or trainers, depending on your version of English) more often, even to work. Furthermore, the pandemic and its ‘work from home’ societal shift contributed mightily.

Dress shoes are hardly essential for making the commute to your ‘second bedroom home office’. Depending on your computer’s camera angle, pants can even be optional, leaving the only garment really necessary for a Zoom call to be a shirt. Let’s hope that last bastion of modesty holds…

Even before the pandemic, the general trend toward less formal work wear was upon us. Casual Friday’s slipped into ‘Please just don’t wear jeans’ to ‘Please just don’t wear flip-flops’ in front of clients.

I used to think the world of finance, government, and law would hold fast, but I see more often the investment banker, public official, or attorney without a necktie…or even a sport coat. Some want to communicate a ‘man of the people’ image. I’d rather see an image of a person in a position of authority and trust dressing appropriately, if I’m being candid. (And I usually am.)

Billionaires in black T-shirts, jeans, and Adidas footwear seem to want everyone to know that they aren’t required to dress up, for anyone or any occasion. Socialites in black tights use the excuse of ‘just wanting to be comfortable’ or, more likely, simply not wanting to make any effort whatsoever to get dressed prior to appearing in public.

The head-to-toe black ensemble (with the white dress shirt) that predominates the residents and savvy expats alike here in Paris is a slightly more acceptable alternative: public transportation, crowds, and the climate nudge one into practical if still elegant attire. And elegance is still a requirement here…

What’s more, in a city where the flashy and condescending have frequently met unpleasant ends, it is also a discreet way to dress. At my local cafe, for example, my very affluent neighbor habitually sports his ensemble noir and looks pretty much like his best buddy, the barista, who is required to wear a white shirt, black necktie, and black slacks as a uniform. The retail prices of their respective garments differ, I’m sure, but the all black provides cover that I’m sure contributes to an egalite, fraternite, and liberte that is part of French history and culture, and is again appreciated by all in this newer, subtle context.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: you want to dress discreetly, but you don’t have to dress sloppily. Not at work, not hanging out with your friends, and not at home.

Along the same lines, I recently received the following insightful comment from Peter. (Thank you, Peter…)

I have read your book, and I agree with a lot ot things and think it’s a great book. I just wonder how these core values applies today in the modern world by the younger generation? I live in Sweden and for the younger generation (30-45 years old) I can’t say the upper class really lives accordingly to the core values of this book and accordingly to what all the influencers on youtube say the old money people do.:)

I know people who are real upper class and close to the royal family in Sweden who are renovating their apartments, buying brand new modern furnitures, wearing quite trendy clothes, wearing apple watches, driving Tesla SUV:s, showing on social media their trips to the Maldives, Gstaad and so on.

It’s not a criticism of your book, just a thought and a question. I think some of the real upper class of the younger generation today sometimes acts like new money unfortunately. It’s a lot of bragging going on on social media, even from this group.

My response is two-fold. First, we have to acknowledge that social media is the most corrupting influence we’ve ever faced in the history of the world. It not only shapes behavior; it alters the reality of those participating in it. This makes it incredibly dangerous, not just with regards to the way people dress and behave, but more importantly how they view politics and social issues. It also erodes their values, I think.

Second, there’s a large, invisible demographic of established Old Money families–and those newly-minted individuals who are stepping into and embracing Old Money culture–that you don’t see or read about in the press or on social media. Be confident in that, but know that I still worry.

How closely correlated are sartorial norms and societal values? If we’re casual and even negligent in the way we dress, how will that impact our behavior? If we don’t dress and act appropriately, how can we communicate trustworthiness? How can we recognize it in others?

My conclusion is that we may, over time, find other ways of identifying the trust we need in order to conduct business and develop healthy, intimate, personal relationships. We may feel for a time that we do not need to dress a certain way to convey competence or to be attractive. (People have thought this before, and they have never been correct.)

As we do try to communicate and measure important qualities by other means (Instagram, anyone?), it’s going to be a bumpy ride, as people find out when they’ve been ‘catfished’ online, or when the guy you really like shows up to your sister’s wedding in a black T-shirt and jeans.

People may make poor choices for awhile, Peter, but time, tradition, and a little tribulation have a way of bringing them back around. Be patient.

  • BGT

19 thoughts on “Happy New Year, and An Update…

  1. Hi Byron, that’s good to hear. 🙂
    I just need to make a comment about jeans and more casual outfits today. I agree with you of course, but…with jeans for example, that could actually be a quite nice outfit if you know how to dress and mix cloths, textures and so on. If you have clean solid jeans with a casual soft blazer, a dress shirt a nice pair of english semibrogue suede oxfords, it’s not a bad outfit to me. 🙂 Of course perhaps not as a lawyer. I work at a quite formal consulting firm myself, and for ten years ago I was wearing suits and tie everyday to work. I am more casual today, yes, but I don’t feel it is actually for the worse. I wear sometimes navy blazer, navy pique poplin shirt (with a normal shirt collar), grey flannel trousers and dark brown suede chukka boots. I can wear a chambray shirt (dressier jeans shirt) to that exact same outfit as well. Yes I wear suits as well, but not everyday. However, I agree on when men start to dressing downwards, it can be a bumpy ride with a lot of mistakes. I have to quote of friend of mine who visited two law firms recently. The first firm still has dress code (suit and tie). “Everyone looked good at that firm”. The second firm had no dress code. “At that firm, everyone looked like shit”. 😀

    To sum it up, my wishes for the new year is that people should be a little kinder to eachother in general. That would makes the world a better place.

  2. Byron, yes, your second point that those who live discreetly are discreet is correct. We don’t see them because they prefer not to be seen (online).Younger people are afraid of being irrelevant if they do not have a social media presence. Peter, your observations are evidence of that, and I see it too.
    It is interesting that people seem to believe their public “profile” is their image, not the slovenly one they portray in real life. It is very strange.
    I am making a conscious effort to limit time online as it almost never improves my situation or mood.
    Being a curious person, this is difficult, because I like to know what is happening in the world.
    A quick listen to BBC world news and five minute scan of Reddit headlines is probably enough.

  3. Greetings Byron

    I must admit, it has been a challenge being a young adult in this day and age. Attention, relevance and trendiness are at the forefront whilst character, values and principles have taken a back seat.

    The ability to discern between those who are authentic and pretentious has become more valuable. However, most of my peers simply want to associate with those who are hip or in the know how. For their own benefit, let me rather say “clout”.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how 2023 plays out and what the future holds for us young adults. I’m hopeful that humans will see the value in being offline/invisible.

    Happy New Year! Keen to read “how to be a rich man or… woman”

    Kind Regards
    MVJ

  4. I noticed a small error in the new book. Physician’s Assistant is not an occupation that does not require a college degree. It’s a real degree, and Physician-Assistants are licensed by their states.

  5. A remark on Peters comment about the upper class generation around the royal family in Sweden. The major difference here is that they are upper class, not necessarily old money. The generation that is being refered to here is the generation that went to school with the royal children and therefore continue to be friends even today. Although, most of them working in PR, real estate as brokers, interior design, journalists etc meaning there is no family name to maintain.
    I would say that one needs to distinguish between upper class and old money, as in Sweden anyone can be mistaken for upper class by being in the right crowd, living in the right area and sending your children to the right school. Today, there is a fine line between middle class and upper class in Sweden as statistics show that number of millionaires are increasing rapidly, mainly through the stock market the past couple of years.

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  7. Hear, hear! If only someone of your valuable opinion and articulation, Byron, had a position of great influence in the US today, the way Sinatra and Elvis brought their music, Palmer, golf, Brando, T shirts, and JFK ended the hat market. If only someone of those men’s presence in society brought a return to propriety in dress and manners. In the meantime, it is the black T shirted social media giant who holds sway.

  8. Hello JDV,

    Judging by the things I hear about social media and the so-called ‘influencers’ (which is basically what JFK, Sinatra et al were in their day) it seems that absolutely anyone can be an ‘influencer’. If so, why not the members of this tribe ? If each one of us in their own quiet and undemonstrative way dressed in the ways or styles that are for example described in Byron’s writings, and simply stuck with it, each of us might influence just one other person. That is all it takes. Just one. Collectively we will have an enormous impact and the tide will begin to turn.

    One morning when I was having coffee with Byron he mentioned to me that I always dress the same. That ‘same’ was/is khaki chinos and an OCBD, or if it it warm enough, one of David Mercer’s finest in another cotton material. I thanked Byron for what I took as a compliment but then reminded him that the self-same trousers were used for digging in the garden and washing the car. Thereafter they are washed and steam-ironed ready for use and the next meeting with Byron, or the AGM at my yacht club !

    Does anyone think I am a freak-show dressed in these clothes ? Possibly. But they need to address those cares to someone in a black T-shirt who possibly (cares). They are wasting their time addressing them to me.

    Saddle up and enjoy the ride.

    Best wishes for 2023. May you be blessed with may new OCBDs.

    Regards,
    David.

  9. @ David- I appreciate the transparency as it pertains to how you manage your attire; khaki/chino’s and OCBDs. Mercer make a fine product, however, I was wondering if your trouser of choice comes from the list generated via “back to school” provided from the post?

    I’m looking to expand my limited choice of khaki/chino trousers and desire the dependability that comes from trousers made to use as a swiss army knife of sorts; working in the garden, washing the car, then going through the laundry, and used via the yachting club. Thanks again for sharing.

    Cheers
    K. Lee George

  10. I had a quick look in my wardrobe. I have one pair of RRL’s in an olive green. Very WW2 – US Army. Two pairs of GTH trousers – one with geese flying in close formation and one with bees. Both from Ralph Lauren. One pair of Bill’s Khakis, complete with turnups. They were bought ten years ago from a now closed mens outfitters in San Francisco and have never been worn. And then I have five or six pairs from UniQlo, Paris. They are my Swiss Army knife trousers, as you have termed them. Pure cotton, inexpensive, hard wearing and completely relaxed. I am wearing a pair as I write. Try them if you have access to UniQlo.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    David.

  11. David, you and I evidently dress the same on an every day basis. Bravo. I will throw in dress slacks for work.

    My dad wore khakis when I was young in the 1960s. Then, I thought they were work pants (not office work but manual labor work) not casual pants. His had the tunnel loops. Love to find some of those now. But as I grew up he wore them his entire life, basically. I started wearing them in college, same for OCBDs.

    I was raking leaves one day wearing LL Bean mocs, khakis, and a fun shirt OCBD and my neighbor snickered and asked why I was so dressed up. It borders between frustrating and something else. I live in Colorado. Would never have been asked that when I lived in Virginia. Well, they don’t wear coats and ties to CU football games either, like they do at UVa.

  12. Hello JDV !

    I had a similar experience here. I dressed in khaki chinos and an ironed, white-coloured OCBD to work in the garden. My partner asked me where I was going and if I thought I was an aristocrat. My reply to her was that gardening was noble work and that I had dressed accordingly. It was the end of the discussion.

    Keep up the good work in Colorado. I’m doing the necessary in Cape Town.

    Regards,
    David.

  13. Society as a whole is very confused with regard to dressing for any given occasion. Black stretch pants, Coach sneakers and black fleece seem to be go-to all-acceptable outfit for public. I’ve noticed there is a recent, painful trend with Tick-Tockers making video clips spouting what they believe to be old money aesthetic. Again, very confused, misinformed. We are in trouble as a society.

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