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.