As readers begin to delve into the values, priorities, habits, and customs of Old Money–people who’ve enjoyed wealth and privilege for 3 generations or more–they often have questions.
These sometimes run along the lines of “What kind of shoes do Old Money Guys wear?” or “Would this (fill in the blank) be considered appropriate for Old Money to do/wear/say?”
I do my best, with the support and contributions from our blog community, to answer as best I can. But I think it’s important to steer the conversation back to the real issue…which will provide a much clearer picture to those who want to embrace this philosophy and benefit from it.
Old Money is a culture. It is marked by attitudes, behaviors, vocabulary, rituals, and costumes. If you think of French culture or Chinese culture or even hip-hop culture, you may be able to more easily conceptualize what I mean. You can look at the population of a country, region, or community–or even down to a neighborhood when you talk about Brooklyn or the first arrondissement of Paris–and say, That’s just the way those people are.
I’m not saying this in a racial, ethnic, or stereotypical context. I’m saying it in a cultural context. Even as we acknowledge everyone in a particular group is an individual with their own personality making their own choices, we see commonalities. We see repeating patters of behavior, modes of dress, thought processes, values, traditions…all the things that make up what we call culture.
And why is culture so important? Because it colors and forms our sense of belonging. Which group we belong to. What we think is important. What we choose to emphasize and teach to our children. How we spend or save money.
They say that with individuals that character is destiny. I say that with groups (and, logically, the individuals that they are composed of) culture is destiny.
The reason that your parents probably freaked out when you started hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’ in high school is because you become like the people you associate with. You adopt their culture to a certain extent. You become like them. This is not any big revelation.
The revelation is this: you can adopt Old Money as a culture and enjoy the benefits of this way of life, even if your name doesn’t begin with an initial or end with Roman numerals. You don’t have to dress in traditional or preppy clothes (I’d recommend it still because, as Napoleon once remarked, A man becomes the creature of his uniform.) You don’t have to drive a Volvo, play tennis, sail, or use the word ‘summer’ as a verb.
You can simply choose to adopt Old Money values and then allow those values to shape your life, to alter your personal situation. That’s the power of culture. It takes time. It takes awareness. But, over time, it pulls. It molds. It refines. It elevates.
The benefits of adopting a culture as opposed to ‘going your own way’ is that you have support within the group. You have a constellation of references and influences to consider and emulate. You have access to icons and mentors. You have a history to look back on and a future to look forward to.
You can pick and choose, calculate and consider, review and revise. You can avail yourself to books as different as The Official Preppy Handbook and The Proper Bostonians. And of course, all the Old Money titles that I’ve written and the posts and comments on this blog.
The most important thing you can do is join the True Nobility: that is, to work to be a better person tomorrow we are today. That is the road we, in this culture, have chosen: the road less taken.
It is, of course, framed by modesty and delayed gratification. It is uneven, subtle, and often not easy.
But it is worth it.