The Rise of Stealth Wealth: The Latest Fashion Statement?

Intrigued by the new trend taking over the world of Fashion and lifestyle? You’re not alone! What is stealth wealth, and Why is “stealth wealth” or quiet wealth everywhere suddenly and has captured the attention of many, leaving us all with a burning curiosity. Stealth wealth is a concept that has been around for ages, but why is it becoming a buzzword now? .

[Hero and Featured Image Credit: HBO]

  • What stealth wealth is not
  • The psychology behind the term “stealth wealth.” – Georg Simmel
  • Conspicuous consumption may be perceived as distasteful
  • The simple and obvious explanation for Stealth Wealth 
  • A lifestyle concept turned into a trend
  • The advantages of Stealth Wealth
  • The disadvantages

What stealth wealth is not

Before exploring the world of discreet luxury, let’s first clarify what stealth wealth is not.

Spending money on luxury goods and services to display one’s wealth and status to others is considered conspicuous consumption, the opposite of Stealth Wealth. This type of spending typically involves brand names, flashy logos, and luxury goods and is meant to impress or intimidate others. It is often driven by a desire for social status and recognition, with the mistaken belief that one’s material possessions determine their personal worth. 

Our society has long been shaped by conspicuous consumption. This behavior is not a recent phenomenon.

Georg Simmel (1858-1918) was a German sociologist, philosopher, and cultural theorist. In his essay “Fashion,” first published in German in 1905 as “Fashion: Eine Soziologische Betrachtung,” Simmel discusses the role of clothing and Fashion in projecting social status and identity. Simmel argued that displaying wealth was a way for individuals to assert their social status and power. He believed that the wealthy used their material possessions and conspicuous consumption to differentiate themselves from the rest of society and to demonstrate their superiority.

Conspicuous consumption may be perceived as distasteful.

However, even though Simmel did not explicitly use the term “stealth wealth,” his ideas on the relationship between social behavior, status, and cultural practices are relevant to the concept. He recognized that excessive displays of wealth could undermine one’s social standing, so individuals may seek to adopt a more subtle and understated approach to their consumption habits, which could be seen as a form of stealth wealth.

The simple and obvious explanation for Stealth Wealth 

Stealth wealth or quiet wealth is the practice of maintaining a wealthy lifestyle without displaying conspicuous signs of wealth. This means individuals embracing stealth wealth may possess significant financial resources, but they opt for modest living and refrain from showcasing their affluence through flashy cars, luxurious homes, designer clothing, and other ostentatious symbols. They conceal their wealth and live modestly, often to avoid drawing attention to themselves or their financial status. 

The psychological theory that explains it so perfectly

This phenomenon can be explained by several psychological theories, including in another one of Georg Simmel’s essays, “The Stranger.”

One of Simmel’s key concepts is that of the stranger, which he defines as a person who is both close to and distant from the group they belong to. The stranger is someone who is part of society but not fully integrated into it, and as a result, they often have a unique perspective on social norms and values.

In the context of the stealth wealth trend, individuals who adopt this lifestyle can be seen as embodying Simmel’s concept of the stranger. By deliberately concealing their wealth, they are distancing themselves from the cultural norm of conspicuous consumption, which is often associated with wealth and success.

In Fashion, quiet luxury simply refers to a timeless minimalistic style that is still luxurious but inconspicuous. 

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in stealth wealth as a response to growing wealth inequality, a backlash against conspicuous consumption, and overindulgence. “quiet luxury” in Fashion simply refers to a timeless, minimalist style that prioritizes well-made pieces over fleeting trends. These investment pieces can be worn for decades without going out of style. Perfect examples of celebrities who have embodied this are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, founders of The Row, and Actress and founder of Goop Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in court recently, standing trial for allegedly causing a skiing accident. Paltrow’s courtroom fashion choices leaned towards elegant, understated outfits falling under the “quiet luxury” umbrella. With no flashy logos, her wardrobe comprised of well-tailored sleek pantsuits, silk blouses, and plush sweaters, exuding an undeniably expensive look.

The Milanese showcase their wealth subtly, with men and women dressing in inherently luxurious styles without logos or brand details. Their outfits are sophisticated, chic, and undeniably expensive, often made by designers that are lesser known by outsiders—quality valued over the name attached to it.

A lifestyle concept turned into a trend. 

Stealth wealth is no longer a concept or a way of living. It is THE latest trend thanks to The HBO television series “Succession.” The show, which premiered in 2018, follows the lives of the wealthy and powerful Roy family, who own a media conglomerate. One of the most notable aspects of the show is the Roy family’s tendency towards understated luxury. While they have access to all the trappings of wealth – private jets, luxury yachts, expensive art collections – they are also shown to live relatively modestly in their day-to-day lives, with minimal displays of wealth or ostentation. The show features a lineup of luxury brands, from Shiv’s Ralph Lauren-heavy wardrobe to Kendall’s utilitarian Loro Piana cashmere baseball caps, priced at a cool $495 without any visible branding.

Succession has significantly influenced the stealth wealth trend, offering a glimpse into the lifestyle of the truly wealthy like few other shows before it. Wealth is usually flaunted through flashy logos and cars, but Succession’s characters express their personalities and ambitions through their perfectly defined wardrobes. Throughout the series, the characters’ evolving wardrobes offer subtle yet impactful statements.

This new “trend” reinforces class division, with the further pursuit of the need to belong and be seen as part of a specific class, leading to imitation becoming a significant factor once again.

Watch all four seasons of “Succession” on HBO , Google Play or Youtube

There are many advantages to adopting a stealth wealth lifestyle. 

1) It indicates sophistication, personal style, and self-confidence. Choosing your clothing wisely and understanding the techniques for appearing wealthy can earn you greater respect and admiration. This distinguishes you from the juvenile notion of seeking validation through expensive brands and designers, allowing you to establish a unique identity not dictated by logos or designers.

2) You become more conscious of your fashion choices, which offers guidance on what you want to achieve or express through your style. This helps you select wardrobe items in the future that align with your vision.

3) With a clear vision and a defined sense of your fashion preferences, you no longer waste time or money while shopping. Decision-making becomes simpler and more efficient.

4) Because you choose a more minimalist approach to Fashion and style, you purchase timeless items that last longer and ultimately save you money in the long run. These pieces can serve as building blocks for your wardrobe.

5. Greater flexibility: Individuals who practice stealth wealth may have greater flexibility in their career choices or personal pursuits, as they are not tied to a certain lifestyle or social status.

While there are many potential advantages to practicing stealth wealth, there can also be some disadvantages.

1. Difficulty in building a business or social networks: In some cases, displaying wealth or success can be essential for building a business or social networks. Practicing stealth wealth may make connecting with others who value material success or conspicuous consumption more difficult.

2. Limited networking opportunities: Attending high-end events or joining exclusive clubs can effectively network and build professional connections. Those who practice stealth wealth may benefit from these opportunities by not participating in conspicuous consumption.

3. Limited enjoyment of wealth: Practicing stealth wealth may mean sacrificing the enjoyment of certain material possessions or experiences. This can be difficult for some individuals who feel that their wealth is a reward for their hard work or achievements.

A balance can be maintained. I’m glad the “logo mania” that was big in the early 90s and revived on steroids in 2019 is over because it was hideous and lacked class. It only conveyed insecurity and looked like brands threw up on the individual wearing it. The trend was repulsive, and I hope it stays buried. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid luxury designers, brands, logos, or brand characteristics entirely. Your investment in luxury items should always be determined by what suits your personal style and what message you want to convey. This approach simply encourages you to make more thoughtful choices and add luxury items that complement your style.

Unlocking Quiet Luxury: The Three Ingredient ‘Recipe’ for Mastering Understated Elegance on a Budget
The Logo Mania trend, with the biggest culprits in 2019 being Fendi, Balenciaga, and Gucci.
Stealth Wealth
I must confess, I was guilty of following the Logo Mania Trend.

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The Rise of Stealth Wealth: The Latest Fashion Statement?