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How Rich People Differentiate Themselves

I have been thinking about how people differentiate themselves, in subtle, seemingly innocuous ways. I’ve been reading lots of books on class, wealth (one of my perennial favourite topics of all time), and something kept coming up and it was about…

Insider knowledge

I read a passage about how wealthy men don their Nantucket Red pants (this kind of faded red, salmon colour), before heading out onto their yachts, like a rite of passage….and how if you wore a very specific pair of faded red shorts, it was considered that you were an Insider because everyone who had any money of social status, knew that those red shorts signalled that you were influential, and rich. It was a marker that no one mentioned, or was taught because they simply grew up with that knowledge or expectation. Or learned it through mixing with those with money.

It’s the same as when I read how women who are rich, living in NYC, wear the Essie “Ballet Slipper” colour on their manicured nails, because it’s a marker of the class they belong to. Veer away from that, and they can tell you’re not “one of them”. Or they all went to Barre (this gruelling ballet class) if they wanted to be super toned but not ripped, or to SoulCycle classes if they were more in that group identifying as a rich yet casual, city vibe.

Other obvious examples include using certain words, having a certain accent, or using acronyms for private schools or things that only your group participates in. Anyone who doesn’t, is an Outsider.

I guess it’s normal, human nature to be part of groups you’re most interested and excited to be a part of. It would make no sense to be an Insider of something you don’t want to be a part of. The dark side of course, is people using that as a way to exclude you, or to put you down.

Having these social class markers, lets you speak a language without saying anything, and perhaps as you move up the social ladder, you’re slowly influenced into doing the same things as your peer group, and it becomes something you naturally do (or think you want to do).

The best example would be the recent rise in eco-awareness. I am definitely a culprit of this class of people who actively seek out eco-friendly options, or do things like cloth diaper their children and feed them organic purées that are homemade (my partner made those, for the record, not me!). That, in and of itself is a signalling of values and social class because who really has the time to make homemade baby food if you are working 3 jobs to keep afloat? Only those with free time to be able to do so, are people who work typical 9-5 jobs and make enough to live without having to worry about picking up another side job.

Interestingly enough, when I read about this eco-awareness consciousness becoming a new ‘trend’ amongst those with money, I was surprised. For some reason, in my head, these were not people who would care about homemade baby food, or cloth diapering, and yet, here they were, shopping at farmer’s markets like I was, and buying organic produce.

I wish there was a book out there with an overview of various social classes and their class status markers, you know, like those Nantucket Reds, but also things like if you cloth diaper your child or not. (Which I did – Cloth Diapering 101 – and loved. What was once seen as something only poor people do, has become something people with means, are moving towards.)

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