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Stylish Wealth: Quiet, Loud, Old and New – Who looks wealthy or rich?

Have you ever heard of the phrase “old money”?

It means when someone has had money in their families for generations — think the Astors, the Vanderbilts — and have been used to being rich for so long that it is a part of who they are.

In contrast, “new money” is when someone just came into the wealth recently in the sense that they only just became rich in one generation, and are so excited about it, they want to be proud of their accomplishments and let the whole world know that they have arrived.

As for the stereotypes…

When you hear “old money”, you think prestige, luxury, understated, classic.

When you hear “new money”, you think loud, flashy, crass, unsophisticated.

…and this is the same when you think of people who are quiet or loud about showing how much money they have.

It is more prevalent in Europe from my observation that people who are QUIET about their wealth, tend to show it in subtle ways such as:

  • Wearing obscure, bespoke / designer brands that only other old/quiet money folks can recognize
  • Have private hobbies that are very pricey such as collecting high-priced art, but otherwise live a “normal” life in terms of material goods

Whereas people who are LOUD about their wealth, and this is more seen in Asia and North America, tend to really be proud and show it off by:

  • Wearing logos all over the dang place — if it doesn’t have a loud logo, why the hell am I carrying or wearing it if no one knows how expensive it is?
  • Driving very expensive cars or live in very large, expensive homes*

*Of course, you can have people who have NO money at all, who drive expensive cars and live in huge homes they cannot afford!

In some ways, I think of it like this, but it is not necessarily true:

Quiet Money = Old Money

Loud Money = New Money

You can listen to Ramit Sethi talk a bit about Quiet and Loud Wealth here in his 60-second segment on Instagram.

I love how he nailed it.

He says essentially that people who have money, don’t show it off. They were obscure brands that well made, super high quality, but only OTHER rich people can recognize that you are part of this old money clique and nod to each other (LOL).

In contrast, those without money, want to show it off as much as possible. They want logos all over the place, diamond-encrusted watches, and want to show you IN YOUR FACE that they paid X amount of money for this, and you should recognize it.

I have written about this a little before in the context of Parisian / minimalist fashion but this actually applies to other groups of people such as the super rich.

The main tenet I have found in the way the uber** rich dress is that they are into Quiet Luxury is to wear stealthy, invisible, well-made, ridiculously expensive brands without a massive logo in your face.

This is why Céline has been so popular in my opinion as their logos are tiny, almost minuscule (you have to squint to see it), and other brands that are very logo-driven like Louis Vuitton and Gucci while ubiquitous, are not really seen as ultra-rich brands even though they ARE very expensive and pricey, but are so covered in logos that people tend to shy away from that if they are into “Quiet Luxury”.

**I feel like I can no longer use this word without thinking of the cab service now.

See my Céline Belt Bag below when I was trying to emulate Meghan Markle:

The logo is TINY on the Céline belt bag, and on the YSL Sac de Jour (I own it too, but in grey).

Her coat is probably a camelhair from Max Mara (couple thousand USD) based on the colour and cut, and mine is a Smythe ($1000 USD at retail but I got this on sale).

See? No logos. But, I could recognize just off a few colours and shapes, the lining of that coat, what she was wearing and a ballpark of what it costs.

Hmm but what about normal folks? Not billionaires?

Of course, old money, new money, all of that is when you have money in your family in the millions and billions in my opinion, but the same attitudes prevail when you apply it to the hoi polloi …

There are HENRYs….

You also hear terms like — HENRY — High Earner Not Rich Yet and that refers to folks who make a very good income but aren’t rich.

The working rich, so to speak, who make $250,000 – $500,000 a year but don’t have much saved after their lifestyle costs of private schools, nannies, expensive purchases and vacations.

They are the most susceptible to luxury marketing and being into brand names and showing off how successful and affluent they are, and these are the folks that are targeted because they are more likely and eager to part with their money to show that they have it, than those who make less, but are not into that lifestyle.

I wrote a little about these folks here — Almost Rich: Earning $160,000 – $200,000 a year and barely making it

But are they really rich?

If you have to keep working to keep up that lifestyle, are you truly wealthy?

Wealth to me, means more about having the choice to NOT work because you can live without working, but working anyway for other reasons — satisfaction, autonomy, pleasure.

These HENRYs want it all — the expensive life without having saved for it. They live to the edge (in my opinion) and beyond their actual means.

They don’t really make choices between a smaller house but a expensive car, and just want everything expensive and luxe.

They have a certain expectation of what their income should buy them, and what they SHOULD be carrying or driving around, and they spend accordingly.

…And their opposites, the MNDs….

These are the millionaire next doors (MNDs).

Those are the quiet wealth folks, perhaps the opposite of HENRYs.

They live like any other normal person, but their net worth can be extremely high, and not necessarily due to having a high income job.

I have heard of teachers with millions saved just by diligently investing, saving like a mofo and not spending more than they earn.

Those for me, are the truly wealthy, yacht and private jet or not. They have the choice to be independent and it is for me, what wealth is all about (if we are talking strictly about money of course).

These are regular people you see in a sweatshirt and pants, not a bespoke suit, but are comfortable enough in their skin and in themselves to not feel the need to show off their status in any way.

Actually, sometimes they even go to the extreme and REFUSE to show off their money by driving the cheapest, most beat up car possible, and being as frugal as they can; which I think, in some ways is a bit of a disease in itself if you can’t enjoy your money.

And you are …?

I’d like to categorize myself in this section as an MND, but they tend to NOT care about showing off, and I can’t really fit in this bucket because I do drive a very flash car (not at all chosen because of the cost, because I would have loved to have paid much much less…), and I do wear very high-end pieces but mix them with low-brow brands and pieces, and a lot of my designer stuff has been secondhand.

So…. I’m a bit in between the two — a HENRY and a MND.

A weird hybrid, but hopefully aiming more towards being an MND as I do not live in a McMansion nor have any debt whatsoever (my house was paid in cash).

Again, caught between two worlds — not a frugal personal finance money blogger who uses potato sacks as dish scrubbers, but also not a overly spendy person who doesn’t like to save a penny. I save on average $50,000 a year, and am aiming to become a personal millionaire by my mid-30s.

What about style for showing wealth, quiet or not?

The take I have on it fashion-wise, is that if you want to emulate and LOOK like old, quiet money, it is all about wearing neutrals, keeping it understated and not ‘showing off’ with a lot of bling.

This of course, is something that I do not really subscribe to AS WELL because I have faux statement necklaces like below that is clearly costume jewelry and not at all the picture of “old money” (of which I am not a part of):

So yeah, that necklace looks fake to the hilt — obviously not real precious stones! — but I like the fun colours of it, and it is OBVIOUSLY fake, which is better than it pretending to be real, if you get the difference.

I also paired it with a secondhand watch that is another piece that is kind of ‘old money’ because Olivia Burton is not a well known brand here, but the watch looks well-made.

I could have purchased a Burberry, Dior or other kinds of watches where the brand SCREAMS “money”, but I have chosen a more obscure brand, so to speak because I love the moulded bee. 🙂

And yet, I DO wear not-well-known, high quality items that don’t necessarily break the bank because I buy it secondhand, and/or am able to suss out in a mainstream store, what FEELS and LOOKS expensive but isn’t.

This silk shirt is from a rather obscure brand called Gerard Darel, purchased in Paris. It is QUALITY in a shirt, and I knew it the minute I had it on. It cost about 200 EUR at the time.

I paired it with a faux suede skirt from Aritzia for $60 CAD, a watch from Rosefield I purchased secondhand (they are normally $150 CAD), and a clutch from a local Canadian brand called m0851 that cost about $400. It is double lined in leather, and so incredibly well made.

The entire outfit looks better than what I paid for it, and it is all due to the fact that they are QUALITY pieces, regardless of price.

The clutch, had it had a stamp of Hermès on it, would have cost $2000, I am certain. The quality is the same.

..and that is the crux for me, for dressing like you have money even if you don’t have it. It is choosing the right pieces and pairing them accordingly, putting your money where your mouth is and getting a real bang for your buck, style-wise.

1. Forget the labels

The first thing about looking more expensive and luxe, is to not wear logos and fake bling all over the place in my opinion.

You can wear it, but in small doses like in costume jewelry.

2. Look out for quality no matter where you buy it

The second point is that you have to keep a keen eye out  for quality in clothing no matter the cost and the brand — you can find a VERY nice blazer at stores like Massimo Dutti that looks far more luxe than its pricetag (under $200 CAD), that is well-made, stitched perfectly, and also find in a higher-end store, a blazer that looks cheap and feels terrible but has a designer label slapped on it so it sells for $2000.

It is all about just eying quality, no matter the price tag, or the store you shop in. Even if it is a thrift store!

I have found a fantastic designer sweater there by Nanette Lepore (shown below) for $7, I proudly wear it and if asked, I even TELL PEOPLE that I found it in a thrift store:

I paired it with a thrift store skirt (yes really.. $4!), and a vintage belt from my mother’s closet, and just the outfit alone, looks fine for an $11 outfit.

It is not neutrals and Parisienne, but it is monochromatic and really my kind of “neutral”.

3. Spend your cash on pieces that WILL elevate the outfit

The only real upgrade to the whole outfit above is my secondhand Givenchy Antigona, which I carry around constantly.

The logo was not too offensive to me (I would have preferred a smaller font), and it isn’t really “old / quiet” money, but I like it all the same because it is so roomy and practical.

Other upgrades would be that very pretty silk shirt in the earlier photo, that I spent 200 EUR on. It makes even $15 jeans, look fantastic.

Or, the last outfit is this one:

The shirt is from the Gap ($10), the duster sweater was $200 from Aritzia (pricey but look at how NICE it looks, and how it drapes), and the pants were $100 secondhand, but from the Giorgio Armani Collezione which normally costs thousands.

The necklace is $50 from Massimo Dutti, a higher-end mainstream retailer with a real eye for luxe minimalism.

I spent the most money on my sweater, even though at retail the pants would have cost far more, but paired it with a cheap shirt, and a relatively cheap necklace to overall, create a look that LOOKS more expensive than what some people might think it would have cost.

It is all about drape, quality, and pairing the right pieces together.

What say you? Thoughts about old money, new money, quiet money, loud money..?


  • Sally Winters

    Late to comment but I agree that “old money” wears quiet luxury. I grew up with generational money and wearing any sort of brand has always been “tacky.” Like I heard growing up, “any two bit person can buy a Mercedes.” Sounds pompous, but it’s just the attitude of living inconspicuous.

  • Marissa J.

    I became obsessed with this notion when I turned 30. I read that the rich want to be debt free and highly educated, with their own companies. I took it to heart and put myself through law school at 33. I’m 37 now, debt free, with my own law firm and plenty of luxury time to workout or sleep. That’s sexy and old money rich to me. And you can tell my confidence level by the way I walk and talk, without even carrying my LV Neverfull bag. Lol

  • J.

    I enjoyed the article, respect your mindset and appreciate your style. But I cringed a little when you associated a Burberry, Dior watch to “old money” (absolutely not) or that the clutch is of the same quality as Hermes (as much as it is awfully overpriced, it definitely offers better material and build quality).

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You must be from Asia. Lots of knockoffs there. I hate the Burberry logo, but the trench coats are excellent out of the line.

      This of course, is all subjective so really… your opinion versus mine at this point. Some people consider LV “old money”, with the old trunks they used to have, but all I can imagine is how tacky that logo is.

      I agree with Hermès generally being the gold standard of luxury/design, and I would have said Chanel as well but as of late, I feel like they’re really veering off into cheap territory.

  • Andrea

    Isn’t your belt bag a Celine, not a Chloe?

  • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

    Agreed. Classic pieces are classic for a reason.

  • Mia

    Re: hobbies, Old Money around here means you wear clothes covered with dog hair and hay and drive a beat-up old Subaru or truck, but in the back of that car (or in a trailer dragged by your truck) are show dogs and horses that cost you tens of thousands each to purchase and tens of thousands more annually to train/maintain.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’m not any of these yet, maybe on our way to MND. For a minute there I thought we were HENRYs because DO make good money and yet aren’t rich / comfy yet but I suppose we don’t spend quite in that category. XD

    We spend BIG money on the small but $$$$ mortgage and childcare. We spend moderately on a nice vacation once in a while paid for in miles or in cash with discounts (Alaska Air’s BOGO is KEY!). The rest of it: clothes, cars, accessories are all on the low-price end. We’re focused primarily on the functional side of things and buying things that can wear well. A year where I’ve spent $300 on clothes is a high-spend year. So I guess we are budding MNDs. Sprouting?

  • Jodie

    Interesting post! I fall into the MND camp. I downsized last fall from our luxurious custom home in the country to a smaller home in a new development to be closer to my business. Both my husband and I started with nothing and built a business that is successful. I have a small collection of designer bags courtesy of my daughter working at Louis Vuitton. Some have the logo, some do not. I am equally at home carrying a no name bag as long as it works for me.

    We have always lived below our means. My home is paid off. My lake home, built by my husband and friends over the years, is also paid off. We paid for our children’s college educations by saving for it from when they were born. I traded in my fun little sporty car for a four door sedan without AC and the money saved on a car payment went into the college fund. It’s all about choices. Back then we hardly ever ate dinner out and I always cooked our meals from scratch which is more economical. It’s harder to travel with young children so we kept our vacations simple: visiting family in Florida in the winter or going to our cabin (and working while there) the rest of the year. We didn’t begin traveling overseas until the children were older. I agree that spending on experiences is a fabulous investment but confess that I also enjoy driving a sporty summer car my husband bought me for my 50th birthday.

    What I have found, both with my business and personal finances, is that remaining debt free gives you choices. Having no debt and a nest egg put aside allows you to ride out the hard times. Trust me, if you live and/or are self employed long enough, you will go through hard times.

  • Becka

    Here’s a thought. It’s not just the clothes you wear, but how you wear them. I have noticed that the well off often are more into being healthy and toned. It’s part of the stealth wealth that they are more likely to have time for exercise and healthy eating habits. Because they are not tied down to a 9-5 job and can often make their own schedules that include time for rest, recreation and exercise. Having the means to afford a personal chef and personal trainer come to your home to fine tune your palate and abs screams wealthy to me more than all the flashy cars and logo clothes in the world. And if a person is healthy, fit and rested just about anything they chose to wear is going to look good. Designer labels or not.

    • Gail

      This is so true: poorer students I have taught had more crooked teeth, more shabby clothes, and less rest than the well-to-do ones. They did not have “good” haircuts or even proper medical care. So unfair.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You are spot on for the body shape part.

      My partner and I noticed that richer people also tend to be slimmer than those who are poorer because of better diet, better food, training etc.

      Although, I will say that although well made clothes cost $$, you don’t necessarily need to pay that price. I’ve found designer labels in thrift stores for under $20. Doesn’t happen often but it does….

  • Gail

    Categorizing is always tricky with lots of in-betweens and exceptions.
    I hate labels, too, but I am not able to buy high-end anyway. I am a retired teacher, and we have managed our money well. However, family expenses have been unavoidably high. If we had not lived frugally, we would now be in trouble. Luckily, we do not care about luxury either and live modestly. It would be nice not to have to consider costs of food, housing, medicine/doctors and to fear the future if the economy and government officials play tricks on us all, but we can no longer work hard to earn more. As things are now, we are doing all right. It is a struggle for the middle class–even those who have worked hard, invested wisely, saved, and spent moderately on needs and then on emergencies.

  • Sense

    I guess I am not anything yet: not a DINK, HENRY, MND, etc. But if I had money, I would be a mix of the quiet and MND type. 🙂

    My fave things to spend on are experiences, not things. Function comes before what something looks like for me. I have very specific tastes, so if I had money, I’d commission bespoke watches, clothes, jewelry, SHOES (!!!) to my exact specifications, mainly to maximize comfort, function, and durability. Looks would be last on that list.

    But I totally would still shop at Target. Just for the fun of it 🙂

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