The symbolic value of clothes: An interview with Philip Warkander

Monday, November 2nd 2020
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Philip Warkander is a Swedish academic, lecturer at Lund University in fashion studies. 

We got to talking recently thanks to an introduction by Dag at Saman Amel, and it was interesting how many of the topics Philip covers - from the value placed on clothing to the perils of growth - reflected things we have discussed on PS over the years. 

So I we conducted a more structured interview on those areas, which I have reproduced here. I hope you find it as stimulating as I did. 


Permanent Style: Philip, if you don’t mind let’s kick off with the subject of consumption, its good and bad sides, which I know you’ve written about.

Philip Warkander: Of course, happy to. I was actually re-reading the French writer Gilles Lipovetsky on mass consumption last week [The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy], and he touches on this. It was published in the 1990s, but I think it’s still valid. 

He was pointing out, in a modern or postmodern culture, how used we are to mass production. Ever since the industrial revolution, it’s become easier and easier to reproduce things at scale.

According to Lipovetsky, this fundamentally affects the symbolic value we place on goods: the fact they are so easily produced, and consumed, means we place less value on them. They are less important and less significant, because they’re so easy to replace. 

For him, this epitomises many aspects of modern society, and then of course has knock-on effects for depletion of resources and waste. It’s one area where these thoughts directly relate to menswear actually, because there are more brands that make to order, and so require more time from a customer and suffer from this less. 

Whether deliberately or not, a brand that does this - that sets up constraints on how accessible their product is - can increase the product’s symbolic value for consumers.

Interesting. So a bespoke tailor naturally makes their product more important because it takes months to get it, and because it cannot be easily replaced?

Yes, exactly. Also, it’s important always to look at consumption and production as two sides of the same coin. This is part of a bigger conversation about work, and time: how long we spend in our lives working, and what we work in order to be able to do. 

As a society, we’ve organised our time into clear sections, for work and for leisure. And to some extent we are always working in order to be able to consume during that leisure time. If we want to consume more, we need to work harder in order to be able to do so. 

So when we criticise how we consume things, we are also criticising how we work, and this particular division of time that comes from industrialisation. 

That point about the symbolic value we place on clothes is so intuitive, yet I’ve never heard it put that way. 

I think so too, and it’s not surprising that the value has decreased. Garments have never been so cheap as they are now, not in the whole history of humanity. 

In the past 20 years that has accelerated of course, driven by the fast-fashion industry. It’s staggering, in a historical context, that you can now dress yourself for £20 or £30. And it’s not hard to understand how this could affect the emotional relationship you have with clothes.

If you go back just a couple of generations, clothes were something you saved up for, you anticipated and longed for. Then you went to the tailor - this was still the norm, even in the 1950s - and took part in a process of having something made specifically for you. 

It might have been different for you, but I know my parents, when they were children, went to a tailor and had their clothes made. They were working class - this was not a luxury, it was just how it was done. 

And of course when you received the garment, finally, it was a big event. So it’s not surprising that between you and the fabric there were these emotional connections. You had invested time in it, aside from the money, and it was something you’d done as part of your family life too. 

The contrast between that and going to a large store, picking something off a rack from among 10 or 15 copies, is quite stark. And they smell slightly of chemicals from the transport.

If that's how we buy clothes, it makes sense that it's acceptable to wear something a few times and then throw it away, or just forget about it. And go back later to get a new one. 

My impression is that people have also tended to buy more clothes as they have become cheaper, rather than buying the same amount and using the money for other things. Which would also be explained by that point about how we value them. 

Yes I think that’s right. Another interesting factor, for me, is how much our consumption is a way we just use our time.

For example, in recent years I have tried to consume less - as we are encouraged to do, and a lot of people have. But I find I get bored. I’m so used to spending time thinking about what I’m going to buy, buying it and then consuming it, that there is a gap left. 

How often you buy things affects how you experience time.

I guess that’s another way bespoke has a benefit - because you have more interactions, even if you’re consuming less. A lot of readers say how much they enjoy that process, which can involve four or five appointments. 

Yes it’s a good combination in that way. You still get the regular thrill, like entering your card to buy something online, but without the same volume of product. And there's a greater emotional connection with the clothing. 

Plus there's a separate thrill from getting something altered, or repaired, and it feeling almost new every time. Do you think it’s necessarily harder, though, to make that shift to slow consumption when others in society aren’t doing the same? Or when parts of your consumption are instant, others not? My TV is still on demand, and Amazon delivers my headphones the next day. 

Yes, it does depends on how consumption fits into society as a whole. And I think that’s why the same people will often engage with the slow food movement, or micro-breweries for beer. 

Of course, we still need the global mass manufacturing process as well, because without that there wouldn’t be enough food. But you often find the same person that buys organic wine, takes a considered approach to other things they buy. It’s about a curiosity, in a way. Rather than just consuming the novelty of the thing as it magically appears on the shelf. 

Do we know how much people spent on clothing historically, perhaps as a proportion of income? 

There is some data, but it’s very dependent on the period and rarely captures everything. 

For example, through much of history textiles were a luxury, and as a result while you might have spent a certain amount on a new suit or a new dress, you would also spend more later having it altered, or repaired. And not just because it didn’t fit, but to keep it in style. You might also have done some repairs yourself. 

Then when it couldn’t be re-used you would have handed it down, perhaps to a servant - at which point it becomes completely undocumented.

Some clothes were even re-used in interiors. The cloth could be turned into rugs, in back rooms like the kitchens. Or used as stuffing in cushions. 

So you can never see the whole value chain. 

No, though it’s perhaps just as significant to consider how people talked about textiles. They were seen as a luxury, and were a luxury. They were expensive and they were valued. 

It’s a radical difference from how people value clothing today. And the change has happened in a very short period.

I find that thinking is most powerful when some people say they can’t afford a particular item of clothing. That’s the language used, yet it’s often less about affordability and more about value. The sweater is too expensive, but you still expect to be able to go on a foreign holiday, or go out to any restaurant. 

Absolutely, you have to see it from a holistic viewpoint. To question why you value different things. 

It can be controversial to talk about spending certain sums of money, as it can seem like the presumptions of a certain class. But, if you compare the volumes of clothing we all have, in any class, that can be very telling. Compare someone's wardrobe now with that of a person in 1920, or 1820, and the difference would be striking. 

I find it interesting that when people strip back what they own - when they try to get rid of ‘stuff’ - they still don’t buy quality. I have friends who have stripped back their wardrobe, saying they’re just going to wear a uniform of black T-shirts and jeans. Yet the T-shirts they buy are £19 from Zara. 

Which relates back to what we were talking about at the beginning - they’re not valuing things any more than before, they just have fewer of them. 

It reminds me of a seminar I do, on consumer culture, where we use a book by Georges Perec called Les Choses (The Things). It tells the story of this young French couple in the 1960s, who are really interested in acquiring things, of decorating their lives in a way. They often go to flea markets to buy the things, because they want that patina of age, the suggestion that it has an inherited value. 

I find it interesting to talk about, because my students don’t relate to it at all - the idea that capital could display itself through inheritance. To them, the newness of something has a higher worth than any suggestion of history. So again it’s about viewing items - not just clothes, but items in general - just for that short-term quality. 

That relates to a lot of traditions in menswear, from the so-called English country-house style of old tweed and threadbare carpets, to the Ivy tradition with its hand-me-downs and frayed collars. But I suspect that's a whole separate conversation. 

Yes, I think you might be right. There's enough in consumer culture to explore - I hope your readers find it interesting. It's really worth thinking about how we define ourselves through consumption - and indeed why we’re all so obsessed today with defining ourselves, and our identity. 

Thanks Philip, that’s one more to explore another day!

Absolutely. Thanks again. 

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Very interesting Simon thank you. I’m indeed always intrigued by the cost perception bias. Most of my colleagues / friends, even my wife, would be horrified by how much I spend on clothes. As I’m horrified by how much they can spend on their cars / tech devices. And yet in both cases the utility and value over time arguments are equally valid.


I wouldn’t say that the new approach to clothing is entirely bad. Low prices indeed make clothes expendable, but it has some upsides. For instance, it allows consumers to make choices they wouldn’t make. It’s affordable to try out either some recent trend or a piece of clothing that is bold and unusual. Or perhaps something that isn’t practical, being too easily damaged, cream trousers for instance. Some people don’t take advantage of this, but I do. If I had to buy only custom clothes, even from cheap tailors, like the one that makes all my alterations, I still wouldn’t take risks like that. Spending a quarter of my monthly budget on something I might not like is not an option. At this point I might consider custom clothing, but only because I know mostly what I like, and that took a ton of reading and bad choices. Which were only made possible thanks to disposable fast fashion.
Regarding the inherited value of things, this seems to be entirely cultural. Everything in social media revolves around buying new things. That’s what celebrities and influencers market, and more importantly, it’s what they represent. Buy more, buy new, be happy. And the idea, that you can have old things that are good, if not better than new things, does not mesh well with the current political climate. I won’t delve into the political reasons of denouncing the heritage of the past, but sometimes it goes too far. In fashion, it’s pretty much the tradition to take the ideas of the past generations and reinterpret them. I don’t know if you would agree with me, but I find the new Ivy much more interesting than the traditional 1950/60s dress code. It was fine, but boring, restrictive and governed by absurd set of undefined rules. I find it absurd that in some circles those rules are upheld as divine law, even when were spawned by students not giving a (insert a swear that Simon will find acceptable) about clothing, like athletic white socks. But now we picked up what was fun, interesting and attractive about Ivy, and mixed it with other things we enjoy. Yet, it’s still going to be treated as upper class fashion by some, and not in a good way. It is unfortunate that for some people clothes equal political stance. And we are talking tweed jackets, not pointy Klan hats.


Very interesting. I believe that much of that discussed arises from the importance placed on the individual over the collective. It seems to me that the search for identity through mass consumption which fails to satisfy, coupled with the desperate need to in reality look the same as everyone else, has much much to do with our modern ‘freedoms’. In an age when society was more obviously and rigourously stratified, people ‘knew their place’. Know I now that has a lot of negative implications, but I think it also explains the current desperate search for identity and a sense of belonging in modern life. People seem adrift without a certainty regarding their place in society. Maybe this is just how our brains work?


I think an issue with this kind of commentary is that it doesn’t really acknowledge that lots of other things have got cheaper and (importantly) accessible to the middle classes besides clothing. This means that people can spend on luxuries that were previously only accessible to the wealthy (travel, holidays, cars, etc) as well as new technology (smartphones, televisions, etc) and so clothing is competing with an ever increasing range of offerings for the same pool of discretionary income.


I cannot quite agree with you that people buy more clothes now. Men on the one hand have generally foregone their specific office wardrobe. I usually hire juniors from auditing firms or finance. They show up for the interview in the mandatory charcoal two piece uniform, then ditch it for ever as soon as they find out casual is the norm at our place. That used to be 3 – 4 suits, 5 shirts, 2 – 3 pairs of shoes and a few ties at a minimum, which are now spared. Maybe they buy some more casual items than they would in the past, but keeping just one wardrobe instead of two largely adds to less. The savings pretty clearly go to smartphones, travel and fine food.
Women might be somewhat different. They have more time in their hands than they used to, and many fill it with shopping. Now that means higher expenditure and probably some remorse to deal with. Fast fashion with its low prices per item allow to buy frequently, thus offering a time filler, while staying affordable and keeping remorse at bay. As a result many end up with larger wardrobes, or completely throw them away after every season.

Denis T.

Wow, one of the best interview I’ve ever read. It’s a fascinating point of view which is the same as mine. Only, some things I did not know how to express right, but now I do. The choice of words is truly amazing. And everything is as true as it can be.

Off-topic – I would like to ask you, Simon – as winter is close I consider getting new wool or cashmere sweater, something chunkier. What brand would you say it’s good price/performance ration if we are talking range of 200-400GBP. Many thanks for your answer!

Once again, thanks for this great post!


Try Falconeri (italian brand, cheaper than Luca Faloni but same stuff)


Hi Simon, again another interesting article amongst the diverse range of subjects that you write about.
I’m pretty much in agreement with Karol’s comments. Just to add a few points. Whilst an interesting interesting subject , we need to be wary of overthinking it. Also I am not generally a supporter of the apparent mercenary behaviour of some influencers (present company excepted of course), they are simply trying to sell their labour, and I can’t reasonably condemn that, it’s up to their followers to be more discerning and try ‘pulling away the curtain’. As I have previously commented we should recognise that the fashion supply chain employs many people and therefore change ideally needs to be more organic as other forms of employment emerge. Finally there is still an almost ‘class system’ in fashion that promotes a lifestyle that only they can afford to indulge. But now I’m overthinking it!
All the best.


Really interesting and enjoyable – please make conversations with him a regular thing!


One point I missed in my earlier comment. The abundance of easy credit arguably must be a factor. As opposed to say the historic ‘make do and mend’ culture.


Great interview! Hope you can continue to post interviews and conversations with academics in the industry.


Simon–I really like that you are getting into nuanced discussions on consumer culture. Those of us who buy bespoke tailoring are perhaps a little conceited about where we fit into the “problems” in society. In reality, there is not necessarily anything “sustainable” about commissioning 20 bespoke suits from jetsetting tailors. I appreciate how you’ve mentioned that before regarding your own site. I would love to see more critical thinking and self-awareness among the menswear internet community.


Unless his concept of symbolic value is filled out more, Philip’s primary claim here seems so self-evident as to be hardly worth saying. To the extent that our valuing something is indicated by the care with which we look after that item or prefer it to another item, that we value something less because it has become less expensive and more accessible is nearly tautological.

If the claim, instead, is that mass consumption has brought about some fundamental change in individual preference, then much more evidence is required. I submit to the contrary that it has always been the case that most people would spend a lot of money—but no more than necessary—to meet a threshold of presentability. Mass consumption has made that threshold cheaper to attain and, accordingly, spending on clothing as a proportion of income has fallen ( Labor and environmental consequences aside, that’s mostly a good thing.

Peter K

“I find that thinking is most powerful when some people say they can’t afford a particular item of clothing. That’s the language used, yet it’s often less about affordability and more about value. The sweater is too expensive, but you still expect to be able to go on a foreign holiday, or go out to any restaurant.”

Simon I think you have captured my thinking about “expensive” clothing in a way I hadn’t realized. Food for thought, although my wife would be appalled if I were to buy a $300 sweater.

Derek at Die Work Wear has also written about the symbolic value of clothing. He also highlights how clothing has gone from being an expensive necessity to being very cheap, quick changing and a near constant search for novelty


Some of this rings incredibly true , but I would personally take a slightly different interpretation.
People should value “cheap” clothes more. We should all learn how to take care of our clothes. Fashion should be disregarded, and the wisdom of previous generations should be given far more respect.

I don’t really accept that cheap clothes hold no value, but I certainly accept that some people’s attitudes towards cheap clothes is abhorrent.

In classic menswear we are blessed with a style of clothing built to be interchangeable , practical, stylish and systematic if we buy correctly and respect some of the old rules – rules I add that are based on the wisdom of generations of men, tailors, cloth makers. Your building a wardrobe series is truly invaluable here as a modern take on this. But even more generally, a man with a white shirt, 4 suits and 4 ties potentially has 64 differing outfits. That’s incredible, and testament to how well considered the formats of classic menswear are.s

I often wonder if it’s incredibly depressing for high end tailors to deal with almost entirely the rich and entitled. Few if any people I know would, or even could, pay the cost of bespoke tailoring for anything at all in their lives other than a house or car. I am also far from convinced that those who can afford this luxury do not treat their bespoke clothing as fast fashion itself. And sometimes in terrible taste.

I think some middle ground of buying better, working with alterations and really knowing how to maintain your clothing (along with manufacturer responsibility to provide better materials built to last) is the way we should all be moving. If you can afford a tailor, that’s wonderful, but there’s a lot of other options.
Indeed I find the articles on clothing care (I sort out your advice on clothes moths just this weekend, and on suede protection), are invaluable. And brands who look after your clothes for life, such as Barbour, inspiring.
I sometimes miss the old Simon I find in the archives of this site though, talking about altering an M&S suit . I accept that’s not really where your focus is these days, but I think it offered some real inspiration for some people to start buying better and respecting their clothes who maybe aren’t on the incomes of some of your readership. Whilst PS is about the best, and often, luxury , there is a gap in the market, that perhaps someone else will fill, for the many ways to be stylish and conscious when you have a minimal income. We’ve all walked past the unusually and surprisingly stylish pensioner in the street, dressed in clothes that are probably inexpensive but put together with aplomb . Not due to his minimal budget, but due to following some basic principals and done with respect for his clothes the Labour that went into them, and himself.


I enjoyed the article but often with articles like these there is a similar theme that mass production is the main culprit and if attention was focused on a few quality pieces that would be better. What I haven’t read much about is the great expansion of product available to men and how to navigate that. It used to be we had one or two coats, but now we get down jackets, top coats, rain coats, running jackets, etc. It seems every category has multiple must haves, and with the continuous marketing of outlets like Mr Porter or Yoox its all available fast and on sale. I’m guilty of indulging but I do wonder whether my continued purchasing of high quality product is good (and if it will ever end).

Il Pennacchio

“why we’re all so obsessed today with defining ourselves, and our identity”

The conversation ended just as things got really interesting!


Clothes in the past weren’t cheap, but they weren’t necessarily expensive, either. I’ve done historical currency conversions a few times, using prices in old ads, and was actually surprised to find out, how affordable basic clothing was 50 to 100 years ago. Suits, wool pants, shirts, neckties, and hats, all made in USA, England, or other European countries, of natural materials obviously, were quite affordable. Not the case anymore. A basic pair of wool flannels costs over $200 on average.


This interview should be three times as long. I have so many questions after having read this bit.
In other words, completely awesome article. More of this historical perspective please.


Apologies for commenting on unrelated thread. Have you come across VOR trainers? NMWA stocks them


This difference in how we value clothes due to their price is obvious when you read certain Russian authors. Gogol has a novella entirely about an overcoat. Clothing is a huge source of anxiety in Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground (due to it not being nice enough).


I would love to read more about an activity associated to valuing objects – repair. The mindset, the artisans (which you have covered in the past) are there more or less providers and why.

Mats Larssen

Thanks for an interesting read.

There are several things that scares me about fast fashion and the enviroment (espescially since I’m currently doing a course in enviromental ethics and wrote a paper about the clothes and the enviroment). First: fast fashion to a large extent relies on fabric made of polyester, or, in other words, plastic (that is made from crude oil and coal) and the fabrics that make the fabric is often driven by coal-generated power. The process of weavig and dyeing the fabrics is not nice to the enviroment either. Add to that the problem with micro-plastics ending up in the ocean when you wash your plastic clothes and the total effect on the enviroment that the fast-fashion industry has is really, really not good (and I’m leaving out the issue of social responsibilty towards the workes in the factory, but that is also a huge problem).

One of the things that really scared me when researching that paper was the fact that the fast-fashion industry at large seems to be totally uninterested in dealing with these things. The proposed “solutions” to this problem (recycling, better production methods and a circular economy) is at best ineffetive, not likely to be possible and at worst a total green-wash. And the main goal of the industry is to increase total consumption, not reduce it – and they even propose that the solution going forward is more plastics, not less.

Cotton is a better alternative than plastics, espescially if it is organic cotton, but cotton is not very friendly towards the enviroment (mainly due to how much water, pesticide and insecticide that is used) and the fact that weaving and dyeing is not much better than the processes used for polyester. Wool can definitely be a more sustainable alternative if done properly, but for instance with regards to Australian merino-wool the practice of mulesing (the process of removing folds of skin from the sheep to avoid infection due to an insect, but the process is seldom done with anastehsia and is hurting the sheep) is disturbing.

I ended up with the conclusion that buying less, better and prefering wool and linen seems to be a possible way of dealing somewhat with the situation. And buying from european manufactureres, due to the fact that in the EU there are a lot of regulations regarding the production of clothes. But then you stumble into the fact that being able to put “Made in Italy” on a piece of cloth is not really that hard and hence we are back to the problem that it’s hard to know what to trust.

What is also interesting is the fact that too often we as consumers end up being the ones who have to deal with this. And that is a difficult thing to do, due to the lack of proper branding regarding ethically produced clothes and the fact that many an assistant in shops has no clue what so ever regarding the origins of what they sell.

It is a sad state of affairs. I would like to know that the clothes I buy (or the fabrics I buy to make clothes with) has been ethically produced; that the sheep producing the wool has escaped mulesing; that the clothes has been dyed and woven in an enviromentally friendly way and so on. But that is really, really hard to find out and that bothers me.

Hence, I would like those that produce and sell clothes, wheter it is Saville Row, The Armoury or what- and whereever to be able to help me make an informed decision. That should be in everyones interest and it would benefit all of us, in the long run.


What a superb post, thank you. Totally agree with everything you have written.


To some extent, I think valuing clothes and taking care of them, regardless of it being from H&M or Liverano, comes down to personal traits and how we’re brought up.
When I bought clothes in cheaper stores, I still valued them and looked after them the same way I do now with a whole other budget.

Sadly, what the industry needs is heavy regulations to be pushed in the right direction. The likes of H&M and Zara will never give up profit for the sake of the environment. Consumers might catch up on the whole “I’m not gonna buy cheap stuff” train, but by then it will be too late.

Andy Dutton

Thank you Simon for such a stimulating article.

My sense is that the rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years has been enabled by the combination of globalisation advances in computer aided design and direct to consumer marketing. Perhaps we will never understand how the tech boom and bust of early 2000s and subsequent ‘free’ internet kick started a whole set of industries. Looking at the mid 1990s you can perhaps see the pre internet precursors of this in the emergence (in U.K.) of the new catalogue retailers like CWT, Boden or the Next catalogue.

On the consumer side, it’s perhaps important to remember how much of the demand is driven by the 15-25 demographic who are changing both physically and emotionally (and poorer) and are therefore more disposed to the fast fashion offering. It’s perhaps also the case that when we are using clothes to signal our status and desirability as this becomes more and more an Instagram affair signalling becomes more and more about obvious visual symbols like red soles rather than quality ( the Guccification of fashion).

I suspect the rise of the smart casual office without its ‘uniform’ also encourages people to favour variety over quality.
And of course we live more varied lives and we seek wardrobes for every occasion work, wfh, gym weekend, going out, foreign holiday etc etc.


Really interesting interview. Lots of thoughts about (“around” in contemporary management dialect)
1) status, class assumptions: static or mobile;
2) fixed signifiers of above or changing;
3) clothes reflecting or defining status;
4) consumption as good as opposed to necessity;
5) buying absurdly unnecessary quantity of artisanal stuff is not like living as an artisan, or gentlemen of the past;
6) less probably means less.

Ramon Hoyos

Thanks for this very interesting interview, it is quite refreshing to read on Lipovetsky, who in my view in one of the most interesting modern thinkers, on a blog about clothes. But I guess your blog has been for quite some time about more than clothes…


Really enjoyed reading that .
It puts into context why we are in the state we’re in and that’s when one has to touch on the subject of politics .
Consumerism is an economic philosophy that has been allowed to evolve and been blessed by politics.
If we now all reduced our consumption then the economy deflates .
Less volumes of quality clothing will not fill the gap.
It will take time and will to be weaned off this drug.

With regards “I have friends who have stripped back their wardrobe, saying they’re just going to wear a uniform of black T-shirts and jeans. Yet the T-shirts they buy are £19 from Zara.” ….. same is true of myself .
PS can help in this by showing quality at various price points and not just at for example £100 t shirt or a £200 shirt .
Maybe articles on quality points at various budgets or say RTW , then MTM then Bespoke.
Otherwise, it’s a case of Edward Greens or nothing.
In which case don’t be surprised when readers continue to buy cheap high street shoes.

Andrew P

Hi Simon

Not 100% relevant to this post but with the advent of lockdowns in the UK and further afield it seems that people’s body shapes are changing – both getting larger or smaller!

I’m fortunate in that I’ve lost 2 stone but it subsequently means that suits and shirts are now extremely baggy… I can take my suits to my tailor but do you have any guidance on shirts? I’ve amassed a decent selection as I tend to wear a shirt 99% of the time so it seems a waste to throw them away. Would you recommend getting darts put in or reduce body size overall or anything else…?


Thank you Simon


Fascinating article, we could go on an endless debate on this issue..certainly Zara , internet , and China have reframed the value in clothing and consumption.It is interesting how women and men view this trend in a different way. Women buy tons of clothes at Zara but mix with luxurious brands, (eg zara pants with a gucci bag), with men, not sure we have this dinamic. I think there are 2 clear groups; the cost conscious trendy group and the quality group. The quality group is all about quality from top to bottom..and would never dare wear a cashmere jumper and an H&M shirt. Anyway… fascinating read and great discussion. thank you Simon.

Michael Ryan

A very interesting read. Only wish it was longer. Thanks.


It’s unfortunate they didn’t take that last thread a bit further; because that is, in effect, the gap between new money, old money, and Gatsby. As clothes keep getting cheaper quickly, the cost of following trends generally goes down; which makes the wealth signal of fashion less effective. New Money looks cheaper and cheaper. Old Money, on the other hand, has a lock on its own signal, which says – ‘I was wearing luxury and good taste back when it wasn’t affordable.’ As an added benefit, trying to fake that signal is a tricky business; and so Gatsby may be able to buy the same brand, but he can’t buy the actual fact of inheritance; and the attempt is fraught.