In the vast tapestry of fashion, few styles evoke as much allure and intrigue as that of “old money.” The term itself is steeped in history, representing not just wealth but a lineage of wealth that has been passed down through generations. It’s not merely about affluence; it’s about heritage, legacy, and a deep-rooted sense of identity. In the realm of menswear, old money style is a testament to timeless elegance, a nod to an era where quality trumped flashiness, and where fashion was an extension of one’s character. As we journey through this article, we’ll uncover the layers of old money style, from its historical roots to its enduring relevance in today’s fast-paced fashion landscape.
The origins of old money style can be traced back to the aristocratic circles of Europe, particularly in countries like England and France. These were societies where lineage mattered, where family crests and ancestral homes were symbols of pride. Fashion, in these circles, was not about ostentation but about representing one’s family and status with dignity. The early 20th century saw figures like the Duke of Windsor setting sartorial standards that many aspired to emulate. Even in literature, characters like Jay Gatsby, though new money, aspired for the refinement and elegance associated with old money. The Roaring Twenties, with its juxtaposition of new wealth and old aristocracy, further highlighted the nuances of old money style, making it a subject of fascination and aspiration.
Key Characteristics of Old Money Style
- Timeless pieces vs. trendy items: While fashion trends come and go, old money style remains steadfast in its appreciation for timeless designs. It’s about pieces that look as elegant today as they would have a century ago.
- Quality over quantity: In a world driven by fast fashion and disposable trends, old money style stands out with its emphasis on craftsmanship. It’s not uncommon for items to be passed down generations, bearing testament to their durability and timeless appeal.
- Subtlety and understatement: Flashiness is often associated with new wealth, trying to make a statement. In contrast, old money style is all about quiet confidence. It’s about knowing one’s worth without having to shout it from the rooftops. The colors, patterns, and designs all exude a sense of calm sophistication.
Essential Wardrobe Staples
- Tailored suits: The bedrock of old money fashion. Whether it’s a three-piece for a formal event or a two-piece for a business meeting, the emphasis is always on fit and fabric. Materials like wool, cashmere, and silk are often preferred.
- Classic shirts: Beyond the quintessential white shirt, old money wardrobes also treasure shirts in muted stripes, checks, and herringbone patterns. The fabrics are soft, breathable, and often bespoke.
- Timeless accessories: Accessories in the old money style are more than just adornments; they’re statements of class. Leather belts with subtle buckles, ties made of silk or cashmere, pocket squares that add a hint of color, and cufflinks that might have been passed down generations.
- Outerwear: The importance of a good overcoat cannot be overstated. Be it the trench for rainy days, the cashmere coat for winter evenings, or the blazer for summer soirees, old money style ensures that one is always prepared, come rain or shine.
- Casual wear: Casual doesn’t mean careless. Polo shirts made of pique cotton, chinos that fit just right, loafers crafted from the finest leather, and even the occasional cashmere sweater for those chilly evenings – every piece is chosen with care and consideration.
Grooming and Etiquette
The old money aesthetic isn’t solely confined to the clothes one wears; it permeates every facet of one’s presentation and behavior. Grooming, in this context, is an art form. Hair is neatly styled, often favoring classic cuts that have stood the test of time. Facial hair, if any, is meticulously maintained, be it a full beard or a mustache. The scent one chooses is subtle, often leaning towards woody or musky notes that are neither overpowering nor fleeting.
But beyond the physical, etiquette plays a pivotal role. Old money style is as much about how one behaves as how one looks. It’s about holding doors open, about knowing which fork to use at a formal dinner, about writing thank-you notes, and about maintaining eye contact during conversations. It’s a holistic approach to life, where manners and decorum are held in as high regard as any wardrobe item.
Incorporating Old Money Style in Today’s World
In an age of digital influencers, fast fashion, and ever-evolving trends, one might wonder how old money style finds its place. The beauty of this style is its adaptability. While it remains rooted in tradition, it isn’t averse to subtle modern touches. For instance, a classic tweed blazer can be paired with a slim-fit turtleneck for a winter ensemble. Or, traditional loafers can be worn with tailored denim for a casual yet refined look.
It’s also about picking timeless pieces from contemporary brands, ensuring that while the style remains old money, the fit and finish cater to modern sensibilities. The key is balance — honoring the past while embracing the present.
Brands That Exemplify Old Money Style
Certain brands have become synonymous with the old money aesthetic due to their unwavering commitment to quality and timeless design.
- Brooks Brothers: Often hailed as the original purveyor of American old money style, their suits, shirts, and ties have dressed US presidents and business magnates alike.
- Burberry: With its iconic trench coat and classic check pattern, Burberry seamlessly blends British aristocracy with modern luxury.
- Ralph Lauren: Perhaps no brand encapsulates the old money spirit in a contemporary setting better than Ralph Lauren. From its Polo line to the more luxurious Purple Label, the brand exudes timeless elegance.
- Barbour: Known for its waxed jackets, Barbour has been a staple in the wardrobes of the British elite, blending functionality with style.
These brands, among others, ensure that the essence of old money style remains accessible and relevant in today’s fashion landscape.
Old money style is more than just a fashion statement; it’s a philosophy, a way of life. It’s about valuing heritage, understanding the importance of quality, and recognizing that true style is eternal. In a world that often prioritizes the new and the now, old money style serves as a gentle reminder of the beauty of tradition, the allure of elegance, and the charm of timeless sophistication. As we step into an ever-changing future, the principles of old money style offer a grounding touchstone, reminding us that while trends fade, class is forever.