Casual Clothing - a sign of social class?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by terminat, Oct 12, 2006.

  1. terminat

    terminat Active Member

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    I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and she randomly remarked that all clothing - even casual - tended to be a sign of social class (whatever that means exactly, basically rich or poor.)
    I disagreed, saying that while that might usually be true for work clothes (e.g. a guy in a bespoke Hugo Boss suit with an expensive leather briefcase probably has a higher-paying/more prestigious job than someone in cleaning overalls) it wasn't for work clothes. She said that it was, and gave two examples, of so-called "chavs" who tended to wear tracksuits, baseball caps and cheap hoodies, as opposed to "preppies" who wore designer jeans and expensive sneakers, t-shirts/polo shirts and hoodies. She then went on to say how I looked "quite rich" myself in my casual clothes (Ralph Lauren jeans, Lacoste trainers, a print t-shirt and stylish Topman jacket) and to be fair I do come from a reasonably comfortable background.

    This made me think quite a bit - since I'd never really made first impressions about how much money a person has based on their casual clothes. Sure, I (and most people probably) do on things like cars and suits/work clothes, but casual clothes? If I see a person dressed stylishly with subtle designer labels, I just think "trendy" and "cool" rather than necesarily "rich." Obviously most people can tell between a tramp and a person wearing Gucci, but well... what do you guys think about all this basically? Do you tend to make first-impression value judgements (and think other people do the same?) on whether a person is rich/poor / background/profession based on their casual/street clothes, as you might on what suits they wear or what cars they drive? (i.e. the clothes he is wearing look expensive and good, so he must be well-off?)

    Sorry if this sounds idiotic/stereotypical or anything [​IMG] (what I've said isn't necessarily my opinion, just something to be discussed)
     


  2. drizzt3117

    drizzt3117 Senior member

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    I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and she randomly remarked that all clothing - even casual - tended to be a sign of social class (whatever that means exactly, basically rich or poor.)
    I disagreed, saying that while that might usually be true for work clothes (e.g. a guy in a bespoke Hugo Boss suit with an expensive leather briefcase probably has a higher-paying/more prestigious job than someone in cleaning overalls) it wasn't for work clothes. She said that it was, and gave two examples, of so-called "chavs" who tended to wear tracksuits, baseball caps and cheap hoodies, as opposed to "preppies" who wore designer jeans and expensive sneakers, t-shirts/polo shirts and hoodies. She then went on to say how I looked "quite rich" myself in my casual clothes (Ralph Lauren jeans, Lacoste trainers, a print t-shirt and stylish Topman jacket) and to be fair I do come from a reasonably comfortable background.

    This made me think quite a bit - since I'd never really made first impressions about how much money a person has based on their casual clothes. Sure, I (and most people probably) do on things like cars and suits/work clothes, but casual clothes? If I see a person dressed stylishly with subtle designer labels, I just think "trendy" and "cool" rather than necesarily "rich." Obviously most people can tell between a tramp and a person wearing Gucci, but well... what do you guys think about all this basically? Do you tend to make first-impression value judgements (and think other people do the same?) on whether a person is rich/poor / background/profession based on their casual/street clothes, as you might on what suits they wear or what cars they drive? (i.e. the clothes he is wearing look expensive and good, so he must be well-off?)

    Sorry if this sounds idiotic/stereotypical or anything [​IMG] (what I've said isn't necessarily my opinion, just something to be discussed)


    Hmm, didn't Sam Walton drive a beat up old pickup till the day he died? Your friend might say that made him a redneck but if so he was a rich one.
     


  3. mattjames

    mattjames Senior member

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    It is perfectly natural to make judgements about people based on these factors (prejudice is most often better described as postjudice) and don't feel ashamed for one minute about it. Stereotypes only exist because there is more than a little truth to them.
    I think clothing does give a good indication of social class, if for no other reason than because more expensive clothes are often out of the price range of poorer people. It can't all be due to financial considerations, though. There are plenty of respectable cheaper clothing options that poorer people could take rather than the appalling 'chav' look.
    I also think that there are people who might be less well-off but who still have a sense of style and might spend a larger percentage of their income because style means a lot to them. These people will most likely come from a wider family which includes members of higher social classes. On the flip side you will have the 'new rich' types who come from lower classes who will tend to have poor taste despite their economic situation. There's probably something of a genetic element to it.
     


  4. norcaltransplant

    norcaltransplant Senior member

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    Dear sir,
    Could I request the mitochondrial DNA for Kiton? (My mother wasn't so kind. I got stuck with the Banana Republic variety).

    Next project for T4Phage: Isolate the fashion plasmid and sell it to Armani or Ralph.
     


  5. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

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    I think there is some much individual variation, and so many other factors at play, that such generalizations are unreliable at best. If somebody's casual dress consists of an extensive rotation of Kiton, RLPL, Lobb, etc., then sure, they probably aren't living on food stamps. But lots of folks with money dress like crap, and lots of people with more limited means value their appearance and dress well.
    The OP's friend should come hang out in LA for a while, where lots of folks who would consider themselves to be part of the "upper social class" {I'm unsure what this means except as code for rich people} make a point of wearing dirty, ripped Chuck Taylors or flip-flops, shorts, t-shirts or cheap hoodies, and baseball caps - often in situations where it's not appropriate for anyone to dress that way - as a sort of "I'm so damned rich and important that I can dress this way and get away with it" kind of reverse snobbery.
     


  6. mattjames

    mattjames Senior member

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    Dear sir,
    Could I request the mitochondrial DNA for Kiton? (My mother wasn't so kind. I got stuck with the Banana Republic variety).

    Next project for T4Phage: Isolate the fashion plasmid and sell it to Armani or Ralph.


    Twin studies show similarities in the tastes of twins raised apart (choice of partner, baby names, hobbies, etc) Obviously people can follow trends but I suspect that genetics plays a part.
     


  7. DNW

    DNW Senior member

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    [​IMG] The man looks almost like a bum, or a poor artist. If you didn't know he was a movie star, would you have guessed that he's worth north of $100 million? Nowaday, clothing is no longer an expression of class, it's an expression of a lifestyle choice. If you think that Pitt's choice in clothing reflects his humble (relatively speaking) upbringing, consider Bill Gates. Gates came from a family with tradition in politics and law. While they weren't "rich," they were certainly well off. Yet, he dresses like he's permanently stuck in middle management of a middle america manufacturing plant.
     


  8. Get Smart

    Get Smart Don't Crink

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    Casual clothes can be a sign of "stealth wealth" since someone can be decked out otherwise inconspicuously but be wearing thousands of $ in casual streetwear.
     


  9. DNW

    DNW Senior member

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    Casual clothes can be a sign of "stealth wealth" since someone can be decked out otherwise inconspicuously but be wearing thousands of $ in casual streetwear.

    Ditto. Pitt's outfit was probably worth no less than a grand.
     


  10. paper clip

    paper clip Senior member

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    I think that casual wear most truly displays a person's ideal image that he or she wishes to project.

    Folks often have to wear certain types or styles of clothing for work, but when a person in on his or her 'own time', the choices are wide open and therefore say a lot about a person.

    As has been mentioned a person's income or background may or may not be represented by his or her casual clothes - a rich person can "slum it" while a person of limited means can thrift or ebay expensive brands and portray him/herself as one of the elite.
     


  11. rssmsvc

    rssmsvc Senior member

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    aying that while that might usually be true for work clothes (e.g. a guy in a bespoke Hugo Boss suit with an expensive leather briefcase probably has a higher-paying/more prestigious job than someone in cleaning overalls)

    Actually , your friend would be dead wrong. Check the
    "Millionaire mind set" book that was popular a while back and the stats are that most of the millionaires in the US are actually the ford driving , small business owners who never spent more than 400 on a suit.
     


  12. Mentos

    Mentos Senior member

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    In fact, I think that the writer's impression in the Pitt piece is that he was wearing "very expensive" t-shirts.

    I think that you always can tell a lot about how a person wishes to project themselves from their clothing, but it's a lot more difficult to get a sense of their net assets (or, say, moral character) from their outward appearance. It's a start, but you're just as likely to be wrong as right.

    Of course, in the American culture of self-invention, "class" has as much to do as who you wish you were as who you are. See Ralph Lauren.
     


  13. Artisan Fan

    Artisan Fan Suitsupply-sider

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    A lot of local entreprenuers in Atlanta have millions but dress very casual. Around here dressing well usually means you are a banker, lawyer, or consultant, or CEO.
     


  14. EL72

    EL72 Senior member

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    ...e.g. a guy in a bespoke Hugo Boss suit...

    If it even existed, it would be a sure sign of lower class status.
     


  15. lawyerdad

    lawyerdad Senior member

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    If it even existed, it would be sure sign of lower class status.
    Well, there was that Kiton crest being sold on ebay. So, this theoretical guy could have had a bespoke suit made and then put a Boss label on it to impress people. Makes sense to me.
     


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