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Clothing and the rich

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by esquire., Feb 2, 2005.

  1. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    Simply that certain rich people are cheap, and others are not.

    Warren Buffet certainly pertains to the former, and Donatella Versace to the latter.
     
  2. Dakota rube

    Dakota rube Senior member

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    I think I'm going to hate myself for this, but what the heck, here goes:

    Flyover country probably feeds you. And the people growing the foodcrops and livestock on your table are not the bunch of knucke-dragging neanderthals they've been portrayed as here or anywhere else.

    This is off-topic, but I think it's important to consider context when one determines fashion or appropriate dress.

    The best-dressed man (a multi-millionaire) in my city has a wardrobe largely consisting of Hart, Schaffner & Marx or RLPolo suits. He lives on the Great Plains, does the majority of his business here on the Plains (although he does fly to both coasts on his own Gulfstream about once a month), and most importantly, he looks like he belongs on the Plains. He obviously enjoys fine things (you should see his home here.), but he's chosen to dress no differently than most of the other business people he sees on the street everyday here in his hometown.

    Does this mean he's a walking fashion disaster area? No. Does he look like he's wearing cheap suits? Not in my estimation, nor that, I'm sure, of others in the community.

    And I'm not talking about a little town: we're near 200,000 people, and just last week a few houses in town got indoor toilets. I understand the partyline phones are going to be replaced soon, too.

    I don't mean to flame any fires here; rather to point out that it's important to dress in context.

    When I was in the advertising business I had to educate a creative director about what I call "contexual excellence". Everytime I needed a television commercial made, he wanted to shoot film and bring in a bunch of high-priced shooters, crew and talent.

    I had to convince him that in some cases it would be a waste of our clients' money to do so. If the spot was going to run on local, or even regional television, amidst other spots produced on video, with local crew and talent, why spend the excess money? Just for our own egos?

    If the spot was going to run a regional/national schedule by all means spend the money. It doesn't pay to look worse than the clutter you're trying to rise above. But it seldom pays to overspend the competition to such a great extent either.

    For many people, their house is the biggest purchase they'll ever undertake. The worst thing they can ever do is to be the most expensive house on the block. Their house will bring all the other houses' values up, just as the neighboring house values bring the expensive one's value down.

    Context.

    (Ducking back down into the storm shelter now. Fire away.)
     
  3. Aaron

    Aaron Senior member

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    Totally agree. Although for your safety I would avoid LA and NYC...

    A.
     
  4. Bradford

    Bradford Senior member

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    Just to make a point- the book is not designed for investment bankers working in the financial district of NYC. If you're making $35 million on a deal, you're right, who cares how much you spend on a suit.

    However, the vast majority of the country does not live that way. Most of us make a limited yearly salary and have to watch what we spend.

    As for the concept that those who dress in WalMart clothing look sleazy or like used car salesmen, perhaps you should actully visit a WalMart. While it's not my style, it is just basic clothing for normal people and I don't know how it makes anyone look sleazy.

    Sorry - but I'm just offended by the arrogance of people who think that the idea of giving commonsense financial and savings advice to people is a joke and something to look down on.

    OK - I'll get off my soapbox now.

    Bradford
     
  5. Aaron

    Aaron Senior member

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    Yes, it is simplistic and common sense stuff, but why is it hardly anyone follows it?

    A.

    P.S.>Not trying to incite anarchy here, just wondering...
     
  6. AlanC

    AlanC Senior member

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    Yes. There is a point where my attire could affect my job effectiveness. And that point exists in both directions. I need to dress nicely on the one hand, but if I come across as dressing too expensively it would harm my ability to connect with people. It doesn't hurt that people know that I do dress a fair amount out of thrift stores, etc. At the same time, a good deal of what I wear are be 'stealth' luxury items. None of them know that the Grenson Masterpieces I wear on occasion retail for $625 at Paul Stuart. They'd fall over if they did. Of course, I didn't pay that much (as most on the board did not).

    As our Dakota friend says, context.
     
  7. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    In LA, different story though.  Most of even the biggest firms are business are business casual.  Only the very highest and lowest guys in the food chain wear multi-K suits; the former because because of personal preference, the lowest because receptionists and personal assistants need to look good.
     
  8. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    Is there a point where you think that dressing poorly would negatively affect your personal productivity? In other words, setting aside how others might react to your dress, do you feel that dressing poorly would make your work suffer? For me, I know that after wearing exclusively 100s cotton and above (mostly I have 120s), and canvas suits that are light as a feather, as well as shoes made of the finest leather that conforms to the foot, and pants that fit in all the right places and are made of buttery soft worsteds and flannels, going back to GAP type dress would make me PHYSICALLY uncomfortable. (I will say, though, that up until about two years ago, Gap made pretty good clothes -- I have some basics that I still wear quite a bit).
     
  9. norcaltransplant

    norcaltransplant Senior member

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    Sadly, this is no longer the case. My father works closely with the agricultural industry in California, and the market/margin for American foodstuffs and livestock is rapidly dwindling.
     
  10. j

    j Senior member Admin

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    I know I feel a lot more 'official' about my day when I get properly dressed. That was one of the major reasons I started dressing well in college. You are less likely to be lazy in a nice shirt and slacks and (relatively) expensive shoes than the pajamas and slippers that some of the jackasses would wear to class.

    However, dressing like that every day now would just cost me a lot more in cleaning and damage to clothing, so I save nice clothes for time off work instead.
     
  11. Ambulance Chaser

    Ambulance Chaser Senior member

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    No.  Frankly, I would dress like Bill Belichick if I could get away with it.  Or draped from head to toe in velvet, a la George Costanza.

    (Preparing for imminent SF banning.)
     
  12. linux_pro

    linux_pro Senior member

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    To answer a previous question in a very vague way, I work for a rather diverse VC firm which offers legal, financial, marketing and engineering assistance to our varied clientele.

    As for tax deductions regarding my business attire, I deduct my suits as "tools" under deductable expenses, as I use them for less than one year and then resell them to myself for personal use. That is the simple scoop. I'm not sure if it's totally legal, and not really sure if I will continue that practice.

    As for people being screwed over by a guy in a 92 Buick, our situation is a little different at my firm. Our meetings generally involve both client and attorney - very few decisions are made exclusively between us and a client. We make offers and provide contracts, and the client's attorney responds. I'm not sure it matters what car they drive, but I will tell you that the vast majority of our clients would never consider dealing with a poorly-dressed attorney driving a '92 Buick, nor would they show up at our meetings as such. Most are coming to us to acquire funding, and they want to be taken as seriously as we do. It is imperative to their situation. You just don't hire some recently-divorced poorly-dressed possibly-alcoholic hack in a $300 suit and a '92 Buick when you are seeking $50m in seed capital and looking for partnerships with players like Boeing or IBM. That would be suicide for any self-respecting private enterprise trying to expand its business. Further, when we encounter clients using the services of less-than-reputable attorneys, we notify them of such and let them know that if they would like to continue with us, it might be best to use one of the more reputable law firms in town. Having a quality attorney is absolutely crucial at this stage.

    As for being laughed out of a room, that does not happen in our industry. If I was meeting with a rail company, or whatever you mentioned, they are coming to me because they need help, or they need money. If they were to laugh at anyone in our business, they would find themselves in a poor position indeed. Go ahead though, laugh us out of the room, and go back to your $4m in annual revenue. We will find a professional organization looking to grow that $4m to $50m, and do business with them instead. It is in our best interest to find clients that are serious about their business. And we have three consultants whose primary function is to determine whether their business is properly run and capable of doing just such a thing. To "laugh them out of a room" would get you quickly dismissed, and you would have a hard time obtaining the services of other firms in our industry, since we regularly cooperate and many of us know each other. You do not want to obtain a reputation as a cocky asshole when you are trying to obtain capital. It's not the best idea, at least.

    Many in our industry, after the dot com crash, are extremely skeptical of just about anything, and if you want funding, you better come off as sharp as you can, and as eager as you can to do whatever it takes to continue growth. And you better have a good attorney present, because there are people in this industry who will look across the table, see that lawyer in the $300 suit driving the '92 Buick, and realize they can take advantage of the situation in ways that would be imprudent to discuss on a forum. The only person in our situation in the position to "screw" someone would be us. And we NEVER do that. We prefer to operate with a reputation of integrity, as our reputation depends on that, as does our clients'.

    Real money is not made by ignorant, back-woods, small-town cocky guys in $300 suits. Period. To make real money, you require a bit of capital, much more than could be easily obtained by the people you describe. And to get that capital, all your ducks should be in the straightest, cleanest row possible, and being professional is a requirement, not an option. Attempting to come off as clever, or acting in a conniving manner, will get you shut off from that capital so quickly, your only option at that point would be to sell your business to a larger firm, and guess who handles the backend of many of those transactions. That's right... the very same guys you came to with your cocky attitude and the poorly-dressed attorney. But this time, they know exactly what position you are in, how desparate you are, and will take full advantage (in a ruthless way) of the position you put yourself in by acting like a novice in earlier dealings.

    And, yes, most real business does happen in NYC. At least, the business that matters. When you start making real money, at some point you will have to go public, and when you do, guess where you will be headed to find your underwriters. That's right... NYC, baby.

    As I said before, about the only entrepreneurs who will ever see more than $30m private net worth, will at some point require the assistance of large capital. And while large capital can come from anywhere, the real wealth occurs when you go public, and that happens in NY (unless you're international, and you decide to list on some other exchange than NYSE or Nasdaq).
     
  13. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    linux_pro

    Really interesting perspective. Wonderful nomenclature as well, so different from the other voices I hear on this forum. Thank you for sticking around. Part of me actually wishes I turned out working for an outfit like yours, to think of suits as a tool for business, and a tax write off to boot. Heck of a deal. Down here in the trenches of pharmaceutical development, where doctors in sportcoats and scientists in jeans rub shoulders on a daily basis with executives in Brioni and goggle-wearers in manufacturing, it's a crap shoot what to wear. But I think were each of us to twist our perspectives slightly, we would see our chosen garb for what it is: a kind of tool. We've advanced little from the cavemen. Clothing as a functional object for a particular purpose....

    Write your bearskins off your taxes.

    You go girl.
     
  14. drizzt3117

    drizzt3117 Senior member

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    I've been watching this thread with some interest. I think there are valid points on both sides, and my personal experience has been decidedly mixed. I have quite a bit of contact with fairly financially successful people on both a business and personal level, and in my experience, they are as varied as regular people in their clothing choices. The CEOs of several of the F500 (or comparable) companies I have worked for have usually worn fairly midpriced suits, although some of the other board members and officers were certainly turned out impeccably in bespoke, while some very wealthy and successful individuals that I know have all of their clothing purchased and selected by their wives. I don't think there's a general correlation between success and clothing selections, nor are you going to find a consensus. Obviously the average price per garment is probably going to be higher among higher net worth individuals, but the difference would likely be smaller than you think.
     
  15. esquire.

    esquire. Senior member

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    I'm sure you already knew the anwer to that- it sounds about as legal as what Enron did. At the very least, think of it like this: if the IRS caught you doing this, their fines and punitive damage would be much more than any potential savings.

    I'd still like to see your calculations about the car. I'm not from NYC, so I might be a little slow. Please write out all the calculations and equations, and show all the work.

    As for somebody wearing a $300 suit, I think its more important that you work with somebody you trust than what they are wearing.
     
  16. Mike C.

    Mike C. Senior member

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    It all about looking respectable, not price. With that being said, I think the bare minimum for a senior ranking executive to spend on a suit is $1K to make the cut. The lowest priced, highest quality, best designed suit I can think of to fit this criteria are the Corneliani RL blue label suits.
     
  17. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    First point: Your tax deductions are illegal, Linux Pro. I'd put a halt to it, as it raises red flags.

    Second point: It is rational to judge a human being by their dress, at least to the extent that it is inefficient to actually get to know the person. It is simple Bayesian rationality. This does not mean that it is rational to trust Mr. Expensive Suit more than Mr. Cheap Suit. Depending on the situation, it might be more rational to trust the latter more. But, the point is is that judging by dress is rational.
     
  18. drizzt3117

    drizzt3117 Senior member

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    Mike C.:

    You'd be surprised what suits some CEO's of Fortune 500 companies wear, some are busting out Brioni and Saville Row bespoke, and others are wearing 10 year old HSM, Arnold Brant, and Oscar de la Renta suits.
     
  19. Mike C.

    Mike C. Senior member

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    Drizz... I don't doubt that for a second.
     
  20. linux_pro

    linux_pro Senior member

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    I should admit to something here... my clothing is generally picked (or at least assistance comes from) my girlfriend, because I trust her taste sometimes more than my own (I am a math major after all). Heh heh. And I regularly shop ebay trying to find deals on good suits, although it looks as though the 3-piece I just grabbed might be a piece of crap, and it was $300.

    The formulae I used to determine offset of depreciation by interest gained on investment are at home, and I am at work (supposed to be working rather than posting on a style forum). Basically, it goes like this:

    Capital = approx. $60,000 on car
    depreciation over 3 year term = approx. 20%, bringing value of good to $48,000.
    I make payments of $1500 per mo. to my investments. Capital after first year should equal approx. $21,420. After second year, capital should equal approx $46,900. At end of third year, capital should equal approx. $77,200. That is crude, because I do not have the monthly formulae that I used to calculate interest compounded monthly on payments. But it is close. Also, I used a very basic calcuation at 19% annual growth (and also erroneously calculated the interest on the first year of capital as if all capital was invested in lump sum at begging of term, which it is not). I will see much higher growth than that on my investments however, because 50% is invested into my forex account which is currently returning approx. 80-200% annually (last year, it returned 287%, although the previous year only 97%). Over a month-long term, it is not uncommon for my forex engine to give me 1500 pips of growth (although at times it will giveback a hearty 700).

    Total Amount of capital expenditure: $114,000.
    Capital value at end of term: $125,200.
    Total cost of ownership for 3 years on car: -$11,200

    Car will be written off also as it used primarily for work (we use my girlfriend's IS300 for personal travel). This is completely legal and totally spelled out for you on the IRS website. As is the use of deductions relating to "tools", and other expenses - such as client dinners, which are considered entertainment, I believe. Every year that I file my taxes, they are audited first by a friend of mine who is an auditor at an accounting firm, and he is very rigorous (and expensive). I have had no issues with the IRS to this point, and have contacted them specifically to clarify whether certain items can be claimed, and specifically explained how I was doing it. If I am audited by the IRS at some point, I am not too worried, because I keep receipts of everything, and to the best of my knowledge I am doing nothing illegal, have no intention to, and take every precaution in order to remain in compliance with their regulations. Most people are not aware that business expenses are business expenses, and should be counted as such. If you are using a suit primarily to conduct business, and it is a significant purchase, than you are purchasing a tool for business use and it qualifies as such.

    Also, Enron's accounting practices had little to do with taxes. Rather, they were grossly misstating their earnings, and filing 10q's and 10k's which were highly inaccurate. The executives and board members came under federal investigation when it became clear that they were directly involved in knowledgeably and purposefully "fudging" their earnings in order to deceive investors and influence the value of their stock, and then giving themselves massive stock grants, which they would liquidate at these falsely inflated values. This is a wholly different crime than tax evasion, or any tax code violation, and it was the SEC and the FBI who investigated, rather than the IRS.
     

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