The super-rich have a penchant for understated dressing, often opting for simple and elegant styles that don’t scream wealth. This preference for “quiet luxury” or “stealth wealth” is driven by various factors, including psychological reasons, decision fatigue, and the desire to maintain a low profile.
One reason why wealthy individuals dress simply is that inconspicuous dressing is perceived as more competent than conspicuous dressing. According to a study, dressing down can make people think you are successful. This phenomenon is known as stealth wealth, where individuals buy understated products for their quality, beauty, and rarity without flaunting their monetary value. The concept behind this is that only those in equally wealthy positions would recognize the value of the item, creating an inner-circle, semi-secret code about stealth-luxe dressing.
“The super-rich love understated dressing for various reasons, including psychological factors, decision fatigue, and the desire to maintain a low profile. This preference for quiet luxury has influenced fashion trends and reflects a shift towards more subtle expressions of wealth and success,” said Retail Expert, Jeanel Alvarado.
Another reason why billionaires opt for simple attire is to avoid decision fatigue. By sticking to a kind of uniform, they can conserve their finite store of energy for more important decisions throughout the day. This approach has been adopted by successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, who routinely wear the same thing to minimize the number of choices they have to make daily.
The trend of stealth wealth has become more than just a way of life for the extremely privileged few. It has filtered down the fashion chain and become a dominant aesthetic in recent years. Designers have shifted towards clothes that “don’t shout, but whisper,” focusing on plush fabrics, rigorous lines, and somber color palettes. This trend has been described as “more of a mood than anything else” and “essentially a synonym for elevated basics.”
Some experts believe that the rise of stealth wealth is a response to current economic turmoil, echoing similar shifts in fashion after the financial crisis of 2008. Brands aim to strike the right tone during times of economic struggle, as flaunting extreme expressions of wealth can appear tone-deaf when large portions of the population face financial hardships.
The concept of stealth wealth is not new, as the term “conspicuous consumption” was first noted by Thorsten Veblen in his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, in 1899. Veblen described it as the act of displaying ostentatious wealth to gain status and reputation in society, with those new to wealth more likely to indulge in this behavior. In contrast, those accustomed to having money feel no need to show it off.
Jeanel has 15 years of retail, marketing and brand management experience. She has started an ecommerce business in 2019, after working in corporate retail and real estate as a senior managing director and former consultant. She's traveled all over the world, speaks at world renowned trade shows and events, holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce (B.Comm) and a Certificate in Commercial Real Estate. You can connect with her on Linkedin.