The End of the Status Symbol

You know how there was always that one kid in school whose parents packed him a lunch of Ritz crackers and celery sticks? And so you always gave him half of your turkey sandwich or Oreo cookies and downplayed the cost of your new sneakers?

Well, it seems that New York’s upper class is experiencing a similar sense of guilt–"Status Guilt," as it is described in the December issue of Details magazine. All over Manhattan, your friends and co-workers are apparently lying to you about the price of their designer handbags, where they had dinner the previous night and where they plan to vacation this year, so as not to make you feel bad. 

Pierce Mattie, a CEO of a PR company quoted in the piece, took off his one-carat pendant diamond necklace before party guests—many employed by Lehman Brothers—arrived at his Fire Island home in September. 

“Their jobs were in jeopardy,” he told the magazine. “I didn’t want them to say ‘How can you wear that?’”

Mr. Mattie has also apparently swapped his Louis Vuitton briefcase for a Coach bag and felt so guilty at his July engagement party at the Waldorf Astoria that he spent the whole time worrying rather than enjoying the Veuve Cliquot. Meanwhile, an unidentified 37-year-old partner at a New York fashion firm said he’s been buying dinner for his artist friend and pretending that he is expensing it. 

“It’s not as much fun to have something like that when someone else is getting kicked out of his apartment,” said the fashion firm partner. “If I bought it two years ago, everyone would be patting me on the back. Now they’re like, ‘Ooooh.’ I wouldn’t say they’re jealous. I’d say they’re miserable.”

Hiding one’s wealth might seem silly, but we’re thinking that this rise of status guilt might not be such a bad thing. Sure, we enjoy ogling pretty things like Birkin bags, Christian Louboutin shoes, and Balenciaga dresses at cocktail hour. But then there are the not so classy status symbols that we’d gladly like to seee left at home. Like high end doggy-carriers. Or traffic-blocking, chauffeured Escalades; can’t everyone fit into a chauffeured four door sedan comfortably? Oh, and the private jets can probably go too. (Maybe Ron Perelman can even spare the fresh bagels and lox that are flown in from New York for trips on his jet regardless of where in the world he is.)


The End of the Status Symbol