"The Logic of Stupid Poor People," using fashion to navigate classism/racism, and gatekeeping of wealth

  1. I had written a whole rambling response to how much I relate to this/my life/etc and deleted because LORD it’s a lot, but I guess my thoughts on it are this:

  2. My dad manages a restaurant, which isn’t the most glamorous thing, but he wears a suit every day. He’s an immigrant from Mexico and I always thought it was weird that he sounds SO different from the rest of my family. (Almost affecting an ambiguous European accent?) As a kid we’d go to Value World every week and he’d collect ties and jackets. As I got older, he was able to start shopping at J.C. Penny. 😂 But also, it seems like everyone in his town knows him (which is crazy, that’s like 50,000 people. We can’t go outside without running into people he knows, and he remembers everyone else’s names and life stories). I hope to emulate like 1/10 of his attention to detail but it also sounds exhausting.

  3. I was a kid from a bad family (foster care blah blah) but I got a scholarship to a rich high school. I knew (bitterly) that I couldn't compete on material things, so I just did what I could to benefit future me.

  4. Reading posts like yours and others in the previous thread OP posted, I feel a little sorry for me as a kid lol. My parents had aspirations for our family but they didn’t have the sophistication. They were poor blue collar immigrants who didn’t understand social cues or signaling, subtle or overt.

  5. I also wrote (and deleted) a long rambling reply about being mixed and white passing that came to the same conclusion: the way my mom made me dress and style my hair allowed me to pass. She was very against anything that could possibly signal we were black (hoop earrings!) and dressed us in either “classic” preppy clothing or outdoor brands.

  6. Definitely agree! I think speaking the part does as well. My family was terrible with money and pretended to be upper middle class when we were solidly mid/lower middle class. They didn’t pay for my schooling.

  7. It's interesting, I grew up pretty well off, but in the Bay Area. My parents both worked in tech and never really spent time looking nice. My dad would wear a button up for work, but even just that was more dressed up than most of his colleagues. As a result, dressing up feels finicky to me.

  8. I didn't reply to the "coat" post you reference, OP, because I was late in and now I'm late in to this one, but I'm going to spew a few thoughts about class markers now, even if no one reads them. I'm coming to this from maybe a slightly different place because I'm at least a generation older than most of you, but I think the more things change, the more things stay the same.

  9. The post in question ended up being jerked in another sub and she deleted her post, but it’s much easier said than done to poke fun at or criticize the individual for having to conform to their environment than to criticize the system. For lower income and people of color it’s all about survival in a system that was not built for us. You work with what you can, but you always have to be 1 steps ahead and sharp because you know you won’t be given grace

  10. I love Working Girl. One of my all time fav movies. Harrison Ford changing his shirt in the office? Swoon! Thank you for sharing your experience. I think you're 100% correct about being unaware in the 80s vs now with social media.

  11. A lot of the “old money” people I grew up with in the south didn’t necessarily currently have a great deal of wealth, they or their family did at one point and they were still trading in on that reputation. They were usually just average middle class. But they were educated, had influence in regional politics, belonged to the right social groups and did all the things wealthy people did. It put more pressure on them financially to keep up with those lifestyles of course but they valued keeping their positions especially if they believed it set their kids up to be more successful.

  12. Your first point is something people don’t talk about enough in the “old money” discourse - old money isn’t about how much your family currently has in its bank account, it’s about who your ancestors were and the level of social clout or pull that gives you. There are many aristocratic families who have less money than their “new money” counterparts or even regular upper middle class people but because they have that family name they still have some social pull and influence.

  13. Something that is interesting: the most googled brands in poorer states tend to be high end brands, whereas brands googled in affluent states are pretty middle of the road. The most googled brand in Mississippi (almost always the poorest or second poorest state) is Ralph Lauren. I think a lot of it does have to do with trying to belong. Most Americans likely cannot afford a nice house in an affluent neighborhood (you can find countless articles on this- most Americans cannot afford a security deposit on a new apartment), but they can put nicer clothes on a credit card. You gotta think twice before judging someone for what they wear or how they present themselves… how much of it is your preconceived notion of that person, and how much of it is them trying to appear as though they belong with a group of people?

  14. It’s really interesting how fashion can absolutely be extremely important for the advancement of people careers, and a huge influence in their life like how we see with stories in this thread, yet simultaneously regarded as a vapid hobby.

  15. It felt like looking in at mirror while reading your post. Thanks for making me feel a little less crazy. I'm the only one in my family working for a 500 fortune company, and is so hard to be taken seriously and not feel like a imposter. Dressing the part was my armor, a way to say that I belong, that I deserved to be there. It has extra taste when someone compliments your outfit or style. Its a great validation for a while.

  16. Thanks for sharing your story, it is very validating. Reading the original blog post and all the replies is helping me recognize why I have a lot of anxiety around dressing and have ever since I entered grad school.

  17. You might not be the same person, but I remember a comment from someone here posting excerpts from a similar document they’d created about how to fit in when they felt out of place in a prestigious academic environment. It was extremely detailed, and covered everything from hair, nails, skin, to exercise, styling, mannerisms, etc. I’ve been looking for it for some time now. Would that be you by any chance?

  18. Where can I get a list of the brands that signify upper middle class? I have money to spend on clothes, and a huge closet full, but I don’t seem to ever quite put things together right, and I always feel like I’m behind on what’s fashionable.

  19. I come from a very conservative family and I don’t bother trying to explain why their bigoted views are problematic, but I think it describes most conservatives in this country who truly don’t understand - they all basically believe that you “can be black, gay, whatever - just why do they try so hard to be different!? Just be normal!” I cannot even begin to explain concepts like white supremacy culture or heteronormativity so I just leave Thanksgiving dinner early lol.

  20. This comment really startled me because this is the path I’m going down. I’m an East Asian woman studying civil engineering (construction management) and my internship this summer is site work. It’s really interesting to hear about your experiences with fashion in the industry. If you don’t mind, do you think you could tell me a little about what your work wardrobe looks like?

  21. To be fair, safety rules are usually written with someone else's blood. I get around the whole "want to wear" vs "need to wear" conflict by making sure I have field acceptable clothes in my office at all times if I need to run out to a site. Company pays for all of my safety equipment anyway.

  22. I understand this very intimately as someone who was a teenage parent and is now in the consulting world where wealth and affluence are abound. Dressing to fit in is very much a thing and it comes down to everything you own at work. The big signal that I've noticed is quality of materials and construction. No one carries gucci bags plastered with logos, but bags that you can look at and understand that they are expensive from the way they are made. Instead of buying expensive d&g dresses and loud jewelry to fit in, I bought Patagonia and subtle jewelry with real gemstones. Good, high quality sweaters and blazers from Scotland. The expense really does come from items being timeless, subtle, and well made over logos, something that I never had while I was in college trying to make it work as a single mom. The differences in social perception is real and it's a night and day difference in my interactions with all people. From my roots I try to show the same respect to everyone regardless of how they dress and present, and people act more genuine than when I couldn't dress well.

  23. I have a friend who runs in some pretty wealthy circles due to her job, and according to her no one in those circles carries logo anything anymore. The the current thing is to buy a $3,000 completely nondescript, structureless tote or shoulder bag by a boutique brand no one has heard of - the more obscure, the better - that has no logos of any kind or even the designer's name on it anywhere. But they all know the different bags and brands - oh, that's a such-and-such by so-and-so - just by sight.

  24. I’m Black, light-skinned and thin, grew up on the poorer side in a small town where I was the only Black kid in class. I was made fun of for being Black, living in an apartment complex until high school, and not being able to afford certain brands, which at that time were Abercrombie, American Eagle and Express.

  25. This thread has actually made me wonder something - while I know athleisure is very in, as someone who was poor and raised to dress above status, I cannot stomach the idea of wearing basically sweats or leggings in public. It’s so casual and what my “home” clothes are, as when I get home I immediately change out of my nice clothes. My mom and grandma would be so upset with me.

  26. I feel this way to an extent but I think it’s also because atheleisure wasn’t popular yet in my teen years so it just wasn’t an acceptable look in general.

  27. Yes, I feel the same way but its more to do with culture and race for me than poverty. I grew up middle class, not poor. I am the child of immigrants and Black. Where we come from, you dress like you meant to leave the house. It also makes us feel less like a stereotype as we navigate living in this American society. Anyways, tldr: I hate wearing athleisure outside of my home or gym.

  28. My family is VERY much the same way. We started off in America just a few generations ago as poor Italian immigrants. Gradually, increasing by generation, we became more and more educated and are doing well, although my family fell on some tough times while I was growing up. But from those first generations to now, the one thing you could control was how you dressed and how you presented yourself. "You may be poor, but you can try not to dress like it", was the lesson from my grandparents. Not that athleisure is isn't worn by the wealthy - quite the opposite. But it requires so many extra steps for athleisure to look put together that it is very inaccessible. I can't stand myself wearing athleisure and until you posted this comment I couldn't figure it out. The same goes for very large logos and branded items because my mom had the same idea about those: "You dress above your status but not in a way where you're very obviously trying to."

  29. A couple thoughts here- yes, I was raised similarly. I didn't even own sweatpants until I was an adult. My mom does her hair and makeup to go grocery shopping.

  30. “Dressing down” has been a trend for a while among rich people, especially among American “self-made” entrepreneurs (see the “tech bros” who dress in $500 tees, $500 jeans, $200 flip-flops and wear $1400 specifically-not-Rolex watches).

  31. I feel this too. I work out a lot, so I am often in gym clothes. But I'll never wear them as part of "a look", that isn't specifically for a workout. We were really poor growing up but my mum also made sure we had "proper clothes"- they weren't fancy or branded or even good quality, but she'd have hated the idea of us wearing leggings and baggy tshirts even around our own house. People at work take the piss out of me because I'll wear jeans even though we work from home, and joke about "only psychos wear jeans in the house" and I think, but it was always a massive privilege for me to even own jeans, so yes I'm wearing them.

  32. I feel this way, half because I was poorer growing up but also because I’m a bit overweight now and I feel more pressure to be “put together” because of that.

  33. Seeing someone else say this is SO validating. Athleisure in my city seems to have transcended trendiness and become a fashion staple, and my neighborhood is by campus and full of sweats and huge tee-shirts, but I just can’t do it. I don’t bat an eye when other people wear sweats and leggings casually, but that division of public clothing and private clothing was drilled into my head.

  34. This is a little different because it's kids but: I work at a school in a very poor urban area and some of the kids have Gucci scrunchies or Kate Spade backpacks but almost all of them wear sweats every day.

  35. Yes. I only wear leggings outside when I go to the gym. I can’t wear them going to the grocery store even… I feel too embarrassed.

  36. Totally. It was drilled into me to not embarrass my mom, always change into and out of workout clothes at the gym, never wear jeans with holes, no raw edges on clothing, and certainly no sweats or leggings as public clothing.

  37. Yes! Same for me, until my "real bad" depression hit a few years back. It was a life-altering thing I was in the middle of, so I was rethinking everything about myself, including unknowns to me...like how my sense of fashion correlates with portraying my status. And what my status even was.

  38. grew up poor and I absolutely agree with you--i could NEVER wear sweatpants in public. When I was really small and that was all we could afford (esp because I was the first child on both sides of my family, so no hand me downs), I remember feeling so ashamed that I wasn't in "real" clothes.

  39. Yes, we would not have been allowed to wear such casual clothing going out as kids and that's affected how I view leggings and athletic wear outside the home or gym. Now as an adult i find myself "dressing up" to go out anywhere and I just can't bring myself to totally get into athleisure.

  40. Yes. I wouldn’t be caught in a shopping centre wearing leggings or a tracksuit. Even wearing my jeans, converse and a t shirt I feel like I don’t look good enough to be existing in public even though these are normal everyday clothes. I try to tell myself I don’t need to look good everywhere I go because I really don’t.

  41. I was not poor (middle class) but I was raised like this. I had school/going out clothes and play/home clothes. I am still like this. I even have athleisure stuff I wear when I will be doing a lot of walking out in public (e.g. a long day at the mall, an amusement park, lots of errands) and then the athletic stuff I wear to work out. The many-years-old Wal Mart leggings are for working out and house work. The LuLus are outside clothes.

  42. I’m middle class (at times poor) and this isn’t some fake rah rah false positivity, but I don’t have any concept of dressing “above status“. So please wear your comfy athleisure! Imho the things that give status (thin, did you go to a highly selective school, are your kids high achievers, is your house tasteful, do you have cool experiences - adventurous travel, doing meaningful work) have nothing to do with clothes.

  43. I grew up poorer and in a city where people normally wore sweats to go to Target or general shopping. If I could, I'd wear sweats every day, because I am am about comfort. But...I like to have my clothes and shoes match, or at least be very complementary, and look really good.

  44. I was middle class growing up, but my mom wasn't. She would do full hair, makeup, nice jeans and top to go to the grocery store. So I feel like I'm in my jammies when I go out in athleisure.

  45. I think another aspect of it is that you take off your good clothes at home so that they last longer. I distinctly remember my mom buying me new socks and reminding me to take them off when I was barefoot around the house so I wouldn’t wear them out.

  46. Hmm. I started writing something longer but I realized there are two ways to slice it: within the 'fashion world' and in regular society. On the latter part: for many years I was fairly low income, like $1/day on food and biking 20 miles to work type of thing. I worked in an office where all of the other women were about 10 years ahead in their careers and financially comfortable. My shoes would wear out and I couldn't afford to replace them; I remember one day all of the other women in the office gathered to make fun of me for wearing the same shoes every day. There is so much shame and stigma attached to not earning a lot of money and a large number of people react by being fairly vicious about enforcing social norms. I remember hiding in the elevator shaft to cry.

  47. I had a different and positive experience. My first real job was an internship in a conservative and mainly man dominated company. Women were suppose to use high heels and button down shirts. I didn't own any of that, my boss never call me out on that. But on my birthday the older ladies took me out to lunch at mall and bought me shoes so I could wear at work. I will never forget that. Today I not at point to buy shoes, but I make sure to always have a intern from our balck and lower income program. And make sure they know how to behave and sometimes fake it to survive and grow in the company.

  48. I've been in poverty my entire adult life (as in on food stamps, moving every 6 months, having to ask a friend to cashapp me 60 cents to cover my bus fare poverty) but I grew up solidly middle class and the way I dress still reflects that. Clothing is only one small part of it though, I just think there are so many socialized aspects of class that when people look at me, including other poor people, they assume I'm middle class.

  49. There’s definitely a lot more to how you’re perceived than fashion and whether you’re wearing logos or not. Someone who isn’t from money can throw on all the Brunello Cucinelli and The Row that they want but there will be other signs that let people know whether or not they grew up in a similar class or environment. I definitely do not want to cheapen the discussion or make it completely superficial because I know it’s more complex than logos and brands

  50. My parents immigrated to the US when I was little, and though we struggled, we always had food on the table and my parents never let me know that we couldn’t do something because of money. I grew up with a healthy amount of respect to the value of money and hard work, but got shielded from the shame of not having money.

  51. I can tell a difference in how I am treated when I am dressed “up” versus wearing leggings and an oversized t shirt. I remain fully aware that dressing up will not guarantee respect or better service, but chances are the SAs in Neiman Marcus will flock to me when I’m dressed in a way that signals I am “one of them.”

  52. I'm incredibly interested in this discussion; I am an alcoholic who didn't work for years and had a very hard time returning to the workforce. Luckily I was referred to a non profit that helped me with my resume, taught me how to interview, then hooked me up with some awesome "professional attire" that was donated from some great women.

  53. Im a social work intern at a nonprofit like what you described. I just had a client last week who needed non slip shoes and collared shirts for a new job. It’s good to hear a success story :) personally, I really could have used programs like these in my early 20s when I was on my own without a clue.

  54. Thank you for bringing up Dapper Dan. I kind of want to discuss the popularity of certain brands among rappers (and now “new money Chinese”). People love calling the brands that cater to rappers or the eastern markets as tacky and gaudy. Gucci is one of the most popular brands mentioned in rap songs and surprise surprise it gets a lot of hate for not being cLaSsIc and tImEleSs which subscribed to very Eurocentric standards of what is and isn’t classy

  55. To be fair the three of them are all pretty nerdy dudes that don’t seem to have an interest in fashion.

  56. Absolutely! Wearing logos and recognizable luxury items was cool until Black people started doing it, and all of a sudden it’s “wealth whispers”. Nothing about it is subtle— it’s racism.

  57. Saw a young white guy casually shopping at a high-end retailer in a wealthy neighborhood...in his pajamas. Meanwhile, as a brown woman, I've been followed by cops in the mall while wearing everything from jeans and a tee shirt to expensive and branded jackets + shoes. I cannot imagine the extreme privilege of literally being able to wear your pajamas to the mall. How I present myself matters to me because I used to be a major tomboy growing up and people treated me very poorly when I dressed in jeans + tee shirt vs more expensive and "classy" clothes I wear now

  58. People have conniptions over black women’s bonnets in just about any setting but white men get to walk into literal stores in their pyjamas without harassment. And yet, people wonder why some of us care so much about what we wear and whether it’s “fitting” for the occasion/the setting/existing without being harassed.

  59. We were very firmly middle class growing up, mixed race and my parents gave us a really solid foundation for education, public speaking, social skills, etc. But my mom just had exactly zero style. Like even tho they really could have afforded even slightly nicer things, she insisted on wearing the crappiest, cheapest rayon-poly blend everything. She was raised kinda poor but my dad's family was just regular middle class boomers. She never taught me how to put on makeup, we went to a hair salon exactly once in my childhood and I cried so hard.... never taught me about skincare, manicures, or stylish clothing even if it was cheap. So as I got older and am decently well off now, not rich but comfortable, I still do so much at home... I do my own mani/pedis. I cut & color my own hair. And I wear dresses more often than not because I pretty much have no style either. I do buy pricier accessories, wallets, glasses, jewelry but I wish I knew how to create a stylish, comfortable outfit regularly.

  60. Idk why but all this talk about “old money” living quietly and “normally” makes me think of Marie Antoinette cosplaying a farmer in her hamlet

  61. I’d also like to include Asians, specifically Chinese, in the connection between wealth whispers. There seems to be a lot of anti blackness and anti Chinese sentiments when people discuss how loud certain brands are, or how certain fashion houses have really been focusing on the eastern market. Even the language some Hermes fans use when talking about who cheapens the brand is coded, specifically against black and Chinese consumers

  62. I hate how people blow air up old moneys butt like they are something to aspire too. Why would I want to look up to people born into wealth and didn’t have to work for it and most likely their ancestors acquired it by screwing someone over? I’d rather look up to new money people who earned it themselves at least

  63. I have a somewhat unique perspective in that I moved from Korea, where there isn't enough diversity for subtle racism like this, to the US when I was a teenager. It's always been extremely frustrating to me that Americans would classify me as "another nerdy Asian" within 0.1 seconds of meeting me before I even have a chance to say hello. I think even other Asian Americans are desensitized or haven't spent enough time as a non-minority population to pick up on this a lot of times.

  64. Ok so this has got to be my favorite Reddit thread! I’ve spent an hour reading and thinking. I’m Afro Latina and an immigrant. But my teenage years were spent reading ‘the clique’ and being very into similar media. My family is poor and dressing up was never a big deal for us..we had a handful of nice looking clothes from the mall and the rest from goodwill. It never bothered me because everyone else was poor/lower middle class too.

  65. To give an example of how deep racism can get, I went to high school in a predominately white area. They were contemplating on banning any imagery of the virgin Mary because of the small latino population may or may not link it to gang violence. As a Latina I tried to avoid wearing any red or blue. If you grew up in a hood u understood cholo culture and fashion (ex. dickies, plain plaid tshirts) but to the white teachers a v neck red flowly floral top with bell sleeves on a Latina was all the evidence they needed to treat u differently and drug search u. Couldn't wear too much monochrome for too many days or else they'd assume gang related. Couldn't use any one character (ex. Elmo backpack) for too long. Didn't want to braid my hair certain ways. Doesn't matter that I was shy, awkward, and in the nerd classes with glasses.

  66. I'm South Asian and my best friend is very middle class white. She often jokes that I 'dress like a basic white girl'. It bothers me because I have to dress like this to fit in. She gets to wear her fun prints and skirts etc because she does that and she's bohemian. If I wore my version of that, I would stick out like a sore thumb and probably not seen as professional or taken very seriously.

  67. Can I just say that I am REALLY enjoying this thread. It’s great to hear stories about people’s different backgrounds and experiences and also it’s really great to listen in on a sensitive discussion that could easily devolve into screaming and name calling but instead is nuanced and thoughtful. You guys are great 😊

  68. Everyone tries to look as not-poor as possible. Ideally, with a nice home. If you can't afford that, a nice car. If you can't afford that, nice clothing. And this last one is particularly fungible because there are many ways to cut corners: Like those Brooks Brothers suits my dad bought at Goodwill for $50 each, prompting his office coworker to say, "I wish I could afford to dress as well as you." But my dad was too afraid of losing face to brag about his lucky thrift find.

  69. Wow, this is so true. I'm still renting and can't yet afford to buy a nice home so I bought a nice-ish car. When I was still driving my 15 year old beater that had 200,000 miles on it and minor body damage, I could only afford decently nice clothes (albeit bought secondhand), so I invested money in my wardrobe. I guess we do the best we can with what we have, but I didn't even realize all my purchases are just a sad attempt to hide poorness lol.

  70. The topic of this post has been on my mind a lot recently, and while I could ramble on and on, I think a lot of what’s been on my mind has been said.

  71. You brought up great points. A lot of the gatekeeping comes across as people cosplaying as if they belong in a certain crowd. If they police fashion/style enough then they’ll prove they are in the know and will be accepted by people in that class. Sometimes the disdain for the wrong people having the status symbol is because their cheat code to cosplaying a certain class has been discovered

  72. Completely. The issue people have with replicas is really only partly ethical (conditions they’re made in, support of organized crime, etc.). They want to know where you stand on the social hierarchy by looking at you, and they’re offended that you can look the same as them without having done “the work”.

  73. It’s been mentioned around and doesn’t have to do with fashion so much, but a huge part of fitting in with wealthy is their social cues, their stance, topics of conversation, the insider language, and the little details that they take for granted. I’ve seen wealthy people try to “pass” in a working class environment and vis-versa. It’s like watching a lifelong homeschooled kid get thrown into high school - they’re not doing anything bold but the missing details scream “not us” regardless of what they wear.

  74. I definitely don’t want to make this conversation entirely superficial but there are definitely signs of someone’s class beyond the brands and clothes they wear. Everything from how you interact with people, when you start talking about your childhood and where you summered or wintered, your mannerisms to name just a few. They’re all giveaways

  75. The idea of "reverse passing" (or what is more insensitively called "slumming") is interesting to me! I (a genuinely middle class person or tippy toes upper middle maybe) worked for a downmarket call center out of necessity in 2010. I wore mall clothes + thrift store stuff like Gap skirts and a big old men's shirt, or a goofy 80's dress with Doc's, stuff like that. I fancied myself a "fashionista" and still do---I worked for an upscale boutique in 2008/9 and had a bunch of really nice stuff I'd gotten on last call sale or layaway and wore that on occasion too. I was talking to a coworker and mentioned that my dad sent me money every month (a relatively small amount) and he said "I knew you had money!" and nothing I said could convince him otherwise! I was working for 9.50/hr + commissions, believe me I didn't have "money"!

  76. Oh, this is fascinating. I've def been hit by the need to pass, desire to fit in, and benefits of dressing the part. I'm adopted and Latina, my parents are white upper-middle-class, but downplayed their actual financial status. They emphasized the social graces that had helped them, and it paid off for me.

  77. That or marketing has done a number on us lol I think it's completely possible that we end up really drawn to certain designs, brands or items because of how in our faces marketing can be. all over fb, instagram, pinterest, youtube, youtubers all coincidentally discussing or reviewing the same items at the same time. And some brands have been incredibly visible the last couple of years

  78. It's interesting to me because, through an accident of reddit browsing, I just jumped over to this from a mental health related discussion of how a lot of women find they have to actually tone down their fashion and dressing well in order to get help. And I have to admit this is something I've done as well - deliberately wear cheaper or less well fitting clothes, skip makeup and don't do much with your hair, and so forth. I've dealt with some similar stuff with needing welfare too, deliberately dressing down or not wearing nicer stuff (even if it was thrifted or otherwise gotten cheaply) so I didn't look like a cheat.

  79. A constant argument my mother and I get into is when I’m going to a doctors appointment, usually the psychiatrist or therapy and me trying to leave in sweats or leggings with no makeup on and her telling me I need to look decent. And I’m like hello, I’m about to go tell this person that my life is unraveling I feel like this is a reasonable time to be in my sweats.

  80. This is a really interesting topic. I feel like I have a bit of a unique perspective on this- I grew up pretty poor, had a single mother, etc. My dad’s family, who I don’t keep in contact with(parents got divorced when I was very young due to my dad’s addiction) are your typical Northeast old money family. I grew up always being the poorest in my friend group, including in college. I def felt pressure to dress up- not brands, specifically, but to wear clothes that looked a lot more expensive than they actually were. I felt like people would take me more seriously if I didn’t “look” homeless(which I was, for a short stint in college). I had good luck at thrift stores and got very skilled at picking out nice materials and fits without conspicuous logos. My friends who actually came from money didn’t seem to worry about this kind of stuff nearly as much. They had no problem wearing ratty sweats to class, they had nothing to prove. But dressing up for stuff like formals and job interviews seemed to come naturally in a way that didn’t for me.

  81. One thing I haven’t seen yet: if you’re fat/plus size, you’re going to have a much, much harder time “dressing the part” because anti-fat bias is so pervasive not only in regards to your actual body but what is even available to you as far as off-the-rack options.

  82. I was 100% looking for this comment. Being thin (as a woman) or being in shape (as either gender) plays a huge part in this. Having the right body type (along with shiny hair, good teeth and skin) is another way to distinguish between those who grew up with privilege vs. those who did not and who continues to be able to maintain it now. Just think of the difference between 2 women in their 40s dressed exactly the same but all their differences come from being able to spend freely on maintenance for their appearance including free time to work out. ETA- another piece that plays a lot into this is makeup. Having the 'right' makeup for the right occasion is also a dead giveaway.

  83. Perhaps its my bias but most fat people I see are white. I live in the UK so I don’t see a whole lot of black people so i can’t say for sure but I don’t see many fat black people.

  84. As the granddaughter of a woman who took the first Christmas bonus she ever got from her employer and bought a fur coat with it instead of saving it for something "more practical," I get this. In my bones. My grandmothers were the ones who held their families together financially - both of my grandfathers were prone to not-very-steady employment, investing in harebrained schemes, and/or losing their entire paycheck in poker games - and they drilled into me, from the time I was old enough to understand the English language, two things. 1. Women should not ever, ever depend on a man for money. 2. You can expect that people will judge you based on appearance, and so strive to be as elegant and attractive as you can be, because people will treat you differently if you look like you have money. Not everyone is born beautiful, but everyone can dress well and be well-groomed, even if the clothes come from the clearance rack and you set your hair yourself because you can't afford the beauty parlor.

  85. I’m Chinese. Most wealthy Chinese people are “new money”, the type that is looked down upon by westerners. (Actually all Chinese are looked down by westerners but that’s another discussion).

  86. A lot of the criticisms of logo mania are coded but very anti black and anti Chinese. The LV speedy was classy when Audrey Hepburn used it yet suddenly it’s not classy on PoC.

  87. I think that people are right when they say that knowing how to dress the part will get you far, but there's something about this paradigm, beyond the pragmatic level and into the emotional, that generates revulsion in me. I've made concessions, but I can't make myself fully step into the world of "dressing for success," and I can't fully explain it either. I could make some guesses, about how I grew up around a lot of richer folks and never felt like I fit in, but I never would have fit in with more money anyways. Dunno.

  88. I never saw the original post so I apologize if anything said here is repetitive, but I also find this topic pretty interesting and would like to voice some thoughts from my own perspective.

  89. Bit off topic but I work retail (in Canada) and I've been reading lately about the organized smash-and-grabs in SF, and particularly the Union Square area and holy shit man. I can see why you wouldn't want a literal target on your back, and all I can think is those poor employees are definitely not paid enough for this shit.

  90. ooof I also grew up in the bay area and I do think it depends on which area you grew up in. I grew up near the Bayview and clothing was not something we cared about. being clothed was already a luxury when everything we got was secondhand.

  91. As I've learnt a lot more going from poverty to less pov, I have actively now donated all of my 'thought they were posh clothes' with logos etc and now I buy the 'ethical' clothes on places like ebay.

  92. Weird, when I walk around nice areas in SF I see plenty of people of all ages and races sporting obvious designer bags. Gucci soho and marmont bags are pretty ubiquitous if you're going to brunch in a trendy spot.

  93. I moved to the bay area ~3.5 years ago, and joined a social group that has a lot of younger Chinese immigrants in tech, they wear a lot of off-white, Balenciaga, and Gucci as well. I also see these worn by people in my building (a high rise apartment in SF). I think most everyone doing so works in tech and probably has wealthy parents in China? I never really noticed these brands before hanging out with them, but now I own a few expensive pairs of shoes… kind of like what OP described as fitting in and such.

  94. My feeling is that Bay Area people don’t need brands to signal wealth. Company swag from a hot startup or FAANG says a ton more than an $8k Chanel bag. I think it’s peak SF to roll up at Lazy Bear wearing ripped jeans/Lululemon, Allbirds and a basic T-shirt. Also if you can be comfortable at work in athlesure why wear something less comfortable?

  95. I work in design and I am very sensitized towards branding and logos. I just never liked being a billboard for companies and I felt that the transaction of me purchasing an item was enough.

  96. I really appreciate this post. It’s made me think about fashion in regular society and how I connect with fashion. I’m in my mid twenties and am still learning to dress myself. I’m from an aggressively middle family and something that I have always struggles with is how to dress myself. Putting outfits together doesn’t come easily for me and I’ve always told myself I can’t wait until I’m older and can buy the clothes I want to wear and stuff like that. I’m still not at that point in my life but what everyone is saying about learning how to dress to fit in and faking it run you make it really resonates with me. My boyfriend is from an upper middle class family (family full of doctors) and so I always feel like I need to look more put together when I’m with him/them. This is a lot to think about that I never have before

  97. I've read something similar before. How lower class(income wise ofc) presents wealth with clothing, mid class with cars, upper with housing, and super rich with philanthrophy. I gotta say I mostly agree with these..tho the cars thing may be more of a male thing. I'd classify myself as low rn, and can definitely feel myself compensating with clothes--not even like big brands or anything, but just to look more put together. In a way, I'm investing in myself to make better first impressions I guess? Which is funny, because I rarely go out at all.

  98. I went to a middle class school but was very poor, my mother also had addiction issues and some serious depression so that left me wanting and nervous a lot of the time. What she did do was makes sure I dressed nicely, she took me to Limited Too and Express and made sure my teeth were nice/ I got braces etc.. it put her in debt but I was able to make friends whose parents had the resources to let me stay with them for long periods of time. They'd buy me presents and take me on vacation with them. I got to see how happy comfortable families looked. I got to see adults with meaningful careers and having fun. It took a lot of navigation from my part to be accepted in those families and my mom's insistence that I dressed nicely surely allowed me the initial access. If I hadn't had those families looking out for me and modeling happiness I know I wouldn't be where I am today. I really think my appearance helped save my mental health by giving me access to safe environments.

  99. In my view it's more of the cut of the clothes and way it drapes. I interpret it as: wealthy people have access to better designers, better advice and better cloth. Ergo, someone wearing clothes like that must be wealthy.

  100. It’s not a new thing, but what I am noticing more and more of is people who are neither new money or old money working overtime to preserve the exclusivity of old money. Also, the vocal disdain of logos because it’s not “timeless” or “classic.” As if there is only one correct to dress

  101. As a non-neurotypical person, the very first thing I understood about social life is that it's very hard to pretend to be cool, and your best bet is to pretend to have class privilege because if you seem wealthy (and more importantly, fit in with wealthy white culture) people will let you get away with things.

  102. All of this is true and it’s what annoys me so much about the people who make fun of others for wanting to “conform” to what they deem basic styles or basic, wealth-signaling items. If you’re a POC, fitting in visually is a question of survival and you usually can’t afford to make life or the office your runway, lest you draw negative attention and be punished for looking even more out of place than some feel you already do.

  103. I replied to someone else up thread, but agree so much with this comment. I’m a white passing POC and my mom grew up mixed in the 70s. For her it was imperative that I pass as white and she put so much effort into making sure i dressed like my “basic” white classmates. Nothing could signal we were black because she assumed we’d face hostility, like she did.

  104. This is something I have felt as well as POC and immigrant in a predominantly white country. But I did get tired to try and fit in since it was clear that my accent my skin tone and even my demeanor was never going to allow me to fit in. So recently I just said fuck it and started dressing more colorful, more daring, and you know, kinda lean in into the “I’m different” side of it. It has been a conversation starter and people tend to be weirdly positive about it. I dunno maybe it’ll play against me in the future.

  105. What you wrote reminded me of an article I read years ago that I can't seem to find and it was by this one latina New Yorker who wore almost exclusively white and pastels. What I took away from it was that wearing white and pastels allowed her to not be seen as potentially suspicious or threatening. I can't remember if she viewed that as problematic or not that she felt she had to do that in the first place.

  106. I just wrote a long comment basically saying the same thing but as somebody who's been an actual FOB, I agree 100%. Though in my case (East Asian rather than black), dressing not-basic was more helpful because people would immediately assume I spent all my day studying math or some shit and didn't have a personality. I didn't manage to hack it while I was in college (wore uniforms in high school) so I don't have a lot of friends from that era.

  107. What a good thread. I grew up lower middle class in a town where the cost of living is usually below the national average. When I got to HS my parents divorced so I became pretty much just low income. I was anxious about my clothing choices back then because they made me an outcast among others who could afford to dress better and participate in more activities. That only got worse when I got into a small college where the Uber wealthy send their kids. I’m talking a prince of small European country went there right before I entered! At that point I had to lean in to being the outcast but man my anxieties about looking poor only got worse. Now as an adult I try to invest in sturdy name brand items mostly for quality but also because I think they make me come off wealthier. And now that I’m in my hometown again it has more of an affect than if I was say, in a wealthy alcove of the northeast.

  108. I totally feel this. I live in a more rural/agricultural area but there’s some definite wealth divides here. Not to the extent of places like San Fransisco but it’s still apparent. I recently moved to a rental in one of the more affluent parts of town (doctors and people who’s families own the ag businesses here), and it’s taken me a bit of time to “catch up” in terms of what’s in vs what’s out. Now everyone knows I’m not “one of them”, and I’m not trying to pass it off as tho I am— but I’ve definitely made a bid to fit in. Athleasure is big here— some lulu and OV but still a big affinity for Patagonia and north face. Under armor as well. But it’s still very put together and not loud. Also, I’ve noticed people tend to repeatedly wear things— they don’t own a huge closet of clothes. This is in contrast to the more middle class parts of town where ladies are always dolled up and have mountains of clothes.

  109. I am a big thrifter and second hand buyer - Poshmark, goodwill, eBay, consignment stores, etc. I consider it a hobby as well as a method to buying nicer quality clothes at a price point I can afford. At this point more than half of my clothes were thrifted, the other half gifts or bought on sale. I don’t buy full price except for the “essentials” - bras, undies, etc.

  110. I'm right there with you. I went to a good school and cracked the codes on looking like I belong due to a mother who had tailoring skills.

  111. I pay meticulous detail to every single item I wear, down to the labels whether a logo is showing or not. I'm 36 years old and from NYC... it would would just be foolish and stupid to act like this shit doesn't matter at this point.

  112. Can you explain more about prole drift and how it influenced your clothing choices? It’s the first time I’ve heard that term so I’m intrigued. Like you, I also pay a lot of attention to every detail of every item I wear so I’d like to learn more from you

  113. As someone who lives in a rich area of California, I've seen the inverse of this: tech workers who make six figures at a job they attend with greasy badly washed hair and pajama pants. Who then buy something from a Starbucks barista for whom absolutely none of that would fly.

  114. I dress smarter, more polished and more understated (very into fifties fashion) because I grew up poor. I get treated better if I'm more polished, and because it's a style that gets coded "old money"- understatement, tailoring etc. I love it aesthetically, but the difference it makes socially is depressing.

  115. It is an unfair reality. When I upgraded my style (in part thanks to this forum!), the way I was perceived and received was noticeable in every aspect of my life (professional, family, friends, strangers). It matters how you dress.

  116. I’m probably a bit late for this discussion but did want to add an additional comment. Noting that my basic position is fashion, like most things, is classist, racist, ableist, and exploitative of both people and the environment. That said, I still love fashion. I’m regularly drawn to the aesthetic beauty and care shown when selecting clothes.

  117. I am from a wealthier family, in comparison to a lot of people, especially in the area of the country my family mainly lives in...one thing I've noticed is the difference between generations. I'm 32 and even my peers and those just slightly older than us tend to gravitate towards "quieter" luxury and most of us have been that way our whole lives. The younger kids (teenagers...so, zoomers, idk) are much flashier and comfortable with branded stuff. However, they largely are into second hand and vintage stuff. My cousin can show up to Thanksgiving with a $10,000 bag but the fact that it was purchased new is the real issue for her kids. They have zero problem wearing expensive things as long as they buy them from the Real Real or other second hand sites. It's a kind of performative rejection of consumerism that I'm interested in watching play out over time...

  118. I needed to read this. I have nothing to say but thank you. I learn so much from these discussions. That last bit about aging hippies vs. aging black panthers hit me, having been one myself in the corporate environment. It needs to be a bumper sticker.

  119. This is one of the best, most thoughtful things I've ever read on reddit. Thanks so much for starting the discussion.

  120. As a brown person, it always makes me sad seeing how differently people treat me versus when I'm dressed up and when I'm dressed down in public. I've always loved fashion, but there was a period of my life where I just kinda stopped caring about my appearance. People definitely weren't as nice or chatty with me versus when I used to put a lot of care into my appearance.

  121. I'm white, but I navigate classism through the way I dress. I can never wear designer brands, but I always focus on clothes that look classy and timeless (knee length dresses, conservative little cardigans, a trench coat etc).

  122. I’m very interested to see what others have to say. Personally I try to shy away from trends and logos and popular brands. I go for a classic style or athleisure. Super interested to follow this discussion.

  123. Oof. This is an interesting article that made me rethink the way I thought about this subject in a way I hadn't before. I can't quite relate to the idea of purchasing name brands for survival purposes but I can relate to the idea of, say, being a woman and feeling the pressure to "dress up" to impress - I could just wear a basic shirt and dress pants for an interview, but will I get a better reaction from the interviewer if I wear eyeliner? If I wear heels instead of flats? A skirt or a dress instead of pants? What you wear inevitably affects how people see you, and I think the author is correct - there are layers of difference between being simply "presentable" and being highly fashionable (by the standards of whatever circle you're trying to impress - class, race, or gender), and it can feel like that extra effort might help override some of the inherent biases against you in a social or professional interaction.

  124. Buying secondhand takes a lot of time, what is available depends on your region, and leaves out a LOT of plus sized folks because our current retail system leaves them out to begin with. I put a lot of effort into my outfits - into choosing my clothing from new and secondhand items, garment care, ironing and steaming my clothes, vacuuming my closets several times a month to kill clothing moths - but being working class is fucking EXHAUSTING and it’s not “mindless” for people to make what they feel are the best choices they should make to survive. I mean we are literally going to work during a global pandemic and climate crisis!

  125. I was thinking about this the other day and how messed up it can be. Honestly, no matter how much money I have, I will always keep buying second hand clothing. I have never understood spend $200+ on a clothing item. That money could go to so many other things. I was thing yesterday about how I want my tongue pierced but always decide against due to the stigma around it. Growing up it was always a stereotype that only "trashy" people had tongue rings. This is a very interesting topic as to why certain things are grate kepted to certain groups.

  126. I strongly disagree with much of what you’ve written here, which is fine we can disagree, but it really strikes me that people continue to attach some moral imperative to aesthetic choices

  127. I think the article isn’t saying that these poor people are brand obsessed for the sake of being brand obsessed, but they know certain brands will give off a certain image and they need that image to succeed. So other people may perceive them as being shallow or status conscious but they’re really just trying to use what’s available to them.

  128. I have a range of clothes from dollar store to luxury. Generally I think you get what you pay for even though it isn’t always the case. I like the idea of people just buying and wearing what they like/ what looks good on them rather than dressing to show off wealth.

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