Ever since the Average Joe figured out that the grey shirts worn by Mark Zuckerberg on a daily basis are not the ones found on the “For Sale” aisle in Walmart but custom-made Brunello Cucinelli shirts that cost about $300 per T-shirt, he has figured out a way to dress exactly like the multi-millionaires and billionaires that are found to be trapezing around the world in their private jets and fancy cars.
The term “Old Money’’ has found its way into social media platforms and even fashion jargon at this point of time, of which the most success should be attributed to the brilliant show Succession. Ever since Tom Wambsgans made fun of Greg’s date by saying, “Because she’s bought a ludicrously capricious bag. What’s even in there, huh? Flat shoes for the subway?”, the term has found itself to be the topic of viral TikTok videos, where influencers explain how being rich means buying brands which don’t need to be advertised by their appearance, and how the Roy Family is “Old Money” enough to afford this expensive taste.
Sadly, as probably most things on social media, the meaning, the message, and the interpretation are all wrong (special shout out to Community Notes on Twitter – sorry, X – for taking this matter seriously) and depict a picture that is much farther away from the truth itself.
To begin to describe the concept itself, we must clarify what money, or rather, wealth, means. The best example for it has given by Thomas Picketty, French economist and the author of “Capital and Ideology” (2013), which deals with how the two concepts (of Capital and Ideology) have shaped human history. Furthermore, in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2014), he says, “For millions of people, ‘wealth’ amounts to little more than a few weeks’ of wages in a checking account or low-interest savings account, a car, and a few pieces of furniture. The inescapable reality is this: wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence, so that some people imagine that it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities.”
So, what does this mean? Well, going back to our Average Joe, having a few extra dollars in his bank account will probably earn him a guilt-less trip to a Taco Bell where he can finally order an extra Crunchwrap Supreme, but for those who have accrued such enormous wealth over generations spanning hundreds of years, it just means an increase in the power and influence they already wield, and will continue to do so.
This brings me back to an article I wrote previously on how Blackrock controls pretty much a third of the global economy, and how only a few people are aware about its existence in the first place. Blackrock might actually not be the perfect example for Old Money, considering it was founded in the latter half of the 20th Century, but it goes as far as to make a good example of what wealth actually looks like.
If we need to look at better, and significantly better-known families, we should cast our vision at the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, but even they are part of the category that do not fit what the term tries to encapsulate, at least not fully.
So, what really does Old Money mean?
Well, it was Coldplay who said it best – “I’ve been reading books of old, the legends and the myths.” Therefore, we must do the same. Old Money doesn’t mean people or families that have become rich over the course of a few centuries. It refers to those lineages, family trees and/or bloodlines, the people of which have become monarchs, emperors, or even religious leaders.
For instance, let us look at the house of Saxe-Coburg, or to be more accurate, the Saxon Duchies. The members of this “house” were ruled by the members of the Ernestine branch of the house of Wettin. Well, what was the house of Wettin? The family’s lineage traces back to the start of the 10th Century AD, and over the centuries, the house of Sax Coburg reached unprecedented heights wherein one of them became the king of the Belgians, or as you may know him, Leopold I, while another member of the family named Albert married the British queen Victoria in 1840 (yes, THE Queen Victoria), and was the ancestor of five successive British sovereigns. Later in 1917, the house of Sax Coburg changed its name to the house of Windsor. And what is the House of Windsor? Well, they’re the reigning house of the United Kingdom, or as the newspapers call them, the Royal Family.
Now if we compare the real meaning of the term to an Instagram reel which just shows random fashion aesthetics on blond haired men, it does show a complete lack of context, and well, good content creation. Furthermore, the bastardized usage of the term in popular culture has also ruined what it actually stands for, which is the fact that you might not be able to afford a vacation to Lake Como this year or the next in the same way rich people do, no matter how many streams you might get on your Twitch Channel.
So, the next time you come across the term, remember to thank Tom Wambsgans, and to realise just how broke we all really are. Old Money Aesthetic Old Money Aesthetic