Personal finance

‘Quiet luxury’ is alive and well in 2024. Here’s why the old money style is so hard to shake

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Actress Gwyneth Paltrow enters the courtroom for her trial in Park City, Utah, March 24, 2023.
Rick Bowmer | Getty Images

Quiet luxury” is back under a new name: old money style.

The quiet luxury trend, marked by expensive materials in muted tones, caught on in a big way after Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski accident trial last March, even when most Americans were living paycheck to paycheck.

At the start of the new year, “loud budgeting” was seemingly the antidote — encouraging consumers to take control of their finances and make money-conscious decisions, rather than modeling purchase behaviors after celebrities and their bottomless pockets.  

But experts say quiet luxury is still alive and well, although the emphasis is now on “old money,” which is still expensive but grounded in a timeless, classic look and lifestyle — with or without the generational wealth.

What is ‘old money style’?

“We are enamored with the old money style and its easy-to-wear classic clothes, it’s familiar and comforting,” said Sonya Glyn, editor of Parisian Gentleman, an online fashion blog, and host of “Sartorial Talks” on YouTube.

Quiet luxury, classic prep and even “mob wife” all fall under the old money aesthetic, which is reflective of the current economic climate, according to Glyn.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, Americans’ financial circumstances became increasingly divided during the so-called K-shaped recovery, which left the wealthiest Americans even better off than before.

Unlike other periods of prosperity, quiet luxury is rooted in understated colors and high-end craftsmanship rather than the bold color palette and flashy logos of previous economic peaks that were felt more broadly nationwide.

“It was a combination of discretion and snobbery,” Glyn said.

At the same time, the trend hit on a formula that works and is easily replicated with neutral tones or completely monochromatic looks.  

Why quiet luxury won’t go away

Young adults, especially, are becoming more conscious about buying pieces that can survive more than one season, according to Thomaï Serdari, professor of marketing and director of the fashion and luxury program at New York University’s Stern School of Business. 

In many ways, it’s the antithesis of fast fashion, which has a very well-known sustainability problem and environmental toll largely due to significant greenhouse gas emissions and the introduction of cheaper plastic fibers. 

“That is the new mindset that has allowed quiet luxury to stick around a little longer,” Serdari said.

Even budget-conscious consumers can achieve a “big money” look by shopping for vintage clothing and accessories secondhand, Glyn said. “The idea is to buy things that last,” she said.

“It’s still quiet luxury because you are still buying high-level items,” Glyn added. “It’s glamorous.”

More from Personal Finance:
Nearly half of young adults have ‘money dysmorphia’
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This type of quiet luxury is “overdue,” Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida, recently told CNBC.

As persistent inflation makes many Americans feel stretched too thin, it’s time to shift away from a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.

“Find quality things that last a lot longer — that’s better than throwaway pieces,” said McClanahan, who also is a member of CNBC’s Advisor Council.

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