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On elegance vs. luxury and exclusivity

Given the sort of topics we entertain on this website, it seems evident that our devoted editors at Wonderland City are not exactly riven by introspection and self doubt.  Champagne, handsome ladies in evening gowns and acres of polished marble are more our thing.

But if there is one niggling concern that keeps us up late at night, long after gleaming of a soirée, is that we may be guilty of the deadly sin of pride.  As the proverb states: “pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” 

You can see our dilemma.  Painstakingly renovated period interiors, attentive service, fine wines and elegant settings do not come cheaply.  And when we enjoin our readers to “be part of the spectacle”, rather than spectators, that also implies a certain tone in demeanour and garb.  Manners are mercifully free, but smart grooming is not.  Just where do we get off, singing the praises of The Wolseley or the Beaufort Bar, when plenty of people struggle financially with much more immediate preoccupations?

Don’t be this guy

Some humility is in order, surely.  This little website is not about political economy, nor about grand sociological trends.  At the more challenging levels of economic penury, where obtaining basics is a struggle, nearly everything else is a ‘luxury’.  At the same time, we submit that on occasion a reasonably solvent person might choose quality over quantity.  No one we know breakfasts at Fischer’s daily or uses the Coral Room as their ‘local’.  They are special places for special times.

This is not for all of the people, all of the time, but most can access it some of the time (The Ned)

So, we humbly submit that seeking elegance is not the same as pursuing luxury and certainly has very little to do with exclusivity.  Luxury is intrinsically linked to great expense and show.  Elegance overlaps with that a little, but it is arguably defined by narrower parameters.  Elegance, to our thinking, implies a degree of personal effort, a reserve or obliquity of manner, above all the application of knowledge.  The choices required by elegance have monetary implications only indirectly.  Not so luxury, to which obvious expense is central.  Not everything of value is a luxury. And not all luxuries are of value to us, indeed some can seem vulgar.

This is luxuriously bling but not, to our eyes, particularly elegant (XS Club, Las Vegas – nomen omen)

With equal humility but perhaps even stronger determination, we affirm that elegance has very little commonality with the conceits of exclusivity.  It is an article of faith with us that everyone can be comparatively elegant, if they so choose, and that elegance is the opposite of a zero-sum game.  Indeed, we would much rather be in an elegant space surrounded by many (all?) stylish people than be resplendent in a small set among people that see no point in making an aesthetic effort.

Put differently, many of today’s most exclusive spots are very distant from our idea of refinement.  Also, on the whole, less cool-and-connected punters are more likely to spruce up a bit when splurging on a special occasion while the global plutocrat class is distinctly uninterested in rising sartorially to the level of their surroundings.  Indeed, one of the more pleasing aspects of the vintage and classic style community, in our opinion, is the ability and desire to flourish sartorially without incurring great expense. So, no, we have zero interest in exclusivity per se.

“We must never confuse elegance with snobbery” (Yves Saint Laurent)

1 thought on “On elegance vs. luxury and exclusivity”

  1. I recently purchased a Victorian frock coat for less than the cost of the cheapest seats at a Premier League soccer match. Elegance requires care, thought and learning. However, I agree that it does not necessarily require expense.

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