How The Quiet Luxury and Stealth Wealth “Trends” Can Be Your Secret Style Weapon

by Karlton Miko Tyack  |  in Trendy Fashion

You’ve very likely seen this phrase several times at this point. Maybe it was on fashion TikTok or in a print magazine discussing the end of Succession. So. What exactly is stealth wealth anyway?

What is it in practice, and how does that affect the style associated with it? What’s its relationship to other adjacent hashtags, like old money aesthetic and quiet luxury? And most importantly, why does it matter to YOU, and how can you use the principles to improve your own personal style?

We’ll be exploring these questions and others related. By the end of this, you’ll know if stealth wealth style is for you, and if it isn’t, what helpful style practices anyone can take from it.

stealth wealth example of a basic outfit that costs a lot

What is stealth wealth?

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The overall meaning of stealth wealth is the practice among the very rich of inconspicuous consumption

This means living and looking like you’re at a lower tax bracket, at least in the community of your primary residence. So maybe, you run around this community in a T-shirt and jeans, you drive a decent Chevy, and your house is a standard but respectable size. 

But, unbeknownst to those around you, you have houses in Napa, St. Barts, and Provence — and a private jet to take you there.

Why do the rich practice stealth wealth?

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One of the reasons this practice came about is security, since those with high net worths are always potential targets for theft and so on. Society-wise, there are times when it’s more socially acceptable for the rich to look rich, and times when it’s less socially acceptable.

The early aughts, pre-financial crisis, when Kanye West was calling himself the Louis Vuitton Don and Paris Hilton was putting Swarovski crystals all over her sidekick, is an example of the former. Meanwhile, 2023, when people in England are debating the relevance of a monarchy, is an example of the latter.

And of course, just because someone is rich, doesn’t mean they care about style or fashion. This, however, doesn’t mean they don’t care about premium quality.

Is stealth wealth the same as old money aesthetic?

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No, they aren’t the same thing. To use another trending term, they’re both forms of “quiet luxury.” But, while the old money aesthetic is meant to imply a specific lifestyle (one that involves equestrianism, racket sports, and boarding schools), stealth wealth is a bit more anonymous.

The overlap between the two is a focus on an understated style and tones, and a resistance to trends, big logos, and general ostentatiousness.

  • So a casual old money aesthetic outfit might involve a white rugby shirt, cream shorts, and leather boat shoes.
  • Meanwhile, a stealth wealth outfit might involve a gray t-shirt, gray joggers, and simple white sneakers (these are two hard-leaning examples, for effect).

Real old money aesthetic can be musty, while stealth wealth is simply plain.

One thing they both have in common, is the person attempting to embody the style must project a sense of confidence. 

A person sporting a stealth wealth look may be wearing unassuming, unsigned white sneakers, but he, and those in the know, understand that they’re made with the best Italian calfskin and that the black accents on the back collars mean they’re Ferragamo

What is stealth wealth in terms of fashion, personal style, and popular culture?

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Some think of this as another coming of minimalism. Remember, long before Kendall Roy in Succession and Gwenyth Paltrow courtcore, there was actual normcore and wildly rich Silicon Valley types running around in T-shirts and jeans.

For present-day stealth wealth style, three important tenets include plainness, high quality, and the concept of saving time.

Kendall Roy in a nondescript outfit that costs somewhere in the five figures. Screencap HBO via GQ.

There’s a lot of basics made with the best materials, and sometimes unexpectedly luxurious materials. T-shirts made of the finest fibers to exemplify the former, a cashmere hoodie for the latter. Oft-used colors include gray, black, navy, and camel.

When everything in your closet is a non-distinct essential, most of the garments can be worn together. You can literally dress in the dark and come out the other end looking normal.

There are also zero brand logos, though winks and nods at other stealth wealth-types are common. It’s sort of like how there’s a million low-profile minimalist white leather sneakers out there, all with the same basic look, but only Common Projects Achilles have that small gold stamp.

Opposing views: What’s the point of stealth wealth style?

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There are three common criticisms towards this style movement.

Criticism #1: What a Bore

The first and most common criticism is that the stealth wealth aesthetic is bland and that it has no personality. I’ve seen impassioned and understandable, but often, misplaced hate when it comes to the plainness of stealth wealth.

Fashion is subjective. If you don’t like plain looks, the stealth wealth aesthetic isn’t for you.

Some have even accused this form of quiet luxury as simply the rich playing a joke on everyone else—like they’re tricking aspirational kids into dressing boring or something. They don’t really care enough about how everyone else is dressing for this theory to have legs.

Criticism #2: Spending Insane $$$, Just Because

The second most common criticism is that the phenomenon of stealth wealth is simply rich people buying extremely expensive clothes, indiscernible from cheaper alternatives, just for the sake of spending money. This is half true.

Remember that one of the stealth wealth tenets is saving time. What’s really happening here is that this specific set of rich people are paying a wildly outsized premium to save time.

Yes, a cashmere hoodie or even a well-stitched pima cotton shirt should be more expensive than a cotton blend piece, the components of which were probably indiscriminately cut for efficiency. But should it be a thousand dollars more? Of course not.

If you don’t care about looking interesting, but still want a quality garment, and you’re exceedingly wealthy, you have a dramatically different relationship to time and opportunity cost than most people when buying clothes.

A person who can spend 20 minutes drafting a business pitch that might bring in a million dollars would rather spend his time doing just that. It takes two minutes to buy a thousand-dollar cashmere shirt from Bottega Veneta, a brand he and those like him trust.

He’s not going to spend the 20 minutes it might take to draft said pitch, to instead look for shirt deals, hacks, dupes, or to figure out if this other $300 shirt is just as good. He trusts that Bottega already figured this out for him.

Criticism #3: Should We Just Copy What The Rich Do?

The third and final criticism is the most understandable. Why do we want to look plain and bland just because rich people are doing it?

No one should do something solely because others are. Still, if you want an easy, plain, trend-resistant but still modern style, and you want to inject a discerning quality into it, stealth wealth isn’t a bad place to look for inspiration.

You can reap the benefits of dressing bland, of which, there are several.

How does one dress in a stealth wealth way?

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Remember, the point isn’t to dress “interestingly,” not in the visual sense at least. The way to do this, first off, is basically to stick to essentials, like t-shirts, pull-overs, simple bomber jackets, jeans, linen pants, and so on. 

The easier the better. A pull-over is better than a cardigan because buttons take time. Relatedly, zip-ups are a great choice too.

Second, is going for the most leveled-up versions of these essentials. For example, pima cotton is softer and stronger than regular cotton. Even beyond that, anything that can be made with cotton can also be made with cashmere.

Stealth wealth is never extra with its aesthetics, but can go the extra mile when it comes to material and garment architecture

Here are some examples:

  • $500 Loro Piana baseball caps made not only of cashmere, but only the best, finishes cashmere from baby goats in Mongolia
  • $1000 Brunello Cucinelli button-ups
  • $750 Ferragamo white leather sneakers
  • Any simple thing you can get custom-made. Literally all of Mark Zuckerberg’s t-shirts are custom

Since all of the pieces are simple and basic, they should look like they’re doing their job better than any other garment.

For example, the more structure on a t-shirt, the better. The Row makes fine wool t-shirts that almost look like their sweater-level thick, but it’s just its well-fortified build.

Your jackets should look like they’re keeping you warm, but providing you mobility, meaning they’re thickly-built but sophisticatedly sewn. 

The patterned texture on a waffled shirt should match perfectly at every seam.

And when it comes to colors, in addition to the prior-mentioned neutrals, monochromes work too.

What are some quiet luxury / stealth wealth brands?

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A lot of people in this style category have their go-to non-mainstream brand. Below are a mix of high-end clothiers with tons of offerings when it comes to simple and essential pieces.

How to dress in a stealth wealth kind of way, without being wealthy

It’s actually easy to get the stealth wealth look when it comes to the broad strokes of it. It’s literally just dressing simply.

Stick to menswear neutrals and silhouettes that fit and frame your body type appropriately (aka wear your actual sizes, don’t go baggy or skinny). Go for tonal looks like all black, all olive, all creams or whites, and all browns, tans, or khakis.

At places like COS, Everlane, MANGO, Massimo Dutti, or Frank & Oak, you can find a lot of well-structured clothes that give the same vibe (though not the same quality) of the higher-end brands above. You can even occasionally find 100% cashmere at Uniqlo.

SuitSupply is a good place to go treasure hunting, as they often even offer shirts that are blends, and therefore not super expensive, but incorporating higher-end materials, like a silk-wool-cashmere shirt. Bonobos is another good place to dig through.

Something you might want to consider is investing in one or two pieces that can easily be worn with different outfits.

If you aren’t the hypothetical stealth wealth guy who’d rather be closing a million dollar deal than looking for high-value finds, doing some due diligence can help you unearth worthwhile investments to serve as the anchors to your value-focused stealth wealth closet.

Whether you like fashion or hate it, we can all agree that functional, understated basics work—and that taking a little time to ensure they’re flattering and decent quality will save us time and effort.

Wrapping Up: What can we learn from the stealth wealth style trend?

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First off, it’s not really a trend. In a way, stealth wealth is repackaged and slightly remixed, but definitely taking from past minimalist fashion eras.

It’s a great way to dress because it’s not in-your-face, the silhouettes are tame, and you’re not likely to misfire. At the very least, it can be used as a solid foundation, a well put-together blank canvas that you can make your own by adding elements that are more you.

Ultimately, making sure your most basic pieces of clothing are the best they can be is a net positive. The uber wealthy simply have a bigger budget, and again, a different opportunity cost, when it comes to how they ensure their basics are good.