The Lost-Money Look

Eminently suited menswear author G. Bruce Boyer has opined eloquently about the Old Money Look. But now with the economy completely FUBAR, both old and new money can finally schlep around together in the Lost-Money Look.

To get the look, simply stop buying new clothes for the next five years.

Wear your shirts until they’re frayed, your tweed until it looks like an ancient oriental rug, your footwear until it has that Boston Cracked Shoe look. Since you won’t be living well off the land (in fact, you might be sleeping on it), you will also lose weight during this time, so discard any clothes that don’t fit. You’ll wear out the remaining clothing even faster.

The American economy is largely kept afloat by people buying things they don’t need, often with money they don’t have. So the effect of our collectively adopting the Lost-Money Look will be to drag out the economy’s FUBAR status another five years, for a grand total of 10 years of no new clothing purchases.

The light at the end of this tunnel is that you will look far cooler than you ever have before. Isn’t the worst thing about WASP 101 the unforgivable newness of his wardrobe?

Yes, at the end of a decade of retail abstention, with your leisure time spent reading Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” and drinking cheap bourbon, you might just look as cool as these vagabond prep-school grads hopping a plane to Singapore just to find a job in finance.

The poor chap on the right can’t even afford socks. — CC

(Photo from the January 1988 issue of M. While not buying clothes for the next 10 years, be sure to visit the websites of the retailers listed in the Merchants column at right.)

30 Comments on "The Lost-Money Look"

  1. I remember this photo well. M Magazine is much missed indeed; I still have a few issues-wish I’d kept them all. They had a good article on “The American Look”, among many others.

  2. Did you just feel the need to take a stab at WASP 101? That sentence just came out of blue, and it doesn’t flow. I am 30 years old, and when I am 60 my clothes will be worn. I am sorry that I don’t buy already used articles of clothing from ebay.

  3. Yes, I did feel the need.

  4. I too love a bit of scruff around the edges of my finery…builds character. Any chump can wear something fresh and new, but it takes some flair to pull of the look of good clothes a day past prime.

    I’ve even heard stories of the old timers buying new clothes and giving them to thier valet to wear for a year or two first, because thier was something abit tacky about brand newness.

    Once upon a time, ‘Yankee Thrift’ was a prized virtue, and what better way to show it than wearing your Grandfather’s worn out and slightly ill-fitting tweeds.

    p.s. not to be a pain, but that shot at the WASP was a bit un-called-for. We all knowhow easily excitable he can be.

  5. Giuseppe, your work has been the needed inspiration to get me back into thrift store hunting. I don’t seem to have the luck you do out in Boston, but I’ve made decent enough finds and the hopes of happening upon a Barbour jacket for $15 keep me going.

  6. Best post yet, fellows. I was feeling a bit anxious this morning about those loose threads sprouting from my shirt cuffs. But no more.

    Too bad Richard has his cream trousers in a wad. No doubt his tweed Teddy will be a comfort.


  7. the photo shown, features in the book “jocks and nerds” by Richard Martin and Harold Koda published 1989. funny i was flicking through it just the other day.

    not sure about carrying the shabby chic through to the wardrobe, OK leather and denim up to a point looks good with a little patina ……… but a line needs drawing and staying the correct side of.

  8. News alert: If you are trying to emulate this style and have to read an article about this …you are an outsider.

  9. Alert, if you read the article and didn’t notice the tongue-in-cheek tone, you may be an outsider to the English language.

  10. Setting aside tongue placement issues, I like clothes that have a certain lived-in look: rumpled, no-starch shirts, baggy un-ironed chinos with shadowy, mysterious stains, and old gun boats with a patina and deep wrinkles.

    In particular, I believe one’s boat shoes should appear to have been on a boat. They should be a scruffy tan or brown that marks one as a sailor or fisherman, not a shiny turquoise or pink that confirms your are a mindless preppy/twit.

  11. This article appeared ten years ago, but many/most readers seem to have ignored CC’s advice, tongue-in-cheek though it may have been. I took it seriously, and am certainly still far better dressed than those poor souls who are addicted to buying things that are far worse than what was available ten years ago.

  12. Christian- I’ve been worried about you this year, by which I mean thiis business about ‘being nice to people you started talking about last January 1st. So I’m reassured to see you having a pop at old 101 again. Compliments of the season – Andy

  13. True…
    …,but “old” doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the going look among the bourgeois (including both petite and haute) middle class–sweatpants, running shoes,untucked flannel shirts and ill-fitting pants. “Old” can can give off a “Lost Money” vibe…or a “never had money in the first place” vibe…or, perhaps worse (?), a “never bothered to care very much” vibe.

    If “never bothered to care” (NBtC) is the new Ivy, then, among American cities, Cambridge, New Haven, and Princeton earn top rank.

    The look in the picture isn’t Old Money Ivy. Maybe it was once upon a time. Nowadays that’s call “Game Day-at-a-Southern College (or University).”

  14. Jonathan Sanders | December 21, 2018 at 9:25 am |

    I’ve seen this photo before. Would love to know it’s provenance. I saw Richard M’s comment hinting it was an editorial shot for M magazine. When I first saw it, I thought there was no way it could be authentic. It was too pitch perfect. Can you shed any light on it?

  15. Old School Tie | December 21, 2018 at 9:55 am |

    Now I need someone to stitch up my sides. Stagflation, Ivy style…..hilarious. Personally, I hate new looking stuff, so eBay and charity shops suit me just fine.

  16. Several years ago I was taken as an escort by a female friend to her law firm’s Christmas party. At the time I was studying for my doctorate. One of her young friends at the firm, a polished, slick haired arriviste, decked out in the ultra-slim, narrow-tie fashion of the day, made a comment that he could tell I was still a ‘student’ given the fraying thread on the front pocket of my checked wool trousers (which I had for years, and indeed still have). Bemused, I asked him to remind me of his name. Then I looked him up and down and said, “Yes, well, *Tyler*, not all of us had to spend our first paycheck on an entirely new wardrobe.” My female friend was similarly amused, she and I having grown up together (her last name was shared by the firm, as she was a fifth-generation member). Tyler sensed something had been implied, but overall remained blind to his own gaucheness. I’m sure at this very moment he’s posting .jpg images of his new ‘purchases’ on some vulgar reddit group.

  17. I’m pleased to hear that Bruce Boyer is concerned about those who poor Americans who cannot afford to buy his $600 non-Ivy shirts from Marol of Italy. What’s next from Bruce? Boyer branded jackets in collaboration with Rubinacci at $5000 a pop? Old money or just a waste of money?

  18. Charlottesville | December 21, 2018 at 11:34 am |

    Thanks for re-posting this Christian. I don’t recall seeing it when it first appeared in 2008. Nevertheless, I seem to have been following this advice for quite some time without even realizing it. I am delighted to discover that, despite still wearing BB suits I bought in 1987, OCBDs with stray threads sprouting from the cuffs, tatterdemalion tweeds, thrift-shop finds, baggy khakis, cords and flannels, and wrinkly leather longwings and loafers, I am not, after all, a penurious ragamuffin. I am cool. Who knew? Can’t wait to tell my wife. Also, like many others, I really miss M Magazine, but fear that it could not succeed today (c.f., what has become of Esquire).

  19. Bravo, RBM!

  20. Vern Trotter | December 21, 2018 at 3:47 pm |

    I recently gave away around 100 Brooks OCBD shirts purchased pre 1980 and all had frayed collars and cuffs. Many not that bad, though. Within an hour of listing on an Upper West Side site, a Columbia student with a very nubile, young and puckish lady friend arrived at my door to claim. I am happy a nice home was found.

  21. I hardly think Christian’s comment was a “shot” at WASP 101, whoever he is. Grow thicker skin!

  22. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the more worn/rumpled look. Maybe because I’m more worn and rumpled…

    I always liked Augustus (Gus) McCrae’s line about Deets’ clothing which went something like, “Well, you know Deets, he ain’t one to quit on a garment just ’cause it’s gotta a little age.” (Lonesome Dove)

  23. Chris, very appropriate “take” for this post. And being a Texas trad, any reference to Lonesome Dove is the gospel to me.

  24. Chris, plus at age 69, I’m a little worn and rumpled.

  25. The best bit of writing I have ever come across on the clothing forums.
    Nicely bridges the gap between clothing obsession and the real world.
    Excuse me now. I need to drip hot wax onto a badly- cracked wingtip.

  26. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

  27. Worthy of a chuckle–the best example of decrepit elegance may be Prince Charles. His Barbour is just one example. He wears the same suits over and over again, and his favorite shoes are repaired for yet another year of wear.

    “…seen a bit of wear.” Uh, yes.

  28. Down Tradden | December 22, 2018 at 1:28 pm |

    @ stanleyshall
    Please talk to yourself as you and the other mods do on your own forum. This site is not for that,sir.

  29. Might be just me, but those guys have a “getting out of town just ahead of….” look about them. That “lost money” may well have been their investors’.

  30. Christian’s suggestion and description of the two gentlemen in the photo, who by the way, spent their last few bucks waiting for a bus to wherever, aptly describes what a preppy should wear to appear to be dressed properly; wear it until falls apart.

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