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#89 - Cufflinks

#89 - Cufflinks

Cufflinks
Price: Accepting the French

In the immortal words of Little Orphan Annie, “you are never fully dressed without a smile”. This whimsical idea may apply to the vast majority of pencil pushing middle managers trying to keep their head above water in spite of a partner that believes shopping at the newly opened Crate & Barrel is akin to the second coming of Jesus. This little cliché certainly does not apply to the proverbial upper crust. While custom tailored shirts are a staple of any well-to-do wardrobe, they hardly provide the opportunity to flex one’s personality and showcase their avant-garde sense of fashion. Enter the French cuff and Louis XIV’s fashion forward gift to the world, gilded studs called cufflinks.

To the everyday man and woman who feel that Starbucks charging $1.50 for a cup of Joe is unconstitutional the idea of spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on two chunks of semi-precious metal in place of a twelve cent button must seem certifiably ridiculous. It is this difference in the classes that keeps Pabst and Camaros popular in trailer parks and cufflinks in vogue on the Upper East Side of New York. Naturally, throwing on any old piece of kitschy jewelry won’t cut it at the club. While your groomsmen, who believe white socks and tuxedos go together like fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, will commend you on your compass with built-in thermometer or roulette table cufflinks, you have a better chance of catching Dora the Explorer in Playboy than seeing Gordon Gekko adopting your mischievous sense of fashion or glimpsing Bruce Wayne sporting batman logo cufflinks. Instead, rich people opt for subtle designs that reflect their personal interests. This may be collecting impressionist art, classic cars or a layman’s interest in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and its influence on the credit default swap crisis of 2008.

If you don’t feel a burning desire to retire your dress shirts and adopt French cuffs throughout your wardrobe, fear not! There are two things to remember when befriending the wealthy; as any first year associate on Wall Street quickly learns rich people don’t like when common folk wear cufflinks and complimenting a rich person’s sense of fashion is substantially less expense than dressing like them. While wearing cufflinks will not ingratiate you, asking leading questions will. The trick to making friends with the rich is to walk the fine line between ass kissing and cerebral flattery. For example, telling a wealthy man or woman that their cufflinks are really impressive is blatant brown nosing. Asking if their sense of fashion enhances their success or if their success enhances their stylish appearance is the fast track to gaining the respect of the rich. So next time you button-up before work, think about those inconspicuous pieces of cuff candy and consider how they could enhance your own life.

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#88 - Producing Movies

#88 - Producing Movies

Producing Movies
Price: Casting Couch and A Wallet 

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. I’m not saying I agree with this adage but I am confident that my woodworking teacher’s seven fingers didn’t improve his street cred. While working for NASA is an unlikely endgame for a high school physics teacher, rich people see no reason to thwart their ambition over something trivial like talent, skill and experience. It is this eccentric quirk that makes the world of Hollywood turn and ensures that even the very worst scripts can still make it to the silver screen thanks to a terrifically uninformed bankroll. Meet the Executive Producer.  

The Executive Producer plays a critical role in every film; provide financial backing and stay out of the way of people who claim to know what they are doing. It is easy to assume that these captains of industry, having made their fortunes in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate, are interested in further padding their Swiss bank accounts with the next Avatar, Toy Story 3 or Inception. Au contraire reader, becoming an Executive Producer is the proverbial golden ticket that rich people need to pull back the curtain and gain access to Hollywood’s red carpet; think Christina Hendricks, Isla Fisher and Jayma Mays. In Los Angeles’ film circles there is only one rule; the bigger the bankroll, the bigger the celebrity. It is this simple rule that attracts the modern day robber barons to sink their millions into terrible scripts written by “starving artists” and directed by “tortured souls”. In exchange, they all but guarantee themselves discussions on method acting with George Clooney, cinematography lessons from Scorsese and a performance by Justin Bieber at their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. In many cases profitability is an afterthought and a pleasant surprise.  

While spending millions to be on-set at Hollywood’s next box office bust may seem excessive to the average autograph hound, rich people have an innate knack for justifying almost any financial failure; the tax-loss carry forward. This little taxation trickster is the fix-all for blowing their wad on a film that will quickly pass from theater to distant memory without a hint of embarrassment on the part of the producer. Losing an eight figure investment not only appears acceptable within their social circle, it actually makes rich people seem quite savvy! This “win-win” situation means rubbing shoulders with Brangelina, a significant tax write-off and the opportunity to talk like a Hollywood insider. Oh, and for the trust fund hipsters, a well stocked casting couch is a significant perk because while you can’t buy happiness, money lets you choose your misery. 

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#85 - Enormous Fancy Hats

#85 - Enormous Fancy Hats

Enormous Fancy Hats
Price: Vitamin D Deficiency

Among the many things that rich people like to own, gigantic floppy hats are among the most baffling. Unlike other fashionable accoutrements, intended to flatter a wealthy belle’s beauty, the hat hides rather than showcases the extensive plastic surgery that the trophy wife has undergone. In fact, when matched with the perfect pair of oversized Chanel sunglasses, one’s collagen-injected lips are hardly noticeable. So what’s the point? Why wear a hat with a two foot diameter laden with flowers large enough to make Keukenhof appear unimpressive? Simply put, just as a wealthy gentleman drives an Italian racecar to proclaim his manhood, women wear hats to trumpet their sense of fashion and signal that they are the alpha female in the group. The only way to remain queen bee among the swarming masses is to outdo one’s social circle by purchasing and bravely wearing larger and more ostentatious headpieces than the other ladies at the club.

It may appear that hat fashion ebbs and flows, but just because Aunt Sally didn’t wear her gigantic peacock feathered Easter hat for Sunday mass doesn’t mean that the cultural elite are taking their cue to pack away their hat boxes. In fact, the true barracudas of the runway have already been recounting to which event each woman in her social network wore which hat. After creating a complex social matrix where hats and events are matched, the mad hatter will predict what the ladies will showcase this season and carefully select the latest and largest hats from small boutiques around the globe for her upcoming calendar. This ensures she will never be embarrassed by donning an Albertus Swanepoel from Barney’s during a weekend jaunt to the Hampton’s. Most women in NYC still recall the horror of seeing Mrs. Eleanor Thomas of the Upper East Side standing next to Ms. Mandy-Anne of Kansas wearing identical hats. Unfortunately for Mrs. Thomas she opted for wearing last season’s fashion and Mandy-Anne had just finished a day of shopping at Century 21. Thomas’ agoraphobic fate was sealed when innocent Mandy-Anne asked Eleanor “Did you buy yours on sale too?”

As always, what matters is how to use this to your advantage. Just as Keanu Reeves could not be unseated as “the one” during the 90’s, you should not strive to occupy the throne reserved for a hat aficionado. Instead, opt to go big but not enough that you will clash horns with Chiquita Banana. Flattery will get you everywhere with the Queen Bee and while no less that 24 inches of couture circumference means you won’t recognize her, you will nonetheless be able to pick out her horn of plenty in any crowd. A well placed compliment on her style will go far but delivery is paramount. When approaching, keep your eyes averted and never look her directly in the eye. She will recognize this as respect and allow you to proceed. Next, let her know you love her style. Never tell her you could not wear such a beautiful hat as she already believes that to be true and by stating it you are implying that you think you could be in the same league as her. Instead, let her know that it is the perfect hat for her. She will recognize that you accept her as the alpha female and may at this point compliment your hat. A polite thank-you will suffice and you should offer to fetch her champagne or Iranian caviar to show your gratitude. If she accepts you are part of her entourage. Finally, never make reference to Dr. Seuss or Alice in Wonderland in her presence, she will take it as a personal slight and you will feel her social wrath. Remember, hell hath seen no fury like a woman scorned.

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#84 - Designer Cupcakes

#84 - Designer Cupcakes

Designer Cupcakes
Price: $36 a dozen

Prevailing wisdom dictates that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Spend some time in a trendy shopping district and you will soon find that this is largely due to designer cupcakes, emphasis on the sugar and light on the nice. Thankfully, for the financially endowed, they need venture no further than around the corner in their hybrid SUV to satisfy a craving that used to take their private chef as much as an hour to whip up. Designer cupcake shops are becoming so popular, they are threatening to supplant Starbucks as the storefront voted most likely to replace a former tenant, although Vietnamese nail salons run a close third.

While common people may purchase these single serving delights at the supermarket, this could never satisfy the sophisticated sweet tooth of a high net worth individual. For starters, store bought icing isn’t rich enough; cupcake shops appear to have cracked the age old problem of condensing a full pound of butter into a half pound of icing. Second, buying a dozen chocolate cupcakes is blasé; the baked pleasures of the wealthy deserve creative names like “Tickled Pink”, “Lady Baltimore” or “Dirty Blonde”, the latter may also describe one’s third wife. Finally, the creativity doesn’t end with naming cupcakes, rich people love to fawn over the playful shop names where they purchased these heavenly indulgences; think Babycakes, Buttercup and Flour Girls for starters; I adore the t-shirts from Babycakes in NYC.

While many quirks of the wealthy are out of reach of the common man, a love of rich desserts is a human condition that knows no economic boundaries. With this in mind, impressing the wealthy is simple when done by the dozen. Discussing your favorite cupcake shop will certainly do in a pinch but it is the gift of cupcakes that will truly impress. The elegance and tastefulness of ribbon wrapped sugary goodness will have your hosts beaming at your thoughtfulness and once it comes to naming these savory delights, they will figuratively if not literally be eating out of your hand. An excellent conversation starter, your affection for cupcakes will win hearts, minds and stapled stomachs. Be sure to save the “Sexy Red Velvet” for the beautiful heiress you’ve been watching and she may turn out to be your sweet temptation!

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#81 - Being Aghast

#81 - Being Aghast

Being Aghast
Price: Insufferable Indignation

Everyone knows that the world is full of tidbits that are surprising and unusual. Most of these fall under the category of things that you would never do; these include wearing a t-shirt to a job interview emblazoned with the slogan “You don’t buy beer, you rent it”, streaking and tattooing one’s face. When an average person is told that this happened, they will respond by looking up from their laptop long enough to lazily say “sounds like an idiot” or “what a douche bag”. Such a reaction is not enough for the rich. They are bound by a secret oath to become incensed at the indignity of such acts, cover their mouth, open their eyes wide and proclaim “well I never”. When you see this reaction, you will recognize it as a rich person being aghast

This melodramatic reaction dates back to the 13th century and literally means to be struck with terror, amazement or horror. While the rich typically suppress all emotions, being aghast is a special exception to the status quo and is closely aligned with getting insanely angry when their chef overcooks their egg yolk. As rich people “know better” than the common man and woman, they will use this display of astonishment to convey the seriousness of the cultural digression they have witnessed. Certain situations may call for the addition of a full gasp but typically the rich believe that quiet disapproval alone sends a subtle yet poignant message to the offending party thereby changing them for the better. Unfortunately, regular people never notice such passive displays because the way that they deal with something offensive includes speaking up or starting a fistfight…sometimes both!

Despite the surprising ineffectiveness of changing the world by appearing shocked, the power of being aghast is significant. Should you succeed in mastering the art of conveying indignation towards everyday occurrences you will surely succeed in making friends with the “other half”. While appearing surprised may seem easy, knowing what should astonish is the true talent. Peruse this short list; unjust war, wearing gloves lined with baby seal pelt, buying day-old roses and American states with no minimum wage laws. If you were aghast at buying day-old roses, you are a natural. The rest make for interesting small talk but will not raise eyebrows among the upper crust. For a top shelf display of this art, visit a rare book dealer and tell them that you ran over a puppy on the way to their store. Now tell them you know of a first-run Tennyson stored at 73°F and see which illicit a stronger reaction.  Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?

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#78 - Opera

#78 - Opera

Opera
Price: Miniature Binoculars

Does being confined to a chair in a dark room, unable to eat, drink or speak while angry people berate you in a language you do not understand sound like an ideal night out? For most, this sounds like the worst vacation ever and one reason that visiting Afghanistan, Venezuela and Guantanamo Bay rank low on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of dream destinations. For rich people, this is called opera and the biggie sized German or Italian woman wearing the Viking helmet is a Diva rather than an interrogator.

The love of opera runs deep. Rich people love to talk about the architecture of the opera house, exotic sets, magnificent costumes, vocal size and range, Puccini, Strauss, Verdi and of course Mozart. A rich person from a good family can wax poetic for hours on the bittersweet tragedy of La Bohème, the comedic genius of Così Fan Tutte and the scandal of I Pagliacci. Given their knowledge and deep love of opera, you may wonder how the rich manage to grasp the plot and subtleties of productions conducted in a foreign language they neither speak nor understand. The simple answer is they don’t! The performance is a thinly veiled prelude to the most important part of any opera, the intermissions. Intermission is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a full meal, champagne and allow sycophants to compliment a rich person’s refinement, class, taste and sophistication. Watching this can prove more entertaining than the opera itself.

If you are more interested in life imitating art than the art itself, opera provides ample opportunities to mirror your own hopes and dreams. The annals of operatic discourse are rife with tales of sugar daddies fawning over young women and beautiful countesses falling for dashing men with ambition and optimism lacking only social status. If you are an aspiring sugar baby, male or female, your work is cut out for you. A conversational knowledge of Tristan and Isolde or The Barber of Seville that extends beyond Bugs Bunny or Seinfeld plus the ability to bat ones eyelashes should suffice. Either of these love stories may ingratiate you with your cultured courtier and with luck you’ll be enjoying lump crab cakes, roasted filet of beef and amaretto cheesecake at the Grand Tier restaurant faster than you can say “in te ravviso il sogno ch’io vorrei sempre sognar!” loosely translated as “I see in you the fulfillment of all my dreams!” Fitting isn’t it?

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#76 - Tartan Print Pants

#76 - Tartan Print Pants

Tartan Print Pants
Price: Wool Itch Where You Want It Least 

If eggnog, mistletoe, tinsel, Grandma’s flask and the lingering scent of pine needles sounds familiar, you know the holiday season is upon us. In many households, Dad’s tattered and occasionally revealing terrycloth robe has contributed to psychological trauma during the holidays, in other homes it is Mom’s “blackened” turkey that has scarred the children’s memories. For the children of rich people, the ghost of holiday trauma manifests itself as the donning of tartan print pants. These holiday favorites are thought to strike the perfect balance between formal and festive but in fact walk the line between hideous and ridiculous, more so for families without a hint of Scotsman in their storied lineage. 

Traditionally, tartan prints have bound clans and identified kinsmen to one another through the intricate patterns designed exclusively for their family name. As the Scottish boast an unrivaled history of war, the tartan played an integral role in identifying the unrecognizable fallen warriors of battle. Today, far from the vaunted lochs and moors of Culloden and Bannockburn these same tartans, as pants not kilts, represent cliché advertisements and the mark of a healthy net worth. For the wealthy it is a subconscious announcement that they are loud, proud and can make any item fashionable by spending excessively. In fact, there are fashion historians who believe the grunge movement in Seattle and today’s explosion of plaid prints at leading American clothiers can be traced back to a tartan cummerbund worn during holiday festivities hosted by the Vanderbilt family on December 19, 1872. This brash display spawned a “fashion” revolution despite the underlying rationale; young Alistair chose tartan over haggis following a lost wager to a member of the MacLean family. 

Nonetheless, tartan prints are an excellent means to kick start a wealthy friendship. While purists would recommend honing your ability to identify the more than 13,000 tartan patterns, this is time consuming and frivolous. It is highly unlikely that your plaid sporting friend’s knowledge of Scotland extends beyond Braveheart, whisky and the Loch Ness Monster and could not identify the tartan they are wearing even if you could. In fact, it would make them uncomfortable if you asked them anything about the history of their woven cloth given their ignorance of the topic. Instead, draw on the strength and power that a tartan represents. Asking if wearing such a print reminds them of their own success and prowess in life could be magnificent. You will be tiptoeing through the DMZ that separates blatant brown nosing and world class flattery but when it works it really works! Fine tune this skill and you’ll be sipping single malt with the upper crust, otherwise you will face the social guillotine without the historical significance attributed to Mary Queen of Scots. Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein loma-làn easgannan! 

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