I am willing to bet that you have heard the term “quiet luxury” between one dozen and one quadrillion times this calendar year. So much that it feels like there is no such thing as quiet luxury anymore. Nothing about it is quiet… or at least it is loud in the public square. Countless articles about this “trend” (here, here, here, here) mean that I do not even need to attempt to summarize it for you beyond “understated, expensive, and high-quality.” Any one of those writers has already put it better than I ever would.
Quiet luxury used to really be secret luxury. The internet has made it easy for anyone to get the memo, but in the olden days, you either knew about something or you didn’t... and those who didn’t, didn’t even know what they didn’t know. I am mixing myself up with all the double negatives, but you know what I am saying. Secret luxury was like invisible ink. Who would know to heat it up in the first place? And that was kind of the point. To weed out the kind of people who weren’t in the know.
But in 1980, the Preppy Handbook came out and the cat was out of the bag. Because the main theme of the book was how the stereotypical “preppy look” was meant to connect you with those who were familiar with your upbringing and your supposed social status. It is a totally tongue-in-cheek field guide, complete with illustrations and annotations and a glossary, to decoding the rituals and symbols of the American WASP with a lot of money. (The podcast Articles of Interest has a series on American Ivy and they do a great job going down this rabbit hole.) For example, in Prep Persona No. 3, there is a depiction of a freshman guy and girl arriving on a college campus. “For the first time, they are in a community of many different types of people, and this very functional uniform helps them to identify one another in a crowd.” This was under-the-radar activity. Without obvious branding or social media, you just had to know that a pair of LL Bean moccasins meant, “hey, you might like me. I know your people.” The optimist in me would like to think it was more friendly than classist. “You like what I like, and that makes something in common. Maybe we can be friends.” But the signals were meant to be subtle. To keep people out who didn’t have those things in common. Without big branded logos, quiet luxury was knowing that a Gucci bit was from Gucci. (Or even knowing what a horse bit was.) It didn’t say Gucci with a capital G. There were no Gs at all.
If the Preppy Handbook was groundbreaking, there are really no more secrets today. We can google the shoes to find out who makes them and how expensive they are and where we can buy them within a 10-mile radius that is open right now. “gold metal link shoes loafer brand?” We know everything, everywhere, all at once.
And that is probably why quiet luxury is so loud at this moment. Maybe I am being too optimistic – again – but what if quiet luxury isn’t so much about “I’m so rich that I can afford stuff so good you’ve never heard of it”? Maybe it could be “I want to buy fewer, better things so that I can own them for a long time, and not worry about who’s heard of them or not.” We all want the things we buy to be worthy of their places in our closets.
The thing about luxury is that it can be a gift you give to yourself – a trip you have dreamed of your entire life, or a face oil you use every day. A treat big or small. I know that my engagement ring took Sid many months to save up for. He had it in his head that he needed to spend a certain number of paychecks – I was worthy of that. (Meanwhile I was just wondering what was taking him so long.) And spending more than you really want often does deliver. You appreciate something more for having sacrificed to get it. There is no one in the world who knows what Sid paid for my ring. But he knows and it is meaningful. No one needs to know implicitly what our clothes cost as long as we value them. And I do think there is something to that simplicity. I want the clothes that I invest in to be beautiful and basic enough to stand the test of time. Or maybe that is just a way to make this buzzword slightly less icky feeling, since we are going to keep hearing about it. My own personal style is quieter, some might even say boring. Am I accidentally on trend? Have I been doing quiet luxury all along?
I am not so sure – but what I am sure about is this awesome turtleneck. This sweater feels like the absolute definition of quiet luxury… the good kind:
It is cashmere, luxurious in feel.
It is quiet… it does not draw any attention to itself.
It is not obviously special. (It is a grey turtleneck, for Pete’s sake… the other one comes in a soft beige, the pinnacle color of ‘quiet luxury’!)
You will have it forever.
It is better than the one I had 10 years ago… and I will still think so 10 years from now.
And it is a real, true turtleneck. We have always had a wonderful and bestselling funnel-neck sweater for years. Very chic, very fine cashmere, very boring classic colors, and very quiet luxury… but it does not hug your neck in the same way, with the seam and the softly stretchy ribbing. I happen to love a trimmer neckline. It can be neatly folded over or just scrunched. You can tuck your hair in it and pull it over your nose when walking out in the cold. There are no styling tips needed here – talk about quiet. I promise you can wear it with e v e r y t h i n g. Weekend pajamas to black tie. (It would look amazing with the sequin skirt that just landed.) I would even take it to the beach to pop on over a bathing suit when it gets chilly at the end of the day. You know what to do with a turtleneck sweater.
And about those “how to get the quiet luxury look for less?” There have been plenty of those articles, too. Luxury is relative. You can get a simple cashmere turtleneck anywhere. I am sure Uniqlo has a fabulous one, but you could spend several times that amount and get one from a true capital-L-Luxury brand. I spotted one on the Hermes site for $1500. You can calculate the cost per wear – if it delivers every time you wear it, and you wear it enough, the price is right. Quiet luxury is a gift to you, from you. A simple secret no one has to pick up on. For me, this unassuming, perfect turtleneck is just that.