The Trials and Trappings of Wealth and Fashion

Several years ago my wife and I were in Venice, Italy, when the 58th International Art Exhibition (which was aptly titled "May You Live In Interesting Times") was about to open. Many of the richest people from around the globe had descended on this tiny, northern Italian city via their expensive megayachts and private jets, and their respective attendances were somewhat assured because the world's wealthy simply MUST be seen at events like these, lest they be perceived as "uncultured" by their peers.

As my wife and I caught sight of myriad jet setting millionaires and billionaires who were strolling along the canals of Venice wearing the latest fashions from Milan, Paris, and London, I made the following observation: when you're poor and you're weird, you're viewed as crazy; but if you're rich and you're weird, you're viewed as eccentric. When applying this revelation to the crowds that had gathered in Venice, this meant that everyone who wasn't an eccentric elite witnessed a never ending parade of unusual apparel adorning the ranks of affluent art show attendees, which was like watching a comedy show in which each performer was trying to outdo the last for having the most outlandish costume.

As one prosperous pair passed us wearing clothes that a clown wouldn't wear to a circus, I leaned over to my wife and remarked, "Some people are so fashionable that they don't realize how stupid they look." My playful observation cannot be overstated; I saw several nouveau riche who looked utterly ridiculous, even though in some circles they might be considered fashionable. The super rich who were visiting Venice during our tenure there were living out a textbook manifestation of The Emperor's New Clothes; and like the gullible saps in the fairy tale, they didn't realize that the joke was on them. I didn't take any photos - because that would be rude - but if you've seen the films in the "The Hunger Games" series, just imagine the crowds from "The Capital" walking around in real life; that's pretty much what we saw.

PS - to their credit, the affluent couple in absurd garments that I mentioned earlier were walking an exquisitely groomed Afghan Hound through the streets of Venice. I would imagine that poor animal was probably embarrassed to be seen in public with its owners.