The new rules of showing off: goodbye fast cars and fizz, hello charity work and vintage clothes

How do you flaunt your status in 2016? Because the rules are not what they were, according to a report from economists last week; you could say they've been flipped on their head.

All the dead certs – fast cars, five-star foreign holidays, furs, diamonds and glitzy parties (someone please tell Elton John!) are off the list as top status signifiers.

Flashing the cash in these familiar ways no longer impresses because – according to the Adam Smith Institute – too many people are in on the act, and so, the mood of what is and looks successful has shifted.

In place of bling and fizz and a shiny four-wheel drive, we now have a new set of ''status symbols'' grounded in eco-awareness, responsible consuming, charitable works and, basically, working very hard to not look in any way crass.

Economist Ryan Murphy, author of the paper, said ignore his findings at your peril as the old symbols of wealth are so out of fashion they are rapidly being seen as distasteful. ''In other words, most elements of Western society have moved beyond associating ostentatious displays of wealth with high status. If anything, it is considered rude.''

So, what are the new status symbols and, more importantly, what are the new rules of showing off?


Bye bye serious jewellery

Mondial Pink Diamond Atelier Manhattan ring in 18ct white and rose gold, set with one 2.60ct natural dark champagne diamond, with a diamond set band.

I know. Maddening! Just as you were into your 30th year of saving for that Rolex and praying he got the hint about the diamond studs. Now the smart way to show off is with a single eternity ring. Maybe a skinny wedding band.

A whacking great collar of diamonds might have been just right for Elizabeth Taylor but it's too much for the woman running the charitable foundation or even the organic estate in Mustique.


The exception to the rule is, of course, the Duchess of Cornwall, and all the Royal family, because their big jewels are handed down, which means they get a big tick for their impeccable second-hand credentials.

Old Showing Off: Diamonds.

New Showing Off: Bare fingers. ''I've been dealing with the alpacas all morning.''

Authentic holidays

No.1 Boat Shed Portsea Front Beach in Point Franklin.

Forget the tropical getaway that has just cost you the best part of $60,000. Now the smart status holiday is all about authenticity and the opposite of a "once in a lifetime'' experience.

"New Show Offs" would turn their noses up at candlelit dinner on a sandbank in the Maldives. This is the area more than any other where the rich have switched their priorities. New SOs are spending their money on a beach house with a private beach and boat mooring.

You score extra points for an outdoor shower and untouched-by-time local golf club/tennis courts and a weather-beaten fisherman who is prepared to hold back his best scallops for your dinner.

Old Showing Off: The presidential suite in the golf buggy resort.

New Showing Off: A local cook, trained by Bruno Loubet, of course.

Good food not bling food

Noma Australia's crumbed abalone with native seaweeds and bunya nut.

Gold-leaf-dusted martinis. White truffles. Caviar. Ice sculptures and pink champagne. Not for the New SOs, thank you very much.

Now it's all about organic and the walled garden in which you (and your gardener, who has turned his back on a career in the City so he can get closer to the earth and some distance from the Masters of the Universe) are growing three kinds of basil and cavolo nero.

What you want to say when you have the neighbours round is not, "anyone for kobe beef", but ''this is Arthur, our Gloucestershire Old Spot, isn't he delicious?'' Authentic again, you see.

Old Showing Off: Caviar and Cristal.

New Showing Off: Ethically sourced, home-ground coffee and wine – preferably from your private vineyard.

Gardens in general

Tresco garden in the British Isles

Pic credit: Megan Backhouse

You used to garden; now you landscape and you have a team (see above) with special monogrammed sweatshirts to help you.

You may not be doing marble on the inside of your house but you are spending gazillions on the pond and the sculptures and yes, even the maze.

Old Showing Off: An outside heated swimming pool.

New Showing Off: A wild swimming pond.


Princess Mary.

Previously, it was all about discreetly donating to some obviously worthy cause close to your heart, but now the idea is to be vocal on behalf of a slightly obscure charity, so long as the right people are on board.

Charity committees are the new private members' clubs and it's fiercely competitive. Ladies who lunch once opened their wallets and signed a cheque. Now they need to give their time and money and talk about it. A lot.

Old Showing Off: A significant donation in your will.

New Showing Off: Conspicuous philanthropy.

Vintage clothes

THE BAD: Really Gwyneth Paltrow, really? You have the whole of Chanel at your disposal and you go for a matronly skirt suit? I think this could have actually belonged to Coco’s grandma. This is like a vintage piece you find in the dusty corner of an op shop and think, ‘ooh, this’d look cute after alteration’ (except, let’s be honest, you never get round to altering it. It sits in the back of your closet. And then you return it to the aforementioned charity shop).

A high-end designer wardrobe cuts no mustard if it is stuffed with the kind of clothes Marie Antoinette would wear to perch on a pedestal.

To show off properly now, women need to look like you know what is what (you are not new to this game) and you do that by taking the slow flash route – vintage clothes. We're obviously not talking about brushed-cotton dressing gowns from Oxfam here.

Think the clothing equivalent of paintings at a Sotheby's auction: an Ossie Clark chiffon print dress or a leather coat (unworn) that Jackie O might have once owned.

(NB: retro in general is very New Showing Off as it creates the impression of Not Having Just Arrived. Vinyl (what we used to call records) is another big part of the NSO. The neighbours are streaming Spotify; what does that really say about their taste and provenance?)

The big exception to this rule is exercise leggings (worn underneath a luxe parka); some of the richest women in the world are wearing these in the day the way they used to wear little bouclè suits.

Old Showing Off: Dresses that are so precious you have to put them on with gloves.

New Showing Off: One previous owner of a Seventies Yves Saint Laurent suit.

Stealth fur

From Paris to Milan, fur stole the show on the catwalk - from left to right: Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Katie Eary and Dries Van Noten.

The number one signifier of flaunt-it wealth may be fur, but now it is everywhere, the new fur is stealthy. Not so much pavement-grazing mink as worn by the wives of Russian oligarchs – but a fur scarf with a simple pair of jeans; the super new show-off way to wear it is, however, on the inside, lining a coat or your boots. (Though we're not sure they have got the memo in Milan, pictured above.)

Old Showing Off: Tyson Fury's chinchilla coat.

New Showing Off: A black fur scarf as worn by Iman.

The Sunday Telegraph, London