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What's the Old Money aesthetic and why it's going viral on TikTok

The fashion trend that evokes the aesthetic ideals of a totally aspirational high society

What's the Old Money aesthetic and why it's going viral on TikTok The fashion trend that evokes the aesthetic ideals of a totally aspirational high society

Among the many fashion trends that crowd TikTok's For You Page, there is one in particular that has been able to polarize opinions in recent months, given its stylistic but also political nature. With over 83 million views, the hashtag #OldMoneyAesthetic sums up Gen Z's interest in a world that is not always in focus, indeed often very nebulous, built on an aesthetic that makes its overt timelessness its hallmark. Clothes and accessories considered classic and timeless are celebrated through images found on Pinterest or in old family albums of the Kennedys or the British royal family, while in Italy the trend comes to life thanks to old photos of mansions on Lake Como, castles once inhabited, and through a dress code made of white Ralph Lauren shirts, Loro Piana pullovers, Patek Philippe watches, loafers and logoed belts. 

So let's start from the basics: the definition "Old Money" refers to families, dynasties better, whose wealth has been passed down from generation to generation. In the United States, this definition is often associated with the acronym WASP, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and evokes the great houses of American power, such as the families that have been handed down a place of honor in the Ivy League colleges, who divide their time between penthouses in Manhattan and a beach house in the Hamptons. In Europe, on the other hand, the Old Money label is linked to titles of nobility, aristocratic lineages, or families whose fortunes date back to the turn of the century, if not earlier. With over 1 million followers, The Castle Diary, the TikTok profile of a young Italian girl who actually lives in a castle, perfectly embodies everything the Old Money ideal aspires to. An ideal proudly told first of all by Leonardo Maini Barbieri, who with tweed jackets, afternoon tea, and shopping sprees brings the old nobility into the 21st century, while @ardi.tay brings his followers into the magical world of private schools. The basic concept is therefore summarized in the definition itself, a title that immediately draws a clear difference with the New Money, with all those people who "are self-made", entrepreneurs, artists, and even influencers who have built a career out of nothing, in the perfect parable of the American dream that is celebrated also on TikTok. 

From an aesthetic point of view, the trend is associated with American Ivy League colleges or old English universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. In addition to studies, favorite activities include tennis or polo matches, swimming in the pool, classic car rides, afternoons on the yacht or at the country club, and dinners in the garden in the shade of huge ancient properties.


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Unstoppable - Sia

This aspirational universe, light years away from the everyday life of most TikTok users, is translated by the new generations into an updated and renewed version of the preppy ideal, made of blue blazers worn with pleated tennis skirts; Ralph Lauren polo shirts worn with khaki pants and leather loafers, or boat shoes; trench coats and camel coats paired with turtlenecks and Oxford shoes, in a color palette ranging from beige to white and ivory, to blues and grays. There are thousands of videos of girls advising how to replicate an aesthetic well told in the original series of Gossip Girl, thanks to bouclé suits, jeans and white shirts, knitted dresses and headbands, and little matter that the lives of Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen could not be more different from theirs.


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In Italy, the Old Money imagery is often intertwined with the maritime aesthetic, with the world of the Agnelli family, its boat trips or afternoons hunting, in a constant reference to an ideal of nobility now fallen. 


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According to other users, however, the Old Money aesthetic is not embodied by blue blazers and tennis uniforms but instead has to do with the quality, exclusivity, and uniqueness of the garments. True luxury is not made up of big logos and recognizable patterns but is instead based on timeless items that can truly be handed down from generation to generation, on classic and always elegant materials and colors, on objects and accessories that immediately indicate the status of the wearer, such as pearl necklaces, Hermès bags, and Patek Philippe watches. According to the famous adage Money Talks, Wealth Whispers, the brands that best tell the Old Money aesthetic are Chanel, Loro Piana, Ralph Lauren, Barbour, Ermenegildo Zegna, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni, Armani. As @fashionboy points out, the real brands of the Old Money universe are niche brands, known only by families who can really afford them or are even Haute Couture Maisons, with which it is very difficult to get in touch, if there are not already family contacts, and whose clothes cost thousands, even millions of euros. In this sense, a great exception is represented by the Crazy Rich Asians portrayed in the book and film of the same name, who in the space of a few decades have entered the rooms of Parisian haute couture, something unthinkable only 30 years ago. 

However, one wonders not only why Gen Z continues to show interest in trends and aesthetics distant in time, but in this case also distant from the reality of millions of "common" users. The Old Money imaginary is so aspirational to be impossible to reach, but not only that, in a woke, progressive, and often politicized platform like the one owned by ByteDance, it seems almost a paradox that an elitist and often racist universe is celebrated and romanticized, a reality for which today we would be indignant. According to @deadhollywood, the Old Money ideal is the ultimate expression of white supremacism and white privilege, of a sexist universe in which women were required to always be thin, wives and mothers, and in which there was no room for non-white or non-binary people. 
It is only from a stylistic point of view that the trend still seems to exert an infinite fascination, in the eternal struggle between the self-made and the high society.