Class, or Lack Thereof...

Written by Shiva Rodriguez (2010)

I've been engaged in a bit of a social experiment over the past couple of months, and so far I've been wholly confused by some folks and the seemingly general ideas as to what constitutes "class".

Mind you, I am familiar with Paul Fussel's book "Class", which outlines some of the common caste markers found in Western society. I'm also of the thought school that one's social class doesn't necessarily rely on the size of one's bank account.

I've also discovered on this journey that I am indeed a bit of a snob. However, I'm perfectly okay with such a label as it applies to my preference in jewelry, clothing, dining, and whatnot.

I don't care for legible clothing because I don't feel comfortable literally spelling out things about my personality so people will assume things about me on sight, nor do I care to be a walking billboard if I can possibly help it. (I've disregarded perfectly good handbags and jeans because the manufacturer's logos were prominently and permanently displayed on them.)

Nor do I favor sequined, beaded, or glittered clothing that seems to be all the rage at present. I gave my reason to my husband the other day, which he thought made perfect sense. I think that wearing rhinestone-studded clothing cheapens the very real stone jewelry that I wear. Maybe I don't look as "glamorous" in my plain top and pants, but eyes are drawn to the tanzanite and amethyst earrings and necklace I was wearing that day. I feel it is hard to appreciate a genuine article when it is surrounded by showy impostors.

That brings me to glamor... or what seems to pass for it nowadays. I'm not sure I understand the reason for all the circus vomit (bold sparklies and sequins) found all over apparel nowadays. I do remember a few years ago I was laughing about a shirt I saw that had "RICH BITCH" spelled out in large if that was an attempt to fool anyone. (Truth be told, I would have considered it to be vulgar and proletarian even if the words were spelled out in flawless two-karat diamonds.)

Is that it? Is it the illusion of being spattered with gems that makes this style so appealing? I don't quite understand the message the wearer wants to send. Or is it meant to be playful, in a "just making damned sure that you notice me" kind of way?

Don't get me wrong... I used to love wearing lots of rhinestones, glitter, and sequins. Of course, I was a teenager and heavily involved in musical theatre at the time.

I understand having a little glitter in makeup to make your eyes "pop". I just wonder about some of the gals I've been seeing lately who look at though their eyes might just pop right out of their sockets with irritation due to the heavily-glittered lids and lashes.

I regularly complain up one way and down the other about the over-abundance of lab-created gemstones in jewelry stores lately. I just have a hard time acknowledging a too-perfect fake emerald as being "fine jewelry", even if it is set in 10k white gold. It's like pouring Mad Dog 20/20 into Baccarat stemware.

I went into Jared Jewelers the other day, looking for a present for my husband. (I know better than to pick something out myself, so I brought him with me.) While he was exploring the selection of bracelets for men, the salesman asked me what I would be interested in for myself. I told him tanzanite was my favorite, and he explained that they didn't really have much (any) tanzanite, but perhaps he could interest me in some nice Alexandrite that change color... and are 100% lab-grown.

Mind you, my husband and I were both dressed very (very!) casual and neither of us looked or smelled like we had anything in our wallets. We looked like the type who would go ga-ga over either oversized gemstones or novelty gem-encrusted items. But within minutes the salesman's attitude toward us shifted from one of plastic courtesy to one of genuine appreciation as we were able to identify materials without cue cards and explain our tastes. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the store that would suit me, but my husband was more fortunate.

That's when I really started to realise that I was not only a jewelry snob, but one with pretty damn refined taste that few people could honestly appreciate. I also observed that higher class isn't about how many glitteries you're wearing, but how you wear them. Tinsel, not frosting. A trained eye can spot small genuine sapphire stud earrings at twenty paces and appreciate them more than foot-long lab-grown dangles.

I'm not saying that I am high class by any stretch of the imagination. I'm more outside the classes (or X-category, if you will), but my taste does seem to lean toward the upper end of the social class scale. I just don't expect to be kissing the air next to a Vanderbilt in my lifetime.

However, I do realise that many people are class-concerned, and often have skewered ideas of how their betters live and try to mimic that. I've been to plenty of five-star restaurants watching people dressed in their Sunday Best try to navigate the flatwear and keep their elbows off the table. I've also seen people who are indeed closer to the top of the social food chain walk into those same restaurants looking like slobs, which upsets my sense of aesthetics but is still considered perfectly acceptable for their station. (That's also why walking into fine jewelry stores in well-worn street clothes isn't a tell-tale sign for the salespeople to immediately point us toward the bargain bins, as I've often seen them do with BeDazzeled shoppers.)

I also think that people who put a great deal of stock into class and social standing are probably quite stressed. I have friends who have adopted very black-and-white methods of judging people based on certain class markers that I have certainly delighted in proving faulty. (My personal favorite being the idea that someone who doesn't have a college degree can't possibly be very intelligent.)

I do believe in stratification, and if people just relaxed and took the time to just be themselves and play the roles they are best suited for than we wouldn't have so much anxiety, depression, and whatever other social ailments that pharmaceutical companies keep inventing pills for. Instead, I see many people knocking themselves out trying to convince the people around them that they are "better", based on a commercially-perceived scale of what constitutes "higher class". I'm sorry, but a designer cubic zirconia ring costing $150 is aesthetically no better than a generic $15 rhinestone ring found at Wal-Mart. Either way, it's not a real diamond.

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