The Sunday Times Magazine: Hey big spender

01_09_COLUMN_Z21_1211009kIf a comeback, a six-pack, a CK contract and an alleged romance with Hailey Baldwin weren’t enough to recommend him, now Justin Bieber has revealed himself to be a man of impeccably good taste. For we have learnt that, on the occasion of the rapper French Montana’s birthday, El Biebo gifted him a $150,000 (£103,000) gold chain. A blingtastic piece of bullion so shiny, it threatens to blind you, and so heavy, it would cripple anyone wearing it. To which Mr Montana, considering the piece understated, added $90,000 worth of diamonds.

Now, I appreciate some might think wearing a mortgage caked in ice to be somewhat garish. But they are wrong. I love a big spender. I admire Bieber — who already drives a $100,000 chrome-wrapped car and allegedly gets through $1m a month — for his dedication to living like Viv Nicholson: spend, spend, spending.

If I had my way, we would all live like some did in the 1980s — an era modesty forgot — the halcyon days of stretch limos, Moët and power dressing that now only rappers and the cast of Towie emulate.

So I cheer when I see Tyga buying Kylie Jenner a $320,000 white Ferrari for her birthday. Or Jay Z sending 10,000 roses to Beyoncé. If I lived my dream life, I’d be showing the Rich Kids of Instagram how to spend it: swigging diamond-studded Cristal on my gold-plated private plane.

Ostentatious spending appeals to me because razzle-dazzle is fun. But mainly I like flashiness because it is so much more authentic than its opposite number — the current frugal fashion for poverty chic, favoured by what have become known as recessionistas. This, note, is not the same as actually being poor, but rather it’s just pretending to be. A kind of fauxsterity that, with typically fashionable irony, costs more money than being flash ever did.

This kind of poverty chic is all about looking like you’re broke, although you’ll need a fortune to fund it. Like all trends, it is about image, not reality, so entails a kind of poverty signalling in which one is compelled to wear hippie threads made by designers, eat scavenged foods in gourmet restaurants or spend weekends at Soho Farmhouse, where, for £600, you can wash in a tin bath. Or talk about renovating a rustic barn filled with upcycled furniture — when you could spend half the amount buying a penthouse in Birmingham with a digital TV.

This poverty signalling is not just British. You see it in the billionaires of Silicon Valley, who belie their 11-figure bank balances by wearing plain, label-free cashmere jumpers that secretly cost £3,000. In the same way, Gwyneth Paltrow advises Goopers to fork out $6,000 on “casual” designer T-shirts, just so they can say: “What, this old thing?”

I hate this fauxsterity because there’s something very spoilt about it, a Marie Antoinette syndrome inspired by having so much of everything that playing at being poor seems fun. This is why celebrities, especially, appear to love it; why Brad Pitt walks around in hobnail boots and flat caps; Kate Moss claims she makes her own jam; and Elton John boasts he eats at Pizza Hut. Or why Alex James — who in his Blur days ridiculed men with a lotta money moving to the country — probably spent thousands renovating his sylvan shepherd’s hut. Money he could have used for several luxury holidays in Dubai.


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