Performing the 1%
To date, consumption and culture scholars have not considered the impact of occupations that require workers to perform the desire for an elite, moneyed lifestyle through conspicuous consumption. I use participant observation and interviews among a lifestyle brand's producers and consumers to address this fissure. The analysis considers the lifestyle clothing brand Island Outfitters as it is created for and employed by the young male finance community aspiring to the top 1% of wage earners on Wall Street. I document how this brand is both created and consumed cynically by the cultural intermediaries responsible for its formation and the status-savvy consumers who perform loyalty to its goals of affluence. The argument is set in a homogenous high-status American occupational group within which many of the preconditions that motivate conspicuous consumption in a traditionally Veblenian sense still exist. The lived experiences of these workers are far more nuanced than this utilitarian goal suggests, yet informants express their complicity with the profit prescriptive by employing recognizable aesthetic scripts that are read for whiteness, conservatism, and wealth. Because it is too problematic for these young men to embody the goals of global finance in their everyday decisions, they texturize their professional identities with textiles.