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Yeah, but who cleans your $750 dress shirt?

“The very rich are different from you and me,” the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald supposedly said to fellow author Ernest Hemingway, who retorted, “Yes, they have more money.”

I didn't realize just how different the very rich are until I read the paean to conspicuous consumption that is the latest issue of Worth magazine. The very rich, we are ever so seriously told, today “don't just shovel money into a lifestyle; they invest in one, often with remarkable refinement.” They are “making their purchases with an eye toward long-term value: lifestyle investing — which is about the pleasures that come…from the knowledge that an object will last.”

Among the “objects” the very rich man is “investing” in:

  • Gianluca Isaia hand-tailored suits, of which only 50 are made yearly, at $5,000 and up. (For bargain hunters, Oxford suits, made in the United States, are only $2,295 and up.)

  • Custom shoes by Silvano Lattanzi, about $4,500. (Or Hermes for $3,000 or so a pair).

  • Hand-stitched dress shirts from Kiton, made of “ultra-luxurious, 200 thread count Riva cotton…woven on antique silk looms that are a third narrower than modern cloth looms,” from $575 to $750. Or Charvet shirts “made by machine — slowly, on Singers,” for $425 to $625.

  • One could not confidently head out the door without a Parmigiana Fleurier “mechanical timepiece” (one would not sully them by calling them watches) for $47,500, or a Patek Phillipe for a mere $18,950; Lois Sasson cufflinks for $3,300, or Trianon shell cufflinks for $1,500 to $2,500; and a Cartier white gold limited edition fountain pen with “one understated flourish: a clip set with two emeralds and three sapphires,” for $16,000, or a more modest Omas 2 pen for $4,800 (one can't, after all, be expected to write checks and sign ever-so-important papers with a Bic ballpoint).

So, to get our Very Rich Person outfitted for the day (no mention of undies, socks, belt, or tie, but we will assume they are equally “investment” grade), the tab runs from $76,875 on the high side to $30,970 for the more spending-challenged (oh, forgot: toss in a Tanner Krolle briefcase, another $4,350). One would assume additional sets of all this would be needed for subsequent days of the week. But hey, when you're Very Rich…

We won't even include household necessities such as the $2,400 per place setting Haviland china, $3,250 set of king-size bedsheets made of cotton “from only one source: a farm in southern Egypt near the Nile (its exact location is classified),” $15,000 per case wine, or suitable yachts ($30 mill and up).

Pretty soon, we're talking serious money — unless, of course, you're Very Rich; then you don't have to mingle with the crowds at Wal-Mart.

A commentary on times and values, when the economy is in the toilet, charlatan CEOs are building $90 million mansions and $10 million personal golf courses while bankrupting their companies and robbing employees-stockholders-retirement plans, and the average wage earner is just trying to stay above water, that we can be thus enlightened on the “taste, judgment, and curatorial finesse” of the ultra-wealthy.

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