Money Talks, Wealth is Worn

The halls of Poly Prep ring out with the click of a Hermès bracelet, the snap of a pair of Lululemon leggings, the zip of an Aviator Nation hoodie. These sounds are quiet, nearly unintelligible in the physical, day-to-day world, but in the realm of implicit private school hierarchy, they are deafening. The freedom of our loose dress code allows for flexibility in all areas of personal expression. Unfortunately, personal expression at Poly often means expressions of wealth. 

From my first year at Poly, I have always been shocked by the raging brand-name culture which rules our school. However, it is important to remember it is truly a filtering down of a greater culture which prevails in New York City: the classic wealthy white liberal. When you spend your entire childhood watching your parents drop thousands of dollars on anything from heels to activewear, your understanding of wealth and its expression shifts to fit that environment. For New York City’s teenage trust fund babies in particular, urban fashionista life and money-insulated families together promote a need to parade wealth through clothing. 

At Poly and on the greater private school scene, social grouping is often based on displayed riches. The quality of the middle and high school experience is almost always linked to the social scene students face. If we huddle in exclusive clumps based on the cars our mothers drive, the watches our fathers wear, the neighborhoods in which we live, are we dooming students to an adolescence defined by money or lack thereof? What of those who can’t or don’t wish to present their assets on their bodies every day in school? What of those who will never learn to socialize without the comforting cruelty of wearable affluence, and the privileges it grants them?