Sunday, May 29, 2005

The return of the $800 haircut

When I saw that the latest installment of the Class series was called, "When the Joneses Wear Jeans," I knew what was coming. And I was right: "This is an America of $130,000 Hummers and $12,000 mother-baby diamond tennis bracelet sets, of $600 jeans, $800 haircuts and slick new magazines advertising $400 bottles of wine." Ah yes, who could forget about the $600 jeans and the $800 haircuts? Do most wealthy people, even most wealthy Manhattanites, spend this much on haircuts and jeans? I'm thinking no, but it hardly matters--those products are out there, and it's far too much fun to scoff at all those rich people consuming them than to actually look into how many people are really going in for these things. But Steinhauer--whose writing I generally really like, continues:

In the country's largest cities, otherwise prosaic services have been transformed into status symbols simply because of the price tag. In New York last year, one salon introduced an $800 haircut, and a Japanese restaurant, Masa, opened with a $350 prix fixe dinner (excluding tax, tips and beverages). The experience is not just about a good meal, or even an exquisite one; it is about a transformative encounter in a Zen-like setting with a chef who decides what will be eaten and at what pace. And it is finally about exclusivity: there are only 26 seats. Today, one of the most sought-after status symbols in New York is a Masa reservation.

What evidence does Steinhauer have that Masa reservations do anything for you other than get you a table at Masa? And why the repetition of the $800 haircut? Look, the place I get my hair cut in NYC, on the Upper East Side, is in the $40-$60 range, and I guarantee that I am by far the shabbiest person getting a trim there whenever I go. Yes, the $800 haircut exists, but no, it's not a sign of anything in particular in terms of class in America today. She's right, though, about the upgrade. Jeans, t-shirts, milk, salt, water--all things that could be had for next to nothing are now things you can splurge on.

Next post, as suggested by Isaac, will have nothing to do with the NYT. We shall see...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Defense of Masa

$600 jeans and $800 haircuts are silly because even if you have an unlimited amount of money, assuming you have any taste beyond pure money/status lust, you still don't end up paying that much for those things.

But Masa is different. If money is not an issue, you'd be silly not to eat there twice a month.

Just because many rich people have atrocious taste doesn't mean there aren't some fine things that cost money.

And On the Real Topic

"Yes, the $800 haircut exists, but no, it's not a sign of anything in particular in terms of class in America today."

In a very real way, it is a significant and obvious sign of something. The ranks of the very wealthy have exploded in the past 10 years. This ripples throughout the culture, especially in the cosmopolitan cities.

(Of course, since you live out in the provinces, it's not surprising that you don't quite see it.)