9 unlikely items that have become luxury status symbols among the elite

  • Some traditional status symbols are losing their luster and are being replaced by unexpected, subtle, and sometimes downright counter-intuitive status symbols.
  • A rise in health and wellness has made exclusive gym memberships and pricey water bottles a must-have.
  • More people are investing in shoes over purses — Brooklyn moms favor No. 6 clogs, celebrities and influencers love "ugly shoes," and Silicon Valley tech CEOS opt for casual sneakers by high-end designers.

Logo purses, brand names, flashy cars, and even flashier rings have typically signified status among the wealthy.

But these hallmarks of status are slowly giving way to some more unexpected status symbols.

A few key trends have turned the aesthetic of wealth upside down. One is an increased focus on health and wellness; in turn, membership cards to high-end gyms and accessories like pricey water bottles are signifiers of a person's wealth and ability to invest in their well-being.

Read more: Forget shiny Rolexes and Louis Vuitton handbags — rich people are investing more in education and health, and it shows that discreet wealth is the new status symbol

Another key trend is the growing preference for shoes over handbags as investment pieces, particularly fueled by the "ugly fashion" movement.

Meanwhile, wealthy Brooklyn moms are turning to "ugly-chic" numbers like the slouchy No. 6 clogs as part of their wardrobe staples, while celebrities and influencers are investing in $900 Balenciaga "ugly sneakers." Meanwhile, tech CEOS in Silicon Valley are taking a more laid-back approach, opting for low top sneakers by high-end designers like Lanvin.

See what else is building up a reputation as a status symbol among the elite. 

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Items that become luxury status symbols among the elite

Second passports 

Through Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs), wealthy individuals are investing in a country in exchange for citizenship. While the six-figure cost of a CIP can vary, it's usually around $200,000.

This gives them basic rights as other citizens, like owning a passport. But a second passport buys more than a travel document — it also buys them status.

"It's a status symbol — it shows friends you can afford it," Nuri Katz, president of international financial firm Apex Capital Partnerspreviously told Business Insider. "I call it the black American Express syndrome."

But there are physical advantages to owning more than one passport beyond external perception. Armand Arton, president of Arton Capital, told Business Insider that investors primarily seek increased global mobility, better security and education, diversified business opportunities and tax planning strategies, and an improved quality of life.

Salt straps

According to The New York Times, Brooklyn moms are adopting a bohemian style to exude a subtle wealth, reported Business Insider's Lina Batarags. The look includes two staple elements, one of which is the Salt strap. Prices for the straps start at $138.

The bright, woven Salt straps are advertised as customizable additions to designer purses — think Gucci and Celine at $2,500 and $2,600 a piece — with price tags that already run well into the thousands of dollars, wrote Hayley Krischer for the Times.

Photo credit: Salt via Facebook

No. 6 clogs 

Part two of the in-look for wealthy Brooklyn moms is the No. 6 clog.The shoes start at around $300.

"Clogs, for their part, once the epitome of uncool and unfashionable, are now being touted as an 'ugly-chic shoe obsession' by the likes of Vogue and as a fashion 'staple' by StyleCaster," Batarags wrote.

But they don't just make a newly chic statement.

"For moms, specifically, the No. 6 clog gives off a message that you're very much interested in comfort and not so interested in appearance," Krischer wrote for The Times.

"Ugly" fashion and "ugly" sneakers 

No. 6 clogs are a prime example of how shoes have replaced expensive handbags as the ultimate status symbol. According to The NPD Group, footwear is now the most powerful category in the online luxury market, Business Insider's Mary Hanbury reported.

Customers are spending as much as $794 on a pair of shoes on average, making it an "investment," according to Marshal Cohen, NPD's chief industry advisor.

"This trend has been partly driven by the so-called "ugly fashion" movement, with customers dropping hundreds of dollars on clumpy sneakers," wrote Hanbury. Consider Balenciaga's nearly $900 pair of Triple S sneakers, which were worn by editors and celebrities throughout 2018.

Other popular "ugly fashion" trends include Topshop's plastic knee jeans and Moschino's cape sheer overlay dress.

Sneakers 

But even "non-ugly" sneakers have become a status symbol, particularly among tech CEOs.

"For many of the Valley's elite, the right pair of kicks is a trademark accessory carefully selected to convey a mix of power, nonchalance, creativity, and exclusivity," wrote Business Insider's Avery Hartmans.

Many, like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google cofounder Larry Page, have a particular affinity for the chunky, low-top sneakers by high-fashion house LanvinBusiness Insider previously reported. They range from $495 and $595.

Fancy water bottles

The Atlantic's Amanda Mull recently chronicled the rise of fancy water bottles as a 21st-century status symbol among millennials — think S'well bottles for around $50 or VitaJuwel bottles for around $100.

"On the surface, water bottles as totems of consumer aspiration sound absurd: If you have access to water, you can drink it out of so many things that already exist in your home," Mull wrote. "But if you dig a little deeper, you find that these bottles sit at a crossroads of cultural and economic forces that shape Americans' lives far beyond beverage choices."

It's part of a rise in health and wellness as signifier of wealth.

"With Millennials, fitness and health are themselves signals," Tülin Erdem, a marketing professor at NYU, told Mull. "They drink more water and carry it with them, so it's an item that becomes part of them and their self-expression."

Photo credit: S'well via Facebook

Gym memberships 

Fancy water bottles aren't the only status symbol to come of the health and wellness trend — pricey gym memberships themselves have become a status symbol, too.

Some well-off New Yorkers pay up to $900 a month for a membership at Manhattan's Performix House, an elite gym with a rigorous application process, a private entrance, and a content studio for social-media influencers.

Others prefer a $30 SoulCycle spin class or have a $200-plus membership to one of the nation's swankiest gym chains, Equinox, which even offers a $26,000 ultra-exclusive membership for the traveling mogul.

Luxury strollers 

The luxury pram, or "bougie buggy," has become a status symbol among a new generation of parents, reported The Guardian's Linda Rodriguez McRobbie.

Buggies previously addressed parents' affordability and safety concerns, she said.

"But the new generation of buggies appealed to a deeper existential anxiety in modern parents: 'Who am I going to be after this baby comes?'" Rodriguez McRobbie wrote. "The answer, these objects said, was that you'd be the same person you always were, the kind of person who is interested in design, travel, style — albeit with a new and much needier co-pilot."

She credits Bugaboo for spurring the rise of this "practical luxury." Along with its competitors, the brand has become an "emblem of a new kind of parent," she wrote.

Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow have been spotted with the Bugaboo — products range from $799 to $1,905— and Kate Middleton has been seen pushing Prince George and Prince Charlotte in Silver Cross prams, which can cost as much as $2,276.

YETI coolers 

YETI coolers have become a status symbol, according to Charlotte Wilder of SB Nation.

"Originally attended by hunters and fishermen, the Church of YETI is now filled with people who wish they were hunters and fishermen, as well as college kids and folks who just like a good outdoor party," she wrote. "Devotees evangelize about YETI on social media, more recruits arrive, and the pews overflow."

Celebrities like Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth have both been spotted with a YETI cooler.

Business Insider's Graham Flanagan attributed the rise of the high-end cooler to YETI's marketing and technology. Their most expensive cooler, the 82-gallon Tundra 350, retails for $1,300, he said.

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