How to dress like the 1% on a budget
Ah, the billionaire’s wardrobe: easy enough to grasp, a mean feat to pull off. It comes in many names: quiet luxury, stealth wealth, closet of the one per cent.
You will have seen it: waltzing into the Sun Valley Conference in hoodie, queuing for shuttle planes from St Lucia to Mustique and strolling through Art Basel (in Switzerland, Miami and Hong Kong). Just like Lukas Matsson, Alexander Skarsgård’s tech streaming billionaire CEO and king of subtle sartorial signals in Succession, the real deals keep it casual.
There is PayPal’s Peter Thiel, Spotify’s Daniel Ek, OpenAI’s Sam Altman, Mark Zuckerberg — you get the picture. The outfits of the true global elite come courtesy of The Row, Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna and, crucially, with no monograms or obnoxious silhouettes. This is about inverted snobbery: if you need to prove your wealth, you’re probably not that wealthy.
“The subtext is you’re so comfortably established you don’t need to prove it by being flash,” explains stylist Tom Stubbs, whose clients include Eddie Redmayne and Greg James. “Check the laidback fella at the Mediterranean harbour bar in tatty shorts, ancient leather sandals and sun-faded tee shirt, then consider if he’s the owner of the most splendid yacht moored in the bay.”
Getting this look for less is no simple feat. As stylist Donna Wallace, former fashion and accessories editor at British Vogue, says, “the whole premise is that you are paying more for less. Basics, but you can tell by the weight, the fabric, and the drape.”
But if fashion’s insiders know anything, it is how to pull off effortlessly expensive looks for less. Here, top stylists reveal how to dress like the one per cent… on a budget:
The big black-out shades
Anna Wintour’s are Chanel. Amal Clooney’s are Prada. Victoria Beckham’s are, well, Victoria Beckham. But they all have something in common: they’re big enough and black enough to block out anyone you don’t want to see. Luke Day, a contributing editor for GQ who has styled Pamela Anderson, Michaela Coel and Anthony Joshua, swears they are the easiest way to upgrade your outfit. “Invest in designer sunglasses, they always help give off the air of a premium look,” he says. Mary Fellowes, a go-to stylist for Olivia Colman and Ana de Armas, also understands their strength. “The second someone puts them on, they add mystique. Star power. Intrigue. They are the modern mask,” she says. Find similar acetate styles from Matt & Nat, Messy Weekend and Le Specs for around £50.
Brooklyn, £65, messyweekend.com
Matt & Natt
Avila sunglasses, £43, mattandnat.com
The large, leather, logoless bag
Anyone suffixed with a conglomerate-owning surname knows that when it comes to accessories, burn the logos. This is best embodied by the Olsen twins’ The Row, where large tote bags come in grained calfskin leather, and the label brandished miniscule on the inside: yours for £1,960, after joining the waitlist. Accessory expert Wallace suggests looking to Toteme for a great alternative. “It’s a brand that is just quiet, and not at a crazy price. The Row is definitely on the moodboard,” she says. These still come in new at £750-plus, but look to Vestiaire Collective and Vinted for them secondhand, or COS and Arket for 100 per cent leather versions on the high street.
T-Lock top handle, £1,070, toteme-studio.com
Leather tote, £259, arket.com
The greige linen shirt
A leader in the one per cent pin-ups this year was Cate Blanchett’s character Lydia Tár, the troubling yet captivating conductor. But it was the actress’s outing draped in Max Mara linen for the Critics Choice Awards 2023 that defined a staple of the rich man and woman’s wardrobe: safari-chic, greige linen shirts “Always go oversized for a slouchy, elegant look. Reeks of money,” says Day. “Sandro have a great shirt in a great greige shade, Gant has a concrete beige which is a lovely shade, otherwise the Uniqlo premium linen is excellent.” Mike Adler, who counts Elizabeth Hurley and her son Damian as top clients, is a fan. “The best linen shirts are tailored and not boxy with a good collar, simple button, and quality stitching — they lend style and muted comfort to the warm summer months. Summer drops at Reiss, Fescobol Carioca, Casa Marane, Massimo Dutti and Suit Supply should be first port of call.”
Linen shirt, £19.99, uniqlo.com
Linen shirt, £59.95, massimodutti.com
The jet black, midi-length overcoat
This is a perennial classic and the easiest cloak to hide all sins. Just look to Sienna Miller and Claire Foy, twinning in their ankle length black overcoats on the Prada AW23 front row. “The classic black coat is a pure foil, a blank inky canvas to be mysterious,” says Fellowes. “The key is getting one with the most well-formed shoulder — it has to be really defined, almost a modern Eighties. Get one secondhand from Maje or Sandro and upgrade the buttons to fabric-covered ones of the same size.” Sisley and & Other Stories also do nice cuts for around £150.
& Other Stories
Alpaca blend coat, £205, stories.com
The Loro Piana beige suede loafer
If you don’t know them, you will have seen them. On first glance, they do not look dissimilar to posh nurses’ shoes — with the added bonus of bags of status. The Loro Piana classics — a favourite of LVMH heir Frédéric Arnualt, David Beckham and Charlene, Princess of Monaco — come in at a hefty £865, but there are dupes. “The LP suede loafer remains a consistent purchase for my clients. Quality and ease of the loafer are its success for city, country, and ocean/ boat wear,” explains Adler. “If you have an Italian (Rome) or French (Cannes) getaway planned, local merchants have beautiful examples of the handmade loafer for a fraction of inner-city prices.” Closer to home, Stubbs suggests Russell & Bromley’s carmel soft suede loafer, Baudoin & Lange’s stride shoe or Aurélien for near-perfect copies.
Yacht shoes, £301, aurelien-online.com
Suede loafers, £99.95, massimodutti.com
The plain white leather trainers
The clean, crisp tennis-inspired shoe is one of the easiest to pull off on the cheap. They are Alexandre Arnualt’s (brother of Frédéric) party go-to, while Akshata Murty gets hers from Gucci. “M&S have the best non-logo white similar to Common Projects out there,” says Day. Stubbs suggests sticking to the originals: “The plethora of white leather sneaker styles by every luxury fashion house are all based on the Adidas Stan Smith tennis shoe, making this one a doddle to do on a budget. The originals are readily available for about £60-£80.”
White trainer, £35, marksandspencer.com
Stan smiths, £85, adidas.co.uk
The three-piece co-ord suit
When skimping on suiting, commit to three coordinating pieces to project an effortlessly put-together look: waistcoats, sweaters or polo necks all interchangeable. Best at this is the Princess of Wales: just look as she sauntered down the plane steps in Boston in November, a vision in navy. Other fans include Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth (aka real-life Shiv), and Jill Biden, who opted for a cream suit with matching chemise top for Easter Sunday at the White House. Kate Moss’s stylist James Brown has a singular go-to: “For a blazer, always Muji. Chic and simple, great fabrics,” he says. “Match it with a top from Uniqlo for the Queen-to-be look.” Fellowes suggests: “The best co-ord turtleneck and blazers are grey, and from the Nineties: Jil Sander, Margiela or Comme Des Garcons— get one at a consignment shop and tailor it to within an inch of its life to fit you perfectly.”
Herringbone linen blazer, £89, mango.com; linen trousers, £49.99, mango.com; linen waistcoat, £45.99, mango.com
The uber-luxe black cap
The ultimate Succession staple: specifically loved by Logan and Kendall Roy. Theirs are (no points for guessing) from Loro Piana, and over £415 — but a good quality plain cap is easy to find. Look for non-canvas fabrics, like Fenwick’s plain wool cap, to add a luxurious edge. “The unbranded baseball cap pulled down low is the ultimate celeb on the downlow flex, rich in please don’t look at me ‘look at me’ semiotics,” says Stubbs. “Access the area via M&S’s black cotton baseball cap at £18. Easy.”
Wool hat, £42.50, fenwick.co.uk
Black cap, £9.96, amazon.co.uk
The cream cashmere roll neck
It was the one per cent line that echoed across the globe: “Well, I lost half a day of skiing.” It came, of course, from the Gwyneth Paltrow Utah lawsuit. While all the Goop founder’s outfits epitomised quiet luxury, it was her day one, supple cream, cashmere knit from Loro Piana that took first prize. When shopping on the high street, Wallace says buy men’s, and consider wool: “They often short change the women’s sections now. They respect the weight of it better for men — look to your Uniqlo’s, Marks & Spencer’s and COS.” Fellowes agrees. “Steal your boyfriend’s or brother’s,” she says. “Or buy from Sheep Inc. — they are one of the most exquisite and sustainable, thoughtful and innovative yet discreet brands.”
Stella polo neck, £110, peregrineclothing.co.uk
Lambswool polo, £29.99, uniqlo.com
The neat knitted short-sleeved polo
These were the dressed-down uniform of the A-list last summer — at the Cartier sponsored Goodwood Festival Of Speed actors Paul Mescal and Malachi Kirby both wore white styles. Stormzy opted for ochre at his 2023 Brit performance, while Leonadro DiCaprio wore a version in grey with a suit at a luncheon for Martin Scorsese last month. “This is about the resort vibes delivered by certain short-sleeved button knits,” says Stubbs. “John Smedely’s “Roth” top has its design origins in Thirties design history.” Adler also has advice: “Don’t compete with the trendled designer brands, but shop its elements. Quality of thread, fit, shape — and the ability to hold it,” he says. “I love the simplicity of calm, white knitted polos by Percival, RAEY, Rag&Bone and Sunspel.”
Fine knit polo, £35.99, mango.com
Fine knit polo, £55, pauljamesknitwear.com