The new age will be gilded with Bling


While the American middle class eventually embraced repudiation of West Egg bad taste in favor of affecting a supposed blue-blood sensibility, the ostentatious nouveau riche carried on. The chasm between rich and poor kept expanding and the economic crisis which now engulfs the world is simultaneously heralding a new gilded age.

Romanticize its sophistication no longer, the new gild is bling.

I saw an uncharacteristically unique convertible the other day, and its shiny rims looked like after-market wheel covers that you might see spinning in place while stopped at the traffic light. It seemed highly improbable that the Gaudi style “B” at the center would have stood for Bentley. Americans rarely catch a glimpse of the plain-wrapper cousin of the Rolls Royce, much less remember it. But overhearing the driver answer an inquiring pedestrian, it turns out the sports car did belong to that otherwise conservative marque.

“Pedestrian” might also describe such a commoner’s question who has to ask “What kind of car is that?”

This particular car belonged to the driver’s wife, I heard him say, who I learned subsequently belonged to the Morley family, local land magnates.

So Bentley has discovered who’s buttering the upper crust these days.

Common America’s boom of prosperity brought vehicles covered in chrome. Even the eventual Ford Thunderbird and the Corvette Stingray were still pretty damn shiny. Meanwhile European sports cars eschewed unpainted metal. German and English models evolved a style which put forward utilitarian function as form. Their lines may have been loud, their paint a high gloss, but their knobs didn’t glitter. Even the most extreme Ferrari or Lamborghini still looks understated next to an urban ride pimped in chrome.

Do we imagine that the gilded age was art directed by Italian designers, or by self-styled age-of-excess capitalist pimps?

1 thought on “The new age will be gilded with Bling

  1. My 1982 Rolls Silver Spirit should be complete in its restoration in time for Christmas, and yes, it does have 19 inch Bentley chrome wheels (which also do not spin). Did you happen to get Bentley guy’s phone number? Maybe we could form a Capitalist club right here in the Springs!

    By the way, Corvettes haven’t sported any chrome whatoever since 1982.

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