"People are against flash and gaudiness, not luxury," Falcinelli, who refers to his clientele as "appreciatives," says from under a fedora. As Castronovo puts it, "Our customers generally are more artistlikethey're still doing what they do. The people crying the blues over lost money never deserved to have it to begin with."
Yet for the poorgeoisie, every cushy expenditure is justified. According to Jennifer O'Brien, a luxury-branding consultant who's worked with Gucci and Donna Karan, among others, some high-end companies have successfully tailored their products to the shifting times and tastes (e.g., De Beers' "Fewer, better things" campaign). "A product needs to have a story that intrigues people about how it was made or what's gone into it," she says. And that's particularly true for the under-the-radar rich, who tend to practice what Thomas Frank calls "virtuous consumption" of pricey handmade clothes and locally farmed foods. "This shadow class of wealthy aren't working in silly jobs downtown," O'Brien says. "Bankers are the most visible and homogenous, so it's easy to lump them together, but these other guys have been there spending too." And though $250 designer-casual dinners will never be confused with expense-account binges at Per Se, the arguments that underpin the poorgeois lifestyle in Brooklyn, in Silver Lake, in Portland, are almost indistinguishable from the justifications of an I-banker who drives a Maserati and wears a bespoke suit: that quality, craftsmanship, and rareness are worth paying top dollar for.
Falcinelli describes the sensibility currently in vogueand certainly on display in his restaurantsas a throwback to pre-industrial times, when regular folks actually knew how to make things with their hands. "People are always like, 'What's the dope shit right now?'" he says. "Well, the dope shit now is 120 years ago." So cure your own boar prosciutto. Grow a beard. Go back to the land behind your remodeled seven-figure townhouse.
The retro aesthetic carries over to hooch, which would seem as recessionproof as any consumable. Good-bye, $300 worth of bottle-service vodka in the back corner of a velvet-rope warehouse; hello, $300 worth of single-malt-and-Chartreuse Depression-era cocktails mixed by a mustachioed dude wearing an arm garter. "Sure, there can be a certain level of snobbery," says Alex Day, who has opened a string of thriving high-end speakeasylike lounges around the country, including Death & Co. in New York. "The bankers who come here never identify themselves as bankersthey don't like to talk about it."
So take heed, deposed hedgies aching to splurge with what's left of your severances: Let that layoff beard get as tangled and bushy as you wantJenulence makes a nifty hazelnut-and-cedarwood-infused conditioner for a mere $28then spend away. It's okay: You're part of the poorgeoisieno one will say a word.