Fashion happens faster than ever these days. Each week, we attempt to make sense of it in a column called, “What Is Fashion.”
“Look, here’s the thing about being rich,” says Tom Wamsgans, the loyal buffoon on HBO’s new cult favorite series, Succession. “It’s fucking great.”
Over an absurdly fancy dinner one night, Tom tries to teach his cousin-in-law, Greg — who, after receiving his first paycheck, wanted to splurge at California Pizza Kitchen — the merits of being a member of the one percent. “It’s like being a superhero, only better,” Tom continues, expressing genuine enthusiasm. “You get to do what you want, the authorities can’t really touch you, you get to wear a costume, but it’s designed by Armani, and it doesn’t make you look like a prick.”
The premise of Succession is that its characters are, in fact, huge pricks. They just can’t see it. Even when Logan Roy, the show’s evil patriarch, gets a water balloon full of piss thrown at him, his doting children consider the possibility that maybe it was something like apple juice. (It was piss.) Their inherited wealth has sheltered them so completely, that they are oblivious to what is right and what is wrong in the world, and how the Roy family has contributed directly to the latter. This attitude extends to their wardrobes as well, which are downright Trumpian in their business-like blah-ness. They have all the money in the world, but no style. All they care about is the price tag.
The Roys are pricks in expensive pea coats — this much is clear. But each character offers their own take on the rich-person uniform, expressing their personality, or lack thereof. Logan Roy (Brian Cox) has too much girth to fit well in a suit, so he opts for chunky cardigans instead, plus baseball dad caps and strings for his glasses, which signal his age. Meanwhile, Logan’s mysterious third wife, Marcia, makes up for his sloppiness with expensive-looking jewelry.
Logan’s eldest son, Connor (Alan Ruck), lives out in the Arizona desert on a ranch with his “girlfriend,” whom he pays to be there, hence his preference for Western-style suede leather jackets and hiking boots. His yougest, Roman (Kieran Culkin), is a loose cannon who slicks his hair back and rarely wears a tie. And Logan’s only daughter, Shiv (Sarah Snook), is a ginger Ivanka Trump, who ironically decides to take her status tote and go work for a Bernie Sanders equivalent.
My favorite-looking Roy, though, has to be Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who was poised to take over his father’s company, and therefore has serious daddy issues. He tries so hard in every aspect of his life, including trying to look like he’s not trying at all. When (spoiler alert) his dad fires him following a failed company coup, Kendall decides to swap his well-tailored suit and tie for a T-shirt and sneakers. This, he thinks, will help him acquire tech start-ups with names like “Dust” and talk crypto with the boys.
In one particularly cringeworthy scene, Kendall un-boxes a pair of extremely average-looking Lanvin sneakers in the back of his town car. A knowingly ridiculous Run the Jewels song blasts from the speakers, but Kendall raps along earnestly. “Oh, fuck yeah,” he says, holding up the shoes, which were no doubt expensive, and strapping them to his feet. Oh, fuck no, the audience thinks to themselves. I even covered my eyes in secondhand embarrassment.
Like tasting menus and bottle service, designer sneakers can signal to the world that you know what’s good and can afford it. But they can also be a trap that only dumb rich people fall into. Lucky for the Roy family, they can’t tell the difference, which is why they’re so much fun to watch.