Opinion | ‘Coded luxury’ is glorified normcore

By Hamza Haq, Columnist

The rich seem to have a new obsession, but it isn’t flaunting their wealth. Instead, it’s the opposite. Brands like Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have become less popular with the ultra-wealthy, replaced by lucrative lines whose names are only well known in elite circles. 

To give you perspective, imagine your good friend Alistair — who spends his winters in Vail, wears a signet ring with a strange crest and holds dual citizenship in Luxembourg — walks into your FIN 321 class wearing a generally unassuming blue sweater. 

The label? Brunello Cucinelli. The cost? $2,600.

“Coded luxury” has recently blown up in the fashion realm, particularly on TikTok. Coded, or quiet, luxury encompasses the idea of wearing high-quality plain clothes with virtually no logos, usually costing unbelievably high amounts.

The style is particularly similar to normcore, a trend that gained traction as a response to mid-2010s streetwear fashion. Normcore, usually associated with brands like Uniqlo and H&M, was a way for people to separate themselves from the rising popularity of “hypebeast” brands like Supreme and Bape. 

Like normcore, coded luxury may be a rejection of the obsession with logomania, which gained popularity throughout the 2010s. Loud luxury pieces like Versace sweatshirts and Louis Vuitton jackets plastered logos on their designs as a way to show off wealth. Now, coded luxury supporters find these tacky and associate them with “nouveau riche” — new money.

Fashion TikToker Charles Gross has accumulated a following of over 1.2 million from his TikToks regarding fashion and lifestyle. His most popular TikToks describe the elusive world of coded luxury and why the wealthy are obsessed with it. 

Gross discusses brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana and The Row, and how their unassuming designs appeal to the wealthy. His TikToks aim to put viewers “in the know” about fashion trends not for the general population, but specifically for the ultra-wealthy. 

Coded luxury has started to grow beyond those three brands. Gross also describes how well-known luxury brands like Chanel and Prada release clothing with no branding on it — usually for a higher price. 

What makes the “logoless” pieces from brands like Gucci more lucrative is that they are usually still unique and recognizable pieces — just without logos. These big fashion houses value creativity and innovation in their designs no matter if there’s a logo included or not. However, the most notable and most expensive coded luxury lines specifically pride themselves on releasing the most basic designs possible.

There is nothing wrong with dressing simple, but glamorizing dressing like Mark Zuckerberg is not innovative fashion. That isn’t to say you can’t look good in a Loro Piana sweater or Bottega Veneta trousers, but these items alone are not as stylish as they pretend to be. 

The central ideas of normcore and coded luxury are synonymous: dressing well encompasses clothing with no logos, basic silhouettes and ordinary designs. The only thing separating coded luxury from normcore is the price tag. 

“Money shouts, but wealth whispers,” Gross remarks in a TikTok describing a $5,000 sweater. However, nothing is truly desirable about this manifestation of the wealthy’s tastes. Coded luxury doesn’t idealize a fashion style, but rather glamorizes extravagant spending. Once we can admit this, the obsession with quiet luxury can die out with other niche fashion trends.

 

Hamza is a sophomore in LAS.

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