Creative money aesthetics

Understanding the Creative Class

Ana Andjelic
4 min readJan 25, 2024

There’s the old money aesthetics, there’s the tech money aesthetics, and there’s the creative money aesthetics.

The creative money aesthetics belongs to the Creative Class. The Creative Class is made of creators, curators, critics, and hangers-on. Examples of the Creative Class are photographers, fashion designers, stylists, hair and makeup artists, influencers, writers, chefs, interior decorators, jewelers, furniture designers, florists, filmmakers, publishers, journalists, or artisans.

The main feature of the Creative Class is to treat job as leisure and leisure as job. Their aesthetic reflects this continuum: unlike prep style, which emulates the imagined leisure activities of the aristocracy, the Creative Class aesthetics reflects the real lives of its members: cool, nonchalant, versatile, durable and comfortable.

Unlike Hipsters and Bohemians, the Creative Class nurtures a look with a strong businesswear component. Tailoring is mixed with vintage, sports wear and work wear. In their interpretation, suits are cool and loose; garments are layered and the looks are ready for work or play; outdoor or indoor; unisex is the norm. Items are worn oversized, denim is vintage or made look so, designer clothes are worn disrespectfully and nonchalantly. Shoes are expensive and comfortable, fabrics are textured, and most items have a story and are owned and worn for years (if not generations). While often eccentric and colorful, the clothes are never not practical, and they never overshadow their owner.

The Creative Class aesthetic reflects how its members accumulate cultural capital: through commenting, repurposing, reinterpreting, reviving and/or criticizing past and present culture. In this pursuit, they often venture out of their territory and look for inspiration in the tradition of other disciplines. Kim Jones’ FW 23/24 has been inspired by T.S.Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land.” Grace Wales Bonner found inspiration in James Baldwin’s work.

The Creative Class sifts through and reactivates the past with the purpose of creating something modern and new, but powered by nostalgia and heritage. The idea here is twofold: familiarity, repetition, and recognizability are mixed with newness provided by the modern context. The original (past) intention is given enough of a difference to be considered fresh. The goal is to simultaneously deliver familiarity and surprise.

Cultural revivals and reinterpretations are often trendy; if J.W. Anderson creates a wearable pun, so will Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and others. If 1990s are trending, that everyone will remake and reissue their classics (e.g. The Stam bag at Marc Jacobs). If Surrealism is working for Daniel Roseberry and Maison Schiaparelli, other brands will give it a nod or a few. The newness and difference lasts only for a second, until others catch on, forcing the originator of the difference to move on and come up with something new.

The Creative Class’ secures both continuity and newness of culture, and plays a critical role in the modern economy as it directs consumers’ time, attention, and money towards aspirational things, places and ideas.

Belonging in the Creative Class is aspirational in itself; in the social and professional hierarchy, members of the Creative Class occupy a privileged position that does not adhere to social and corporate structures and behaviors.

They are free to shape their job descriptions, teams, working hours and attire according to the parameters of their self-expression, rather than any external rules and expectations.

The freedom notwithstanding, being part of a Creative Class is a full-time job. In addition to having to perform in their respective creative fields (design, fashion, criticism, curation, writing, etc), they also need to stay atop new trends and happenings, see and be seen, negotiate their fees, review contracts, and self-promote.

The Creative Class achieves its covered position of freedom and influence through either their talent, wealth, education, or social pedigree (or a combination of the four).

Regardless of the source of the Creative Class prestige, keeping it is precarious. Directing people’s attention, time, and money is enabled by creators themselves being brands. A member of the Creative Class is at the same time a merchant and a merchandise: they are packaging, selling, and promoting themselves.

This self-referential dynamics applies to even the most prominent members of the Creative Class. Just as they need to constantly reinterpret and reinvent the past and present it as something new, they also need to constantly reinterpret and reinvent themselves. This is why members of the Creative Class are always on the lookout for a new creative territory to venture into and to use to differentiate themselves. Being a Renaissance woman or man these days is a matter of necessity: to stay relevant, creators need to keep moving.

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Ana Andjelic

Brand Executive. Author of “The Business of Aspiration.” Doctor of Sociology. Writer of “Sociology of Business.” Forbes most influential CMO.