Redefining Snobbery To Save Culture
Lessons From My Grandfather On Being A True Tastemaker
What comes to mind when you hear the word “snob?” Say it out loud to yourself. How was your tone? What did you feel inside?
I’ll bet it was one of two reactions:
1.) Complete disgust for the word.
2.) A smug sense of satisfaction from identifying with the word.
Most folks tend to have a reaction similar to the first. They feel turned off by the thought of a pretentious display of superiority and arrogance by an individual waxing on and on over the cultural significance of the poorly mixed drink sloshing around in their hand.
The Demise Of Refined Taste
At this stage of the 21st century, the tastemaker’s traditional roles have been rendered nearly obsolete as everyone is now free to access and/or create whatever they beleive is worth consuming. Food, drink, music, clothing, art, media…the sky’s the limit.
Couple that with the annoyingly exhausting rise of the “hipster class” and you now have a society where the majority end up settling for barely good enough while believing they have indeed reached the pinnacle of premium self expression. And they’re not afraid to tell you how high they’ve climbed to get there.
This approach to “having taste” is nothing more than misguided ignorance mistaken for “cool,” (note the amount of ironic quotation marks being used so far) and thankfully, it’s this ignorance that presents a major opportunity for true tastemakers to teach the world once again, about what it really means to be a snob. And hopefully save culture in the process.
Behold The Snob
Historically, to be a snob meant viewing others as inferior due to their failure to obtain the same level of class and discernment that you clearly worked so hard to obtain.
But let’s be honest. That’s just plain ole’ arrogance, and the brand of snobbery I learned has no room for blatant egotistical or chauvinistic behavior.
Being a true snob, as it was taught to me, isn’t about seeing others as inferior. It’s about viewing everyone as having the potential for obtaining true class and taste, while still honestly acknowledging that their clothing, music choices, food preferences, and affinity for overly-complicated cocktails are indeed inferior experiences they are clearly settling for out of ignorance.
Therefore, this new definition elevates true snobbery into a self-sacrificial act - shouldering the burden of demonstrating extensively refined standards in the hopes of teaching others by a highly cultivated example.
I was fortunate enough to have had my own example of this type of snobbery in the form of my Grandfather.
Coming from humble beginnings in the oil fields of early 20th century Texas, Grandpa taught himself the necessary levels of taste and discernment needed to work his way up within the company that employed him for most of his life.
He went from roughnecking on rigs at fifteen years of age to throwing soirees for billionaire clients in London over the course of his career. So naturally, Grandpa had a lot to teach us when it came to acquiring taste as well as showing us how to avoid settling as we developed our own snobbish standards.
Scotch, steaks, suits, spirits, and other alliterated areas were carefully explained to us with the upper escelaunce of each category thoroughly examined so we would indeed accept no substitutes nor be fooled by clever imitation.
What follows are a few of Grandpa’s simple rules for practicing refined snobbery in order to become a tastemaker for the benfit of others.
Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate what’s already great with ridiculous amounts of prep, seasonings, ingredients, etc. The true connoisseurs of cuisine know that simplicity is the key to an authentic gourmet experience.
Do not be fooled by pageantry or flair. The best eateries are the ones with the best service and pride themselves in simple elegance.
This applies to the 5 star dining room all the way down to the greasy spoon. There’s elegance to be found in all of it. Don’t settle.
Also, don’t be afraid to carry this to your own kitchen. For years, Grandpa worked at teaching my cousin and I how to grill the perfect filet mignoin. Over and over again, we’d carry them in from the grill, he’d cut a bite, and then tell us if we overcooked or undercooked. Waving us off like a head chef would dismiss his minons, he would tell us to come back next week and try again.
This one seems to ruffle a few feathers every time I bring it up, but America, the majority of you are really shortchanging yourself in this department.
15 ingredient “old fashioned cocktails,” sad tasteless beer, and let’s not get started on all you wanna-be-at-home bartenders deconstructing everything under the sun into a highball with a splash of rustic exotic something or other.
Grandpa’s lesson here was simple and straightforward. No gentleman of any snobbish class or taste will be caught drinking a cocktail that consists of more than three ingredients, ice and a twist included.
Your bow tie needs to be untied by the time your three fingers of Scotch over two rocks is slid into your hand.
The only exceptions to the three ingredient rule are the Bloody Mary and the true Vesper Martini.
If you can’t conceive of drinking any of those 15 ingredients by themselves, then it’s time to begin refining your palate.
Trends are for people who haven’t made up their minds and probably don’t want to. A true snob embraces timelessness, because they clearly understand who they are and how to express that from the inside out.
Know your style. Know your shape. Wear what fits (skinny jeans never fit). Get the best you can. Get a tailor. Do not skimp on cheap labels just to achieve a look.
If you’re indiscernible from the five people sitting closest to you in the coffee shop, you’ve settled.
Go study the style icons and learn what made them icons. Then assemble your legacy wardrobe. It’s worth the time to curate. A true snob BECOMES the icon.
Also, a true snob will never dress to impress. They will instead, always dress to respect. If you have even an ounce of respect for people around you, you’ll dress in a way that shows it.
There is indeed such a thing as good and bad music. A true snob listens to neither. They only allow their ears to partake in listening to great music. Nay, legendary music.
Sure, there’s a few guilty pleasure songs tucked away in the snob’s playlists, but those are only for the occasional private indulgence of cheap nostalgic thrills. “Musical slumming” if you will.
If you’re not into Jazz or have no working knowledge of this genre, then you’re Miles away from understanding music at it’s most refined.
Like what you like. But unless you know and can clearly communicate why you like that particular music, you’ll never be the influencer for greatness that you hope to be.
A snob never shuns or dismisses a person. They truly see and acknowledge all human beings. However, they only regularly spend time with a carefully curated group of no more than five people at a time. Why five, you ask? Because two is too few and six is clearly too many.
The snob’s job: To impact others around them and illuminate the path of escaping the herd of manufactured individualism.
The true snob is an influencer to everyone around them. The only exception is the aforementioned group of five. They are allowed to influence the snob, but only if the snob is allowed to influence them back.
Now that modern culture has had some time away from the traditional tastemakers, it’s becoming incresingly necessary for a new generation to arise and begin cleaning up the jumbled mess caused by the recent excessive and accessible smorgasbord of choice.
People want to look to beacons of refinement and icons of cool as examples of how to pull themselves up and out of the mediochraty of pop culture, GAP clothing, and Starbucks living.
And if culture is to be saved it will need the courageous snobs willing to do the dirty work of humbly and patiently leading the way back into refinement, class, and taste.
As Grandpa so aptly showed me, true snobbery is a cultural responsibility that is shouldered by many, mishandled by most, and refined by a few hearty souls willing to endure the process and pain of getting it wrong until they finally get it right.