How much money do you have to have, exactly, before you become a wanker? This is a question I pondered deeply, and without personal fear, while spending a few days with people who could afford $25,000 – plus first-class flights – to spend a week swanning around Europe in supercars, and watching the Monaco Grand Prix from the top deck of a superyacht.
The super-rich squad did include a Lotto winner, who, curiously, hadn’t quite reached full wanker mode yet, and if you’re lucky enough to come into this kind of money, I can’t recommend Ultimate Driving Tours’ European adventure highly enough.
Driving a dozen supercars at speed across some of the best roads in France and Italy is fantasy fulfilment, but for me it was the people-watching that blew my mind. I mean, honestly, has anyone ever smoked a cigar because they like the taste? I call shenanigans: rich people chomp on these turd-like combustibles because it’s a way of wafting your wealth around a room that’s quicker and more effective than waiting to drop into conversation how expensive your Patek Philippe watch is.
Truly, though, the ability of some of these people to flex their wealth in any context is incredible. I observed one man three times slip the fact that he’d recently sold his company for $127 million into his introductory patter before he’d finished shaking hands with people.
It seems clear that being rich isn’t enough of a joy on its own; you need other people to know that you are wealthy, which is exactly how expensive brands create fashion victims. A man with money cannot merely wear sneakers, he must swan around in Jimmy Choo loafers, even if they make him look like a knob.
For women, a $6000 jacket only feels that expensive if the branding is emblazoned on it like pimples on a pubescent teen’s face. And you still have to tell people it cost $6000.
Perhaps my favourite thing – aside from the moment when someone said, “It’s so nice, isn’t it, that some of the people on this tour aren’t even rich” – was the luggage: Louis Vuitton cases, $4400 a pop, that had to be covered in protective muslin bags before they could be loaded into the cars. Just imagine how much airport baggage handlers enjoy kicking the hell out of those things (I must admit, I kicked hell out of one myself).
For a man, of course, there are fewer obvious ways to show off your wealth, because diamonds clash terribly with chest hair, and this is where supercars come in. I was recently told that journalists shouldn’t be allowed to write about them, or at least should stop banging on about the prices, because we will never, ever, “understand the mindset of the customer”.
I’ll admit, it has never made sense to me that otherwise financially savvy millionaires would so willingly allow themselves to be gouged by high-end car companies for options like $60,000 paint, but the fact is they want to spend the money so they can tell people that they did so.
And this is where the whole supercar thing falls down for me. I do love driving them, but I would never buy a Ferrari, even if I won Lotto a dozen times, because doing so doesn’t tell people that you’re a car enthusiast, it’s purely about telling everyone how rich you are. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Fortunately, and somewhat obstinately, I still believe that buying a Porsche is acceptable, although my new favourite, the $604,800 Speedster, falls into the super-rich shutout, sadly.
I’m sure there are people who believe the maxim that whoever dies with the most toys, wins. Indeed, I just spent time with quite a few of them. But I’m afraid you’ll still die a wanker.