The New Meaning of Luxury


Luxury can be a divisive word. Traditionally, a luxury denotes something that is enjoyed by certain people and not by others. It speaks of the privilege and exclusivity enjoyed by an elite and unattainable few. Having not personally inherited a membership card to Society, I find this concept to be incredibly boring. I know I am not the only one.

There is a new approach to the idea of luxury growing specifically within our generation that puts the subject in an entirely different (and perhaps to older generations an alarmingly inclusive) light. It is not that we no longer want nice things–instead, we are beginning to realize that the existing definition of luxury is too simple.

We seem to be shifting our sights from acquiring things to acquiring experiences. Our luxury is focused less on the infamous Jones’s and more on our personal quality of life. We are not content to take up space and to buy what is sold to us–we have the need to see things, to understand art, and to drink deeply of the incredible beauty that technology has shown us exists outside of our home sphere. Not only are we exponentially more aware of the value of quality, craftsmanship and culture, but we also have more access to these things than ever before.

To put it simply, we know too much for the old definition of unattainable luxury to apply.

Luxury, in its new context is the enjoyment of the best in life.

Luxury, in its new context (and in the very truest form of its vogue over the centuries) is the enjoyment of the best in life: the experience of beauty, knowledge, and humanity at their deepest and most inspiring. It is the sweetness of life. Luxury could be a sunset, a song, a moment of peace and satisfaction, a perfect cup of tea, a wonderful book or a poignant photograph in a local art gallery. From this perspective, luxury is any jolt of beauty or wonder that reminds us to love the life we’re living, and to not simply live it, but to devour it gleefully and scoop up any crumbs that are left over–to not let a second of this fantastic existence go to waste.

It is possible that this refocus is a result of the challenges facing young people today. So many of us have chosen to sacrifice income and stability to follow our passions that luxury in the traditional American sense (increasingly bigger cars, televisions and houses) no longer seems a viable option. As a group, we have lower incomes and high expectations. Perhaps this is why our priorities have shifted. Perhaps this is why luxury in the sense of beauty, art, quality and knowledge, has become so precious to us.

Beauty must be sought out; one must make the conscious choice to discover quality and to enjoy it.

This kind of luxury is not inaccessible, but it does take intention. Beauty must be sought out; one must make the conscious choice to discover quality and to enjoy it. I would propose that a cup of coffee isn’t just a cup of coffee. It could be a routine pour that you make half asleep that burns your throat but will help get you in the car for your commute in time. Or it could be freshly ground, French-pressed divinity, worth getting up 10 minutes early to pour into your favorite cup as the sun rises just out the kitchen window. The first seems a very drab way to start the day, the other sounds lovely and luxurious, though admittedly it takes much more effort.

Our lives are so often made of routines that any time we can celebrate the specialness of life or acknowledge the beauty of nature or the creativity of man is well worth whatever effort it takes. A vase of flowers, a candle, a dinner party, a museum, a garden, a trip to the beach, an exquisite picture frame discovered in a thrift store, a crystal glass of exceptional whiskey–these are not the glamourized flights of self indulgence known to the past, instead, they are the new valued investments of today, treats to our well-being, and an intentional celebration of the beauty and joy in all that surrounds us.

This is the mantra of new luxury: Life must not only be lived, it must be enjoyed. It must be wholeheartedly embraced. It must be worth it.

image via skonahem