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Don't Change Now, But Those Distressed Jeans Give You Away

Long before The New Frugality began to grab us by the short hairs about 18 months ago, it was clear in certain quarters that conspicuous consumption was gauche. But we shouldn't feel so smug about those farmer's market veggies in the crisper and the compost turner in the backyard. Or, perhaps the point is that we do feel so smug about it.

Andrew Potter calls it "conspicuous authenticity" in a book he's written titled The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves. The social critic, a self-confessed indulger in authentically conspicuous activities such as canoe trips in the Canadian wilderness himself, tells Tess Vigeland: "What we do now is we show off that even though we have all the stuff -- a nice house, a nice car -- we're not really spiritually connected to any of it."

Okay, so what's the problem? asks Vigeland. Well, it's a rather convoluted theory that has something to do with social climbing by putting mud floors in your house, on the one hand, and is akin to having the right connections to get booze during Prohibition on the other. I'm not sure where folks who build their own stills in the woods fit in, but if people who put no-flush toilets in their Manhattan condos are your target, the book may be worth a read.



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