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Day 30 and Aesthetic Signals

I’ve been chewing on an investment thesis for a bit.

Any of the angel investing I’ve done has mapped back to some very obvious principles in hindsight, and while I’m not quite ready to put it all out there, I’ve been doing the work to formalize it. I even bought the domain

I bring all this up because I’ve been thinking a lot about how aesthetics layer up to telegraph intellectual principles as part of my thesis work. One of the directions I’d like to consider is frustratingly expensive. In most established upper or hipster class aesthetic trends, the difference between being top half and top decile is probably the matter of only a few thousand dollars and working with someone who has taste.

The difference between top 10% and top 1%? At least a hundred grand. To really be world class takes millions.

We like to think that style doesn’t cost a whole lot of money. We give lip service to taste as an intrinsic talent. But it’s closer to being a skill developed through work and study. The people that make culture for a living have an eye for the granular details that make an aesthetic coherent. They can spot the third derivative inspired byproduct at a glance, and give its genesis to you step by step. They don’t do this to be snobs necessarily (which those who are insecure in their tastes tend to think) but simply because they cannot unsee their own aesthetic insights.

The downside to taste being partially a function of study is that if you want to adopt an aesthetic that has history, you can’t really half ass it.

This inexorably leads to new aesthetics arising and evolving simply because those with some study know they cannot afford to pursue an established aesthetic. If they did pursue something with lineage and no budget, they would need to bring an order of magnitude more taste to the whole affair. Now this doesn’t matter if you are middle of the pack. A spit and polish will do you good. But if you want to go from top ten to top one you need to invest the money and talent to get that order of magnitude.

And if you can’t? Well you probably need to pick a fresh aesthetic direction less burdened by history. Harder to pick it apart by showing it’s full lineage for one. But more crucially it gives you the space to build your own.

One reply on “Day 30 and Aesthetic Signals”

That being said, establishing the new direction you’re going in will take money; so we’re right back to where we started 🙂

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