“Ditching Phone Cases” Becomes Latest Sign of “Stealth Wealth” Trend

People on the internet can’t stop talking about “quiet luxury” and “stealth wealth.” These are trendy new terms for the kind of expensive minimalism that has long been linked with a certain kind of old money.

TikTok, Succession, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s courtroom looks helped start and spread the trend of wearing expensive clothes and items that don’t draw attention to themselves. But some people might think of it as fine tailoring, a rejection of logomania, or cashmere sweaters from the Row that cost over $1000. But there’s one quietly trending stealth wealth sign that millions of people could start using right now: taking the case off your smartphone.

It’s so everyday that it’s easy to miss, but the proof is everywhere. Rich people on TV don’t care about phone cases. Daphne, played by Meghann Fahy, is a rich stay-at-home mom and wife in season 2 of The White Lotus. The Roy children on Succession and the traders on Billions are also ridiculously spoiled. In real life, too, very rich people have been seen with phones without cases. Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Jay-Z have all been taken with an iPhone without a case.

The message is clear: if I lose my case, it’s not a problem because I can buy a new one. But the price of a smartphone isn’t cheap by any means. The newest iPhone model, the iPhone 14, starts at $829 and goes up to $1,200. According to CNET, iPhone prices have gone up 15% in the last 6 years, which is the biggest jump since Apple first made the device. Verified Market Research, a research and consulting company, predicts that the global market for phone cases will grow to $35.81 billion by 2028, up from $21.61 billion in 2020.

Rocio Martinez, a talent director in Boston who is 31 years old, can’t live without a case and a screen protector. She came to this decision after breaking several devices. She says, “You don’t appreciate a phone until you have to spend $1,000 on a new one.” “Sometimes I’d rather not use a case, but I think I’d get nervous.”

Still, some people think the chance of damage is worth it for the way it looks. Thoma Serdari, who runs the Fashion & Luxury MBA program at New York University, says that not having a phone case can be a sign of both class and ideals. At the most basic level, she thinks that having a smartphone without a case shows an appreciation for design and style: “It’s so beautiful by itself, so why do you need to put it in a case?” Serdari compares a smartphone to an expensive watch and says that both can show a person’s taste. “Most cases are either their own brand or from fashion brands, and they have a lot of loud parts,” she says. “It goes against the idea of a simple look.”

Despite having broken multiple screens, Melissa Cepeda, a 31-year-old accountant in Los Angeles, chooses to remain caseless. She explains, “It’s the general sleekness of it. I recently purchased a purse that hardly has room for my ID, my keys, and a credit card. Bags are growing smaller, therefore my phone is out more naturally. Cepeda is ready to take a chance with an uncovered phone because, in her words, “a chunky case is just going to clash with my aesthetic.”

The extremely wealthy aren’t exactly known for carrying about large amounts of cash, despite the fact that many smartphone cases—including pricey luxury ones from names like Prada—double as wallets. A handy tiny space to hold a public transit pass is not necessary for someone who has a private driver. Serdari also points out that someone who lives in a high-end building with a doorman probably doesn’t need to carry about a clutch of keys and is therefore less concerned about damaging their phone in a pocket or purse.

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