Shocking Status Symbols Throughout History

Status symbols are used to indicate one’s economic or social standing. These visible external symbols may vary based on culture and the era. Numerous luxury items are viewed as status symbols. Today, in the western world, one would regard someone who has the latest technology, drives a Ferrari or Lamborghini and wears the finest designer wear as someone with high social standing. In some cases it is gold and precious jewels. Throughout history there have been several status symbols. The five status symbols you read here may be surprising.

1. Pineapples

After Columbus introduced pineapples to Europe from the New World, this delicious, refreshing fruit became quite popular in the 16th and 17th century. They were rare, difficult to grow, and took years for a harvest which increased the cache of owning one. At the time, a pineapple cost about sixty pounds which is equivalent to about over £5000 today.  Pineapples were placed on permanent display rather than eaten. Persons would place them on their mantle for months until they rot. For people who weren’t rich enough to own a pineapple they had the option of renting one for the evening, to show off to visitors.

2. Ornamental Hermits

In the 18th century, an ornamental hermitage was a building in the garden of a grand estate which was built to look run down. It was filled with follies and curios, and was a place for reflection and loneliness. With time, this evolved and people actually hired an ornamental hermit. This was a person who lived in the rundown building for seven years. He did not groom himself and carried heavy books. They represented melancholy and emotions that were prized at the time. Only the wealthiest individuals could employ someone to live in that manner.

3. High Heels

Today, women wear high heels to make a fashion statement and to represent femininity, elegance and class. Well it may surprise you that high heels were once worn by men as a status symbol. Around the ninth century Persian horseback warriors were thought to have devised high heels which served only to increase the warriors’ horses’ stability. Riders have an easier time keeping their feet in the stirrups as well as standing in the stirrups to shoot arrows as a result of the high heels. These military men had to be of an elite class because they had to be wealthy enough to own their horse.

4. Lawns

Today, a lawn is a landscaping feature of many properties. Having a lawn does not signify wealth or class. However, at one time, having a lawn showed one’s true status and social standing. A yard with a lawn was seen as wasteful land. At that time, peasants had no lawns as they used all their available land for farming and to make a living. Therefore, having a large lawn suggested not caring about the amount of space that was wasted.

5. Fans 

Fans have a variety of purposes from the practical to symbolic. They can serve as a display of refinement and riches among other things. The handheld fan’s association with luxury and royalty, which dates back to the time of the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Babylon, may be its most enduring function. The fans were made with sticks of bone, bamboo, metal, tortoiseshell, wood, jewels and paintings. The more elaborate the fan, the more “important” the owner was. Different colors, forms and embellishments displayed that rank.


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