From Cadillacs to iPhones: Luxury Status Symbols Over the Decades

Status Symbols

Cheapism / Alden Jewell (CC BY) / Universal Pictures / nyc russ/istockphoto

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Status Symbols
Cheapism / Alden Jewell (CC BY) / Universal Pictures / nyc russ/istockphoto

What's Your Status?

In any given year, there are obvious signs that someone is wealthy, like flashy cars and giant houses. But there are also subtle signs that indicate a positive financial well-being. Those little status symbol nuggets have changed a lot over the years, but we've highlighted the most quintessential signs you had money each decade below.

A 1950s family gathered around a TV
Harold M. Lambert/Getty

1950s: Modern Appliances and New Luxury Cars

The post-World War II economic boom led to the popularity of modern home appliances like washing machines and televisions. Owning these items, especially newer models or multiple appliances, meant you were doing pretty well for yourself during the 1950s. The decade was also a hot time for automobiles and large, stylish rides like a Cadillac or a Chevrolet Bel Air were significant status symbols. 

Audrey Hepburn
Universal Pictures/ Wikimedia Commons

1960s: Designer Fashion and Hi-Fi Stereos

If you were well-off in the '60s, you might have flashed your wealth with a Hermes scarf, Chanel handbag, mink coat, or Burberry raincoat because designer fashion was prevalent among the rich throughout the decade. Polaroid cameras and hi-fi stereo systems were also status symbols in their own right. 

Related: 11 Things From the 1960s That Are Now Worth a Ton of Money

1970s Rolex watch
eBay / Montreal Pawn

1970s: Porsches and Rolex Watches

One could argue that every decade has its own luxury vehicle status symbol, but none were quite as prominent as Porsches during the 1970s. Porsches were elite and if you had one, so were you. And if you stuck your hand outside the window of your Porsche at a stoplight to adjust your side mirror, allowing the Rolex on your wrist to glisten in the sun, forget about it — you'd be the total embodiment of status in the '70s.

Related: Everyday Things Only People Who Came of Age in the ’70s Would Remember

1980s car phone

1980s: Car Phones and Home Entertainment Systems

Status in the 1980s was hinged on technology and appliances. Dishwashers started to become more common during the 1970s and if you had one in your home during the '80s, you were thriving. If your house was also equipped with a cordless phone and a home entertainment system, you were the real deal. But the chief status symbol of the decade had to be car phones. Only the well-off and wealthy were so important (and financially capable) that they had to be able to take calls while in the car.

Related: 12 Tech Flops of the 1970s and '80s That Were Ahead of Their Time

1990s big screen tv

1990s: Pools and Big Screen TVs

Only the cool kids had in-ground pools and trampolines in their yards during the '90s. Parents would host barbecues out by the pool deck and head inside when it got dark out to gather around the big screen TV and pop a movie in the DVD player. And these weren't your flatscreen mounted big screens. Oh no, they were the boxy, bulky bad boys, and if you had one, everyone figured you were loaded.

Related: The Coolest Cars of the '90s

Little Girl Stand on Road

2000s: Uggs and TiVo

There's only one way to describe what status looked like throughout the 2000s. Picture a girl walking around the mall sporting Abercrombie & Fitch clothes and a pair of Ugg boots while frantically texting on her Blackberry. That was it. She was beauty, she was grace, and she had money.

And lest we forget about TiVo. Long before streaming services allowed us to pause and rewind like it's nothing, TiVo offered the chance to record, fast-forward, rewind, and pause TV shows and only people who were fortune enough to, well, have a fortune in their bank account could pause "American Idol" while they ran to grab more popcorn.

Related: The Most Regrettable Fashion Trends in History

Google Nest Smart Thermostat

2010s: iPhones and Smart Homes

Tech took over in the 2010s and if you had a Nest thermostat, Ring doorbell, or other smart appliance, that meant you were financially solid. Plus, Apple iPhones and Watches were all the rage (and continue to be). 

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The Rise of the Stanley Quencher Cup

Today: Lululemon, Stanley Cups, and Luxury SUVs

These days, it seems the biggest way to flex is by sipping the straw of a giant Stanley cup as you walk through the grocery store in search of Nespresso pods, wearing Lululemon leggings. Bonus points if you leave the store in search of your decked-out luxury SUV in the parking lot. And if we're being candid, if you can leave said grocery store with a cart full of food without fretting about what you just spent, that's sadly become a status symbol now too. 

Related: These Viral TikTok Trends Cleared Store Shelves