In his review of the new Range Rover Sport on last Sunday’s Top Gear season finale, Richard Hammond described the “Premier League ghetto” of Wilmslow, home to the majority of Britain’s professional football players. Hammond drove through streets lined with jewelers selling diamond-encrusted Rolex watches, dealers selling Aston Martins, and realtors listing multi-million pound homes.
He also passed the wonderfully alliterative Gentry Grooming, whose motto was “grooming for the distinguished gentleman.”
Are professional athletes “distinguished gentlemen?” Even without American steroid scandals, footballers seem to lack the sophistication of the luxury goods and services they buy.
When Ettore Bugatti decided to sell cars to customers, he made a point of choosing them. Legend has it that Bugatti would invite potential buyers to his mansion (adjacent to the factory) for dinner, and if he didn’t like their table manners, he wouldn’t sell them a car.
Things have certainly changed. Anyone with $1.5 million can have a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, the world’s fastest production car. Not only does the buyer not have to be a gentleman (or woman), he or she doesn’t need to have any extra training despite the Super Sport’s roughly 265 mph top speed.
Sometimes I wonder how makers of expensive cars, clothing, and jewelry feel about their products being bought almost exclusively by crass celebrities, or worse. Mercedes-Benz certainly doesn’t want to advertise the fact that one of its most loyal customers was the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.
That doesn’t make the disparity between item and owner any less jarring. After all, a car isn’t capable of being vulgar, like a professional athlete or randomly famous celebrity. Unless the athlete or celebrity does this to it, that is.
I don’t know what Mr. Bugatti would say if he was alive today, but he remark on the need for taste as well as money. We assume that, because they have acquired wealth, wealthy people have worked hard, and aren’t obligated to do anything except enjoy their reward. But when they’re being shown up by their own possessions, maybe they need to do a little more than that.