Speaking as a Sangiovese Republican (doesn’t that sound like I represent a Staten Island machine in the NY State legislature?), let me say that it’s amusing to contemplate how scrambled our class markers have become. One of my favorite books from years back was Paul Fussell’s amusingly snotty “Class,” in the last chapter of which, if memory serves, he predicted the rise of an “X class” of young Americans whose tastes were so eclectic the old class markers wouldn’t apply. (Douglas Coupland once told me that he got the moniker “Generation X” from the Fussell book). It’s interesting to me to think back to growing up in the 1970s, how the only rich people we knew were the prosperous farmer who lived down the road. How did we know they were rich, as they were as friendly as anybody else? Because the farmer’s wife drove a Cadillac, and in 1974, they took a vacation to France. France! I was in awe that I actually knew someone who went to France for vacation.
Ten years later, after airline deregulation, middle-class teenage me went to France on the cheap. I’ve been to Europe at least 15 times now; when I lived on the East Coast, it was cheaper to fly to Europe than elsewhere in the US.
So foreign travel isn’t really a class marker anymore. Starbucks has mass-culted coffee, and the microbrewed beer movement has done the same thing for quality suds. A lot of people hate Martha Stewart, but I love her for making decently designed housewares mainstream and affordable. When I was a kid, design was something you had to be well off to afford.
One more thing: my wife and I live in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Craftsman-style bungalows that were built in the early part of the 20th century for the lower middle classes. We bought ours just before the neighborhood took off; we probably couldn’t afford to buy our own house now.
Now to move into one of these houses marks you as pretty much a Merlot Democrat. Two sets of working-class Hispanic neighbors are sick of the influx of Anglos and their interest in preserving this old architecture (“Nobody’s going to tell me what to do with my house,” said my neighbor), and are selling out and moving away. This might be a class marker: in the past year, we’ve seen more people walking their dogs; the working-class people don’t walk their dogs, just keep them chained in the yard.