Here’s a photograph Margaret Bourke-White took of the Garment District in 1930. Every single person on the street is wearing a hat.
What do Tesla, crypto, and men-who-wear-hats all have in common? They’re all driven by fashion, which is another word for the Common Knowledge game.
People get angry with me when they ask my opinion of Tesla, and I tell them it’s brilliant performance art. People get angry with me when they ask my opinion of Bitcoin, and I tell them it’s wonderfully innovative fashion. They think I’m putting them down, that terms like “fashion” and “art” are pejorative. They’re not. Not to me, anyway. My personal opinion is that there is no greater calling than to create Good Art. I love Good Art, and I will pay good money for Good Art. But I don’t kid myself and call it investing.
Buying Tesla stock or crypto coins is NOT investing, any more than buying an amazing Gucci jacket or a beautiful pair of Lucchese boots is investing. Yes, there’s an “investing” component to buying any security or any commodity, but that’s not what drives any of these behaviors. The primary meaning of owning Tesla stock or owning crypto or wearing fashionable things is to make an identity statement. To say to the world who you are and what you’re about.
Can you make money buying and selling fashion? Sure! Can you become very rich and famous by creating fashion or by commenting on fashion or by modeling fashion? Absolutely! But in the immortal words of Heidi Klum before she axes a contestant on Project Runway, “In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.”
If you’re buying Tesla or crypto because you think there’s inherent “value” here, because you think these fashionable securities/commodities are good for “portfolio diversification”, because you think you are investing in “technology” or “the future” … well, I think you’re in for a rude awakening. Like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, there is no there there when it comes to fashion. When fashion turns – and it always does – you’re in for a rude awkening.
I’ll close this note with quotes from two of the greatest modern observers of the human condition.
He can’t think without his hat.
– Samuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot”
There is no more important skill for an investor than to learn how to think without wearing your hat. Because we are all well and truly trained to wear hats. Because there are fashions on top of fashions on top of fashions. Ask yourself what hats you are wearing. Try taking them off from time to time and see if you can still think. It’s not easy. But it’s never been more necessary.
Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.
– Arthur Miller, “The Crucible”
I’m closing with this quote in honor of Elon Musk. ‘Nuff said.
For more on fashion and the Common Knowledge game: “When Does the Story Break?“
For more on the identity statement that is Bitcoin: “The Effete Rebellion of Bitcoin“
For more on the Common Knowledge around Tesla: “Tesla Rekt“