The White Shoe Theory of Wealth

Every external behaviour is a tell for an internal belief.

Yesterday, I spent time on a panel with Karl Dubost, whose website blocks search engines from finding him. This external behaviour is a tell for something he believes in. Can you guess what that is?

Today I heard a story where someone was talking about large sums of money very casually. What does that tell you about his worldview?

This is white shoe theory. It’s the idea that everything someone does or says comes from them wanting you to believe something, like you’re selling.

You see billionaires wearing regular clothes because they want to be treated more like real people. You see rap stars wearing gold because it convinces the audience that they’ve reached a certain class.

Everything is a tell. Nothing is opaque.

Sometimes I meet people whose face shows a lot more emotion than they probably intend, making the discomfort they feel obvious to me and everyone around them. Vocal tone does this too. It makes me wonder what tells I have that I don’t even know I’m presenting to people.

Do you ever wonder what impression you’re leaving on people? It’s my feeling that, given enough time, your true personality will show through despite you trying to hide it. What do you think?





11 responses to “The White Shoe Theory of Wealth”

  1. Jean-François Garneau Avatar

    Très juste commentaire quant à l’affichage social, conscient ou inconscient. J’ajouterais, à propos des rappers, qu’ils reprennent souvent les personnages types de la mythologie vaudou. Une note plus personnelle : d’après ce que j’ai observé hier au colloque, tu aimes bien paraître détendu (lean back), tout en étant très actif sur le web (lean forward)… C’était assez constant pour être voulu, donc pas de révélation ici. Mais plus intuitivement, je dirais que pour un observateur attentif, tu aimes aussi être observé et t’observer toi-même. L’usage de technologies individuelles (pc, cell, etc) émerge d’un certain nombrilisme et l’entretient, tout en induisant de nouvelles façons de communiquer (sans microbes). Ce n’est pas un hasard que deux puissances technologiques (É-U, Japon) soient aussi obsédées par l’aseptisation. Ironie : la programmation virale… Quant à moi, des conversations limitées comme celle d’hier, qui comprennent des faussetés (‘la création est spontanée, l’auteur émet simplement ses idées’), me poussent à m’exprimer ailleurs, comme ici. Merci d’accueillir mon propos et d’avoir participer à l’exploration Columbus.

  2. Eric Pratum Avatar

    My feeling is that it is much easier today than it was 10 or 20 years ago to know if someone is having a midlife crisis or mental breakdown because you see it plastered all over their online presence. I might not be able to tell that someone is heartbroken when I see them in public, but when they post tweet after tweet saying things like, “she smashed my heart, and I can never put it back together,” I’m pretty sure that I know what’s going on. This of course applies to many more things. Online or off, you can get a good idea if many people are religious, liberal, gay, racist, foodie, stressed, etc, etc just by catching a few key posts or facial expressions.

  3. Dave Sohnchen Avatar

    I agree that over time your true personality will show through but I think it’s because we subconsciously let our guard down. The truth is we actually want people to know who we really are and I think we just get tired of the bullshit that we mask ourselves in.

  4. @mckra1g Avatar

    Interesting point made by Jean-François: yes, rappers may be playing a role, but upon what is the foundational structure of that role based? Whose expectations are they hoping to fill/actualize? It’s rooted somewhere in perception.

    I also agree with Dave to a certain extent.

    1. As we age, ideally, we are able to better discern *who* we are and also feel more comfortable revealing it.

    2. Our actions do belie our feelings. What we say equals “what ifs” and what we *do* is what *is*.

  5. Whitney Avatar

    I agree 100%. If you are sensitive to other people, and bother to look and observe, you find out a lot of information about them they might not even want you to know. This gets missed by many because we got so wrapped up in what we’re going to say next, what we have to do next, that we aren’t really connecting to the person we’re interacting with.
    I can often feel tension in the room, or in a conversation, and sometimes it’s hard to understand exactly why, but it’s often worth exploring that territory if the other person is game- that can lead to some of the more important conversations you’ll ever have.

  6. Derek Avatar


    Good stuff… and it’s funny to me today because I’m wearing white shose :-D.

    More seriously, I think you should check out the book “Louder Than Words” by Joe Navarro. It’s a complete book about body language or “tells” if you will.

    I just finished it last week and it completely blew my mind, heh.

  7. Joe Sorge Avatar

    I totally agree that your true self will show eventually show though. I wonder how many direct contact impressions it takes for your “tell” to reveal itself. Or does it even need to be a direct contact at all?

    Thanks for getting us thinking as always Julien.

  8. Andrea L. Griggs Avatar

    I totally agree……the real you will eventually stand up and shout!

  9. Maya Paveza Avatar

    Awesome! Total truth. I enjoy nothing more than “reading” people. Most people are so self-absorbed they can’t tell you are doing it. I have always had that ability to read past the facade that people put out there, and try to be as genuine as possible myself because there is no other way to be. Having grown up in a few wealthy areas, the funniest people to observe are the “nouveau rich” who put on the pretentious front for all things.
    Faces always tell the truth, but it takes a keen eye and true talent to read them sometimes.
    It is cool to be real.
    And Whitney – spot on babe! We talk about that stuff don’t we!

  10. Jonathan Belisle Avatar

    The Context is very different when you know how much attention Karl had to deal with during a certain period of his life.

    I do really hope Julien that before you wrote that post you said that Face to Face to Karl.

    Blog Post cannot fathom the fact that Karl would have had a superb answer to your question.

    I just think he see things differently than you. Don’t you think 😉

    Anyway I think that you and him were the Total Opposites on the Panel and it brought us a little deeper into the rabbit hole.

    Thank you for sharing your honest impressions.

  11. Ric Dragon Avatar

    I like playing this game when I’m driving – that each and every car was chosen because the owner wishes to project something about themselves. I’m not saying its as pat as, say, ‘oh, that person is driving a mini cooper, they want to be thought of as being cute, and maybe a little bit eccentric’ – but you can, I think, conclude a fair amount.

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