Author Topic: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism  (Read 12827 times)

SwordGuy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5919
  • Location: Fayetteville, NC
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #50 on: June 12, 2016, 07:38:41 PM »
Example of social pressure on poor people that leads to highly anti-Mustachian behavior: I just (five minutes ago) saw a wonderful former student on facebook post that she bought a brand new Ford Expedition. Catastrophic financial decision. Absolutely breathtakingly horrible. But she comes from extreme poverty and has a stable (albeit very low-wage) job, and is a single, 24 year old mom of two boys...she is trying to signal to others that she has made it, that despite her low-income background and single mom status, she is doing fine. I'm not saying it's a good decision. I'm saying that it is not to be sneered at and scorned--it was done out of ignorance and complex social circumstances.

You are partly right and partly wrong.

Where you are right:

It's not our place to scorn her to her face or to her friends.   There is no reason to be rude or to shame her personally.

Where you are wrong:

As long as the comments made to others are done in such a way as to anonymize the person making the horrible mistake, it's perfectly appropriate to point out that it's a damn fool thing to do.  Why?  So the next generation of people growing up won't make the same damn fool mistake because they've never been told how stupid it is.


Adventine

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1266
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Manila, Philippines
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #51 on: June 12, 2016, 10:54:49 PM »
What I don't understand:  Why has this "sending money home" thing gone on for years?  I can totally understand sending money when someone's in trouble -- Dad needs surgery, little brother needs help with tuition, sister wants to move into a bigger place because she just had twins -- but isn't sending money on a constant basis a bad idea?  Wouldn't that money be better spent in helping the family relocate to a place where they wouldn't need constant handouts? 

I'm thinking of the "give a man a fish" thing.

They see it differently. They see it as having the overseas worker provide the means for the entire next generation to learn to fish, instead of having the overseas worker grill up his catch and eat it himself while the rest of his family goes without.

First, family isn't just a nuclear parents-and-kids thing everywhere the way it is in many industrialized countries. When people talk about moving "the whole family" from the Philippines, that doesn't just mean the spouse and kids. It means means brothers, nieces, great-aunts, and possibly a dozen households in total. That's a lot of plane tickets, and a lot of mouths to feed until the others become employable, which could take a while for reasons I'll get to in a minute.

Second, even if you could wave a magic wand and transport family members across the sea, there's the issue of how to feed and house them once they arrive. A dollar in rural Luzon goes a lot farther than it does anywhere in Minnesota because of the exchange rate and because of the far lower cost of living in rural Luzon. Whereas half of a worker's income might barely feed the large extended family if they were in Minnesota (and forget about putting clothes on their backs or a roof over their heads), in Luzon it can comfortably support more than one household while covering the school fees of the next generation, who can be reasonably expected to have high-status, high-income occupations afterwards.

Third, the worker is holding up his end of a bargain. Where he came from, public education beyond the rudiments most likely wasn't free, and his family had to make huge sacrifices in order to make sure he learned English and got the kind of skills that led to him being employed on a cruise line or as an overseas worker. He may have benefited from an overseas-working aunt or cousin who went before him. But instead of paying that person back, the custom is to pay forward to the rest of the family. Someone worked so that he could have the opportunity to learn and earn, so it's his turn to provide for whoever is next in line.

Fourth, I mentioned earlier that there's a lot better bang for the buck when the buck is spent on people back in Luzon as opposed to people who migrate to a higher cost of living country, but because of the exchange rate it's very hard for the people back home to understand just how little purchasing power the overseas worker actually has. There's the misperception that the overseas worker is rich, but in reality it's not unusual for a family "back home" to be much more affluent if they save and invest at least some of what gets sent back. Many times, a family with an overseas worker uses the extra income to buy land, stock, or other income producing assets that (together with education) permanently improve the socio-economic class of the entire family. Everyone gets upwardly mobile.

Fifth, I mentioned earlier that it might take a while to become employable in a new country. Suppose a person reading this post was instantly transported to a country where he or she didn't speak or even read the language, and had to try to make a living surrounded only by, say, Farsi speakers. How easy would it be to practice your profession? You could be a surgeon, an engineer, or an airline pilot, but without communication skills you'll be lucky to get work scrubbing floors. So it makes far more sense to stay home and do what you were trained to do.

A lot of the people you see scrubbing floors have university degrees in other countries, but due to differences in the credential system they can't use their credential to get work here. While I was living in Alberta and working nights in an office, I was often used as an opportunity for speech practice by other night workers. It's because news got around that I liked to trade words. In exchange for a few words in Tagalog or Vietnamese I'd help with vocabulary in a language I spoke fluently. This made me far more approachable than most of the rest of the night shift, and the notion of trading words makes an impromptu lesson feel less like receiving charity. Thus I struck up an extended ongoing conversation with one of the janitors, who like many people from Vietnam used me from English practice but spoke fluent French. He was university educated and had an undergraduate pre-medical degree, but had settled in Alberta for family reasons and was going to school to get his high school equivalency diploma so he could qualify for a better job. Since English was his fourth language, one day he indicated that it was very frustrating to him to be treated as having never learned the basics when in reality he was more than qualified to teach the courses (except for the language barrier). Many of his friends and co-workers were in the same boat.

Naturally, I asked my co-worker why he didn't simply take the exam in French. He looked at me as if I'd hit him in the back of the head with a board, and asked whether that was actually possible. I told him I'd find out, but that the law required all provincial services to be offered in both French and English. The next day I called around during business hours and parlez-vous'ed a bit to make sure I had the facts straight and that the services could indeed be accessed through francophone-only channels. Then I collected the relevant addresses, prices, phone numbers, and business hours, and proudly handed them off to my buddy the next day with a sincere "bonne chance". He took the little piece of paper as though it was made of platinum and thanked me profusely. I never saw him again (never got the chance to say Tạm Biệt), but I like to think he went in and aced the test the next day, then left for greener pastures. Sadly, that option isn't available to most people who immigrate: they have to learn the language from scratch, and work substantially below their skill level in the meantime. Were they back in their native countries, they wouldn't be scrubbing floors because they'd be working in the professions for which they'd been educated. That's why so many people from overseas-worker economies stay home even after having been educated on a relative's time and dime.

Finally, there's the ubuntu concept. If you're used to thinking of yourself as a member of a much larger collective, then enriching yourself at the expense of everyone else's opportunities feels selfish and inappropriate, even if nobody ever overtly pressures you to feel that way. There's always one more kid to put through school, and that mentality applies regardless of whether you stay home or work abroad.

I'm not saying whether there's a right or wrong way of looking at it, I'm just presenting the point of view I had explained to me by people who were actually living the life.

Thanks, Grim. You summed it up perfectly. There are of course many cases where the family in the home country just takes advantage of the remittances by living an ultra consumerist lifestyle without saving or investing anything for the future. But the ideal situation for both the overseas worker and the family back home is exactly as you described.

Herbert Derp

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 481
  • Age: 29
  • Location: United States
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #52 on: June 13, 2016, 02:19:43 AM »
I don't have any sympathy for people who engage in conspicuous consumption. The idea of sacrificing my own resources so that others will perceive me as being more successful is irrational. Wasting my resources weakens my position, making me less successful. So therefore if I want to feel more successful, I should not engage in conspicuous consumption.

If I want to egotistically flaunt my socioeconomic status, there's plenty of things I can do to get the point across without wasting resources. When comparing rents (for some reason this comes up in conversation all the time), I could mention my absurdly low housing costs due to buying my home in cash--not to mention how much my home has appreciated in value over the last two years. I could complain about my 401k being partially refunded due to being a "highly-compensated employee," or any other random aspect of my life that indicates socioeconomic status.

I think my antipathy towards conspicuous consumption stems from the notion that someone would choose to buy into irrational cultural values and act like a mindless herd animal rather than think for themselves. I don't really care whether other people waste their resources, but I am disgusted by any cultural expectation that pressures me to waste my resources.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2016, 03:05:56 AM by Herbert Derp »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3057
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #53 on: June 13, 2016, 07:29:31 AM »

The thing is, for a lot of people, this would have been really embarrassing. Why is that? Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods.


As a Black person, I understand what you mean.  I mention that I am a married lawyer in the first sentence of my Airbnb requests so I don't get rejected. #AirbnbWhileBlack is a thing:  http://www.npr.org/2016/04/26/475623339/-airbnbwhileblack-how-hidden-bias-shapes-the-sharing-economy.  Guests with black-sounding names are rejected at higher rates, and hosts could only replace those rejected guests a third of the time.  The woman featured in the article stopped  being rejected when she changed her name on the site and got rid of her picture.

Signaling has nothing to do with deeply caring about what some stranger thinks of me.  I signal so I can get the transaction done at all! I just want access to a kitchen on my vacation folks.  The key life lesson is learning how to signal while spending less of your own funds.  I am accomplished at signaling wealth with thrift store clothing.

Mind you, I don't think this applies exclusively to minorities.  But there are definitely particular stereotypes assigned to different groups of people, and the individuals in those groups have to grapple with those stereotypes.

I'm white, and for a while I lived in a Black and Asian suburban neighborhood near Philadelphia. When a (black) family bought the foreclosure across the street, I introduced myself when I saw the husband outside. He made sure I knew within the first few sentences that his wife is a doctor. I figure what you describe is what was happening, but I thought it was interesting because really my family were the "outgroup" - but he still felt the need to make sure I knew they were classy.

He seemed to be a SAHD so maybe that added to his sensitivity.

I guess that's white privilege; it never occurred to me that the neighbors would think we didn't belong - except when the Korean bank within walking distance wouldn't let us open an account.

Midwest

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1346
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #54 on: June 13, 2016, 08:54:44 AM »

The thing is, for a lot of people, this would have been really embarrassing. Why is that? Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods.


Being white doesn't automatically signal socio-economic status.  If you are driving a piece of junk car (no matter what your color) and dressed poorly, people assume a lack of money.  Whether you care of not is not race dependent.

MW - A guy driving a 2001 car.
This^. Hadn't the OP ever heard the term "poor white trash"? If you don't drive a newer car or have nice things you're just as likely to be judged and labelled regardless of your race. Classism exists.

Sparty - A girl driving a 2001 truck.

You drive a.......truck?  Trucks are icky and make things shrink.  I like jeeps.

Midwest

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1346
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #55 on: June 13, 2016, 09:19:23 AM »

The thing is, for a lot of people, this would have been really embarrassing. Why is that? Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods.

The key life lesson is learning how to signal while spending less of your own funds.  I am accomplished at signaling wealth with thrift store clothing.

Mind you, I don't think this applies exclusively to minorities.  But there are definitely particular stereotypes assigned to different groups of people, and the individuals in those groups have to grapple with those stereotypes.

LouLou - I have no doubt prejudices and stereotypes exist and are worse for certain groups than others.  Your AirBNB example is a good one. 

The OP indicated that white people are automatically perceived to be of a certain socio-economic status despite appearances.  That simply is not true.

As you point out it doesn't cost a ton to dress nice and stay clean.  If a dirty white guy in a rusty pick up shows up, he's getting judged too. 

englishteacheralex

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2004
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Honolulu, HI
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #56 on: June 13, 2016, 09:32:00 AM »
I've been reading the great comments on this thread (the long one about immigrants is amazing--super informative and well-written), and also reading more and more blog posts from MMM. I've come to this conclusion:

I've noticed that many readers of the blog have, here and there, already commented on the same thing I posted about when I started this: MMM isn't very nuanced about the possibility of ambiguity in his philosophy. He doesn't tend to acknowledge the idea of privilege; how there is more to what he calls "financial independence" than just the power of our own ability to control our destiny through hard work and discipline.

The Horatio Alger, bootstrapping approach is incredibly powerful because it puts you back in the driver's seat of your personal wealth. There's a lot to that. Avoiding a victim mindset is a key component to success in life.

I can tell I'm going to be a devotee of MMM's blog and probably come to the forums often. It was tailor made for my personality, upbringing, class, and situation in life. I'm ok with a lack of nuance--the blog has great ideas and is freakin' entertaining. BUT it's not the only way of looking at wealth.

Personally, my husband's and my philosophy towards our finances shares many similarities with MMM's, but has a different ultimate alignment. As fairly devout Christians, we see ourselves as managing money that doesn't belong to us. Using the  money that passes through our hands as responsibly as possible in order to benefit as many people as we can is critical to our worldview.

We don't have a lot of interest in retiring early--both of us view our jobs as vocations that we have been called to; we spent a lot of time and money in order to train for these vocations, and we plan on continuing in them as long as we are able. We DO love the idea of working in a different capacity that would pay less or not at all, such as being overseas missionaries.

So this is a different end-goal of wealth--just as an immigrant feels responsible to send back money to the enormous community that played a role in his ability to make more money, we feel responsible to give money in a way that acknowledges the privilege of our being in a (rarified when viewed from the understanding of most of the world's population) position of easily being able to acquire it.

My husband's and my absolute favorite book on the subject of wealth building and giving is Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. In fact, seeing this book on my husband's bookshelf when we were dating is one of the big factors of me knowing I wanted to marry him. :)

cube.37

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 97
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #57 on: June 13, 2016, 01:02:43 PM »

The thing is, for a lot of people, this would have been really embarrassing. Why is that? Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods.


As a Black person, I understand what you mean.  I mention that I am a married lawyer in the first sentence of my Airbnb requests so I don't get rejected. #AirbnbWhileBlack is a thing:  http://www.npr.org/2016/04/26/475623339/-airbnbwhileblack-how-hidden-bias-shapes-the-sharing-economy.  Guests with black-sounding names are rejected at higher rates, and hosts could only replace those rejected guests a third of the time.  The woman featured in the article stopped  being rejected when she changed her name on the site and got rid of her picture.

Signaling has nothing to do with deeply caring about what some stranger thinks of me.  I signal so I can get the transaction done at all! I just want access to a kitchen on my vacation folks.  The key life lesson is learning how to signal while spending less of your own funds.  I am accomplished at signaling wealth with thrift store clothing.

Mind you, I don't think this applies exclusively to minorities.  But there are definitely particular stereotypes assigned to different groups of people, and the individuals in those groups have to grapple with those stereotypes.

LouLou, reading your post, I just had a thought. As someone with Asian upbringing, if I were to book a place on AirBnb, I'd prioritize Asian names and households. Not because I think Asians are better or safer, but because I think there'd be a higher likelihood that the host would understand the culture I was raised in - which would mean a higher likelihood of similar household tendencies (chopsticks, shoes off in home, rice cooker, etc). In other words, I'd look for similarities with the host, and race is one of those things that would stand out in a basic profile page. Obviously not all Asians in America have rice cookers, but I'd guess that a larger percentage of Asian-Americans have rice-cookers than Caucasians/African-Americans.

How much do you think something like the Airbnb article has to do with comfort/familiarity versus racism?

(note: re-reading the article, I'm now seeing this: "They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names than with white-sounding ones.")

LouLou

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 246
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #58 on: June 14, 2016, 09:53:09 PM »

The thing is, for a lot of people, this would have been really embarrassing. Why is that? Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods.


As a Black person, I understand what you mean.  I mention that I am a married lawyer in the first sentence of my Airbnb requests so I don't get rejected. #AirbnbWhileBlack is a thing:  http://www.npr.org/2016/04/26/475623339/-airbnbwhileblack-how-hidden-bias-shapes-the-sharing-economy.  Guests with black-sounding names are rejected at higher rates, and hosts could only replace those rejected guests a third of the time.  The woman featured in the article stopped  being rejected when she changed her name on the site and got rid of her picture.

Signaling has nothing to do with deeply caring about what some stranger thinks of me.  I signal so I can get the transaction done at all! I just want access to a kitchen on my vacation folks.  The key life lesson is learning how to signal while spending less of your own funds.  I am accomplished at signaling wealth with thrift store clothing.

Mind you, I don't think this applies exclusively to minorities.  But there are definitely particular stereotypes assigned to different groups of people, and the individuals in those groups have to grapple with those stereotypes.

LouLou, reading your post, I just had a thought. As someone with Asian upbringing, if I were to book a place on AirBnb, I'd prioritize Asian names and households. Not because I think Asians are better or safer, but because I think there'd be a higher likelihood that the host would understand the culture I was raised in - which would mean a higher likelihood of similar household tendencies (chopsticks, shoes off in home, rice cooker, etc). In other words, I'd look for similarities with the host, and race is one of those things that would stand out in a basic profile page. Obviously not all Asians in America have rice cookers, but I'd guess that a larger percentage of Asian-Americans have rice-cookers than Caucasians/African-Americans.

How much do you think something like the Airbnb article has to do with comfort/familiarity versus racism?

(note: re-reading the article, I'm now seeing this: "They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names than with white-sounding ones.")

I think the article focused more on bias in how hosts choose their guests.  So if a host harbored prejudiced against Asians, they would be less likely to accept your request in the first. 

I would also say that comfort/familiarity and racism are often linked.  Most people who exhibit prejudices aren't overtly racist ("I hate Blacks").  The bias is implicit ("I feel uncomfortable around this person" who is Black).  The person motivated by bias often doesn't even realize.

On your last note, I think that is just more evidence of racism.  In most studies I've seen, there are usually African Americans who harbor the same prejudices against African Americans, but the rate is lower.

LouLou

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 246
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #59 on: June 14, 2016, 10:11:35 PM »

The thing is, for a lot of people, this would have been really embarrassing. Why is that? Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods.


Being white doesn't automatically signal socio-economic status.  If you are driving a piece of junk car (no matter what your color) and dressed poorly, people assume a lack of money.  Whether you care of not is not race dependent.

MW - A guy driving a 2001 car.
This^. Hadn't the OP ever heard the term "poor white trash"? If you don't drive a newer car or have nice things you're just as likely to be judged and labelled regardless of your race. Classism exists.

Sparty - A girl driving a 2001 truck.

Classism exists.  Racism exists.  Many other prejudices exist as well, and they all interact in a complex ways.  Proving that classism affects whites does not disprove racism against anyone else, or prove that classism does not affect other groups in different ways.

For example, I have seen white male lawyers wear sloppy suits to court. Everyone assumes that they are lawyers.  A black male attorney I work with (partner, represents very large corporations in a fancy practice area) told me that he is often mistaken for a well-dressed criminal defendant.  He has to be actively prepared for that when he goes to court. Dressing for court as a female attorney is tricky to say the least - there are still judges who will kick female attorneys out for wearing pants or look down on attorneys for wearing tights instead of pantyhose with skirt suits.  Dressing for court as a black female attorney, when I'm often far younger than anyone else in the room?  A minefield! Biases about race, gender, age, class all interact.

I have a jury trial scheduled for January and I am already actively planning out how hair (I'll pay someone to straighten it), clothes (I need to find pantyhose that match my skin - most are for Caucasian skin tones), shoes (my pumps are beat up and I will have to buy new), makeup, etc.  I'll be six months post baby, so who knows if any of my suits will fit.  If I were a white guy, I would wear my existing suits, get my hair cut right before trial, and shave.  And I can't say "who cares what they think about me?" because what the jury thinks about me matters.  What the jury thinks will affect whether or not I win, how big my bonus will be, my partnership prospects,  etc.

Making Cookies

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1648
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #60 on: June 15, 2016, 09:20:24 AM »
Another thought I had is that the car can be financed, and that restaurant meals (even pricey ones) can be bought on credit cards with just a couple hundred dollars remaining before maxing out the balance, but that a washer/dryer would be more difficult to purchase if your CC is close to maxed.  This is just me speculating, of course--I have no idea if that's what's happening, but it's plausible.

And the Audi driving couple might envision that only the best washer and dryer would be acceptable from their perspective. Thousands of dollars... A MMMian would imagine buying a W&D combo used for $50. Everyone else is somewhere in between.

Our family's method is to buy affordable quality new and make them last 20 years therefore our appliances are basic white rather than stainless, have basic rotary knobs and are not internet capable. Just like their predecessors. ;)

Midwest

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1346
Re: Compassion for Anti-Mustachianism
« Reply #61 on: June 15, 2016, 11:50:55 AM »

Classism exists.  Racism exists.  Many other prejudices exist as well, and they all interact in a complex ways.  Proving that classism affects whites does not disprove racism against anyone else, or prove that classism does not affect other groups in different ways.

For example, I have seen white male lawyers wear sloppy suits to court. Everyone assumes that they are lawyers.  A black male attorney I work with (partner, represents very large corporations in a fancy practice area) told me that he is often mistaken for a well-dressed criminal defendant.  He has to be actively prepared for that when he goes to court. Dressing for court as a female attorney is tricky to say the least - there are still judges who will kick female attorneys out for wearing pants or look down on attorneys for wearing tights instead of pantyhose with skirt suits.  Dressing for court as a black female attorney, when I'm often far younger than anyone else in the room?  A minefield! Biases about race, gender, age, class all interact.

I have a jury trial scheduled for January and I am already actively planning out how hair (I'll pay someone to straighten it), clothes (I need to find pantyhose that match my skin - most are for Caucasian skin tones), shoes (my pumps are beat up and I will have to buy new), makeup, etc.  I'll be six months post baby, so who knows if any of my suits will fit.  If I were a white guy, I would wear my existing suits, get my hair cut right before trial, and shave.  And I can't say "who cares what they think about me?" because what the jury thinks about me matters.  What the jury thinks will affect whether or not I win, how big my bonus will be, my partnership prospects,  etc.
I 100% agree that racism (along with sexism, ageism, and a whole host of other isms) is horribly alive and well.  My issue was that the OP made a comment that all whites, regardless of how they look or what they drive, will still be seen as more affluent then a person of color. I disagree with that assessment.  I think if I walked into a professional courtroom setting looking very unprofessional I too would most likely be judged in a negative light.

ETA I also think Midwest's comment about not caring what othersthink or their opinion of us was more personal-based and not professionally- based. I might care a great deal how I am perceived professionally by my peers and superiors but care very little how I am perceived personally by my neighbors or friends.

The OP said the following " Well, because if one isn't white, one doesn't have the luxury of being assumed to be of a certain socio-economic status purely based on race. Instead, one has to "signal" socio-economic status through the use of consumer goods. "

White people are not automatically assumed to be of a certain socio-economic class based on color, that is bunk.  We have to play the game too in certain situations.

With regard to you situation LouLou - I agree a black attorney may need to be more mindful of his/her clothing/appearance than a white attorney in the same setting.  That's unfortunate, but true. 

I'm a white guy so I can't speak to the your experience, but will tell you mine.  Recently I was scheduled to testify in a trial (as an expert not a defendant), shoes were shined, hair was cut, suit was dry cleaned because in that situation my appearance matters (probably less than yours because you are much more noticeable in court than a lowly witness).  A good part of the difference between my preparation and yours is that I'm a male.  My wife in a similar situation would be getting a hair cut as well similar to your preparation. 

I didn't need to buy a new car for the appearance, just needed to make sure I looked the part.  If I (white guy) had shown up in khaki's without a tie, I would have been judged badly.   

The OP discussed many of the issues as it relates to vehicles and their age.  I've had an issue exactly 1 time with having an older car.  Funny thing was the client complimented me on my "classic" car.