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The psychology of 'Old Money' in Malaysian society: 5 behaviors that exude culture and elegance

Unveiling the sophisticated world of Malaysia's 'old money': a study in cultural legacy and refined elegance.

By Raja Izz



“I love things that age well – things that don't date, that stand the test of time and that become living examples of the absolute best.”


As a writer with a keen interest in the subtle nuances of societal mindset & behavior, I've had the privilege of attending various exclusive events that offer a glimpse into the world of Malaysia's "old money" society. From the thrilling spectacle of a polo match to the refined atmosphere of black-tie events in the heart of the city, and numerous social networking gatherings, I've observed firsthand the distinctive characteristics that set these individuals apart.

Throughout various social networking events, I continued to be impressed by the "old money" men who, despite their background and academic credentials, remained remarkably grounded. Their attire, always on point, spoke volumes about their appreciation for quality and their commitment to maintaining a legacy of understated luxury. Beyond their sartorial choices, it was their code – the way they engaged in conversation, listened attentively, and navigated social circles with ease – that truly set them apart.

In this article, I will delve into the psychology of old money in Malaysian society, exploring the five key behaviors that exude culture and elegance. These behaviors not only define the "old money" but also offer timeless lessons in grace, sophistication, and cultural preservation.

1. Timeless Fashion Choices

The allure of "old money" style in Malaysia lies in its timelessness. Forget fleeting trends and loud logos; the old money wardrobe is built on classic pieces that never go out of fashion. Think impeccably tailored baju melayu and slim single-breasted navy suit, understated yet high-quality batik fabrics, and accessories that whisper rather than shout. Trying to stand out, as many contemporary menswear labels might encourage, is simply not part of their ethos. This is precisely why you won’t see them adorned with flashy necklaces, bangles, or an abundance of accessories.

Accessories, when worn, are minimal and carefully selected. A vintage wristwatch, perhaps passed down through generations, might grace their wrist. Cufflinks and tie are simple, elegant, and often carry a personal or family significance. The absence of excessive adornment speaks volumes about their confidence and self-assuredness; they don’t need to rely on conspicuous items to make a statement. Their presence and the way they carry themselves are enough.

Why It Matters: This sartorial philosophy reflects a deeper understanding of value and tradition. By investing in pieces that stand the test of time, the Malaysian old money elite demonstrates a commitment to enduring quality over temporary fads. It’s not just about looking good today; it’s about maintaining a legacy of elegance and cultural heritage.

Read: Of Aristocratic, Blue Blood, and Old Money Style

Brioni bespoke


2. Subtle Displays of Wealth

For the "old money" in Malaysia, true wealth is about discretion. Instead of flaunting their riches with flashy displays, they prefer subtle cues that only the discerning eye can appreciate. This might mean a vintage Patek Philippe watch, Dunhill wool navy blazer or Crockett & Jones oxford shoes passed down through generations.

Why It Matters: This understated approach to wealth signals confidence and security. Those with old money in Malaysia don’t need to prove their status; their family legacy and upbringing speak for themselves. This quiet confidence is a hallmark of their refined psychology.

Read: Why Society Needs to Cultivate a True Elite Class


3. Polished Social Etiquette

Manners maketh the man—or woman—in the world of old money in Malaysia. Social interactions are governed by a code of conduct that emphasizes courtesy, respect, and discretion. Whether hosting a dinner or attending a royal event, the Malaysian old money knows how to navigate social situations with grace. When they talk, I could hear a gentle voice, calm, cool, and collected.

Why It Matters: Social etiquette is more than just knowing which fork to use. It’s about creating a comfortable environment for others and fostering connections that go beyond superficial interactions. They tend to ask questions rather than dominating a conversation. Again...I observed that their aim is never to draw attention to themselves, instead building a genuine, lasting connection. This skill reflects a deep-seated respect for tradition and an understanding of the social fabric that binds elite circles together in Malaysia.

Read: Malay Tradition and Manners, from a perspective of great literary work "Customs Of The Malay Kings (Raja)"


4. Valuing Education & Intellectual Pursuits

In exploring the domain of education and intellectual pursuits among the old money in Malaysia, one discovers a profound reverence for knowledge.

For these individuals, education transcends its practical utility; it is a lifelong commitment intertwined with personal and character development. The acquisition of degrees or Master's degree from esteemed institutions is just the beginning; what truly matters is cultivating a deep understanding of the arts and sciences, politics, culture, economy, history, and philosophy. In short, becoming a truly "Renaissance man".

This ethos significantly shapes their lifestyle choices. They are more inclined to possess a well-stocked library or arts sculpture from Italy, than an array of luxury cars and more likely to attend intellectual lectures than glamorous social events. At the dinner table, they are inclined to talk on "high culture" topics rather than celebrity gossips or what's trending to invest in cryptocurrency. In selecting movies to watch on Netflix, they are more likely to watch epic movies like "Troy" or classic James Bond, rather than "Bling Empire" or "Dubai Bling". Their focus lies in enriching the mind rather than indulging the ego.

Why It Matters: Genuine interest in life-long learning is a reflection of the values and principles that underpin old money. This dedication to education is not merely a display of status but a strategic investment in long-term growth. A comprehensive education equips them with the discernment needed to navigate global complexities, make informed decisions, safeguard their wealth, and contribute meaningfully to society. This approach fosters a culture of giving that transcends generations and strengthens the social fabric of Malaysian society.

Read: Royalty & Nobility as Multi-Generational Institutions


5. Cultivated Interests and Hobbies

The old money in Malaysia often pursue hobbies that are as refined as they are diverse. From drawing, horse-riding to embarking the Grand Tour of Europe (most particularly Italy) to experiencing fine arts, these activities are not just pastimes but integral parts of their cultural education.

Why It Matters: These cultivated interests are more than time-honored tradition; they represent a lifelong commitment to learning and personal growth. To "old money", to be a better human is their motto, instead of becoming a financially rich person. Engaging in such refined activities enriches the mind and soul, reflecting a sophisticated worldview and a deep appreciation for the classic things in life.

Read: Is High Culture a Pleasure of the Elite, or a Necessity for a Gentleman?


What have I learned

The "old money" in Malaysian society are more than just guardians of class; they are custodians of a rich cultural legacy and exemplars of refined elegance. Their timeless fashion choices, subtle displays of wealth, polished social etiquette, valuing education, and cultivated interests are behaviors that reflect a deep-seated understanding of value and tradition.

These old money men, often from royal and noble lineages, leave a lasting positive impression with their impeccable politeness and grace. They carry themselves with a quiet confidence and an air of dignity that commands respect without the need for ostentation. Their well-dressed appearance, is never striving to get noticed, but it is always be remembered.

In an uncertain world now and future, the "old money" in Malaysia stand as last guardians of culture and elegance. Their code remind me that true class is not about what you have, but how you carry yourself and the legacy you uphold. Their enduring grace and elegance serve as a benchmark for aspirational living, showcasing that genuine refinement and cultural richness are timeless virtues.

In them.... I have an extraordinary example of somebody who’s embody sophistication & elegance, and they are the best role model I could imagine.

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