It's always a bit mystifying and off-putting when people adorn themselves excessively.
For the sake of argument, let's define "excess" as anything with no added utilitarian value, for instance expensive clothes which are neither more comfortable nor longer-lasting or noticeably better-looking than cheaper clothes. (A forty dollar pair of slacks can look sharper than a twenty dollar pair, but a hundred dollar pair is almost never worth the added cost.) Any showy watch (such as a Rolex or Omega) is also excessive, especially now that cheaper watches tell time so accurately.
The basic conceit is that wearing a higher quality product makes you a higher quality person.
I succumbed to this silly disease myself when I bought an expensive car several years ago. Prior to that, I had driven a Toyota Corolla. But five years of wearing a Corolla in my upper middle class town had left me feeling somehow....tawdry. So, even though I'd always looked down on people who put too much stock in their cars, I purchased a Lexus LS 430. (My standard joke is that now I just look down on people who drive lesser cars.)
For a while, having the car actually did, at some inane level, make me feel as if I were the human equivalent of a Lexus LS 430, a powerful, smooth, and well-designed piece of machinery. I never consciously analyzed it that way, but I did sort of feel that way.
(In self-defense: one's thoughts may be a reflection of one's IQ, but one's feelings are not.)
The only problem was, as I discovered, driving a Lexus does not make you the human equivalent of one. Ever since I bought it, I have only gotten older and weaker and slower and balder. And, now that I think of it, poorer.
The fact is, what you are at the most basic level is your intelligence, your character, and your body. Everything else is just window dressing. I suppose you are also your accomplishments, and some accomplishments can result in having more money. But possessions are still a very secondary definition of who you are.
If Albert Einstein had lost all of his money through bad investments, would this somehow have diminished him as a human being? (He might have felt diminished, but it certainly wouldn't have taken anything away from his accomplishments.) Away from his breakthroughs in physics, he seems to have been a fairly philosophical type, and one senses that he could have weathered the loss of his money better than most; maybe that's a better measure of one's worth as a human being.
I can't seem to recall any pictures of Einstein wearing gaudy jewelry. Neither can I recall any such pictures of Bertrand Russell, or George Bernard Shaw, or Leo Tolstoy. In fact, the very ridiculousness of such an image underscores the basic point:
The more expensive the bauble, the cheaper the human being.
An aside: Can those of us who take pride in our physiques pull rank over those who pay excess attention to clothing, or baubles? Probably -- but not by much. One thing I've noticed over time is that people who pay attention to fitness (ardent triathletes and the like) tend to pay less attention to their clothes. People who pay attention to clothes, on the other hand, tend to pay less attention to fitness (fitness being a related but separate issue from weight). I guess this means that if you meet someone who pays a lot of attention to both, you know he's really vain.
Anyway, my next car will be an econobox. Wearing a Prius means that some will mistake me for a liberal, but I don't care. At least I'll be getting better gas mileage. And, perhaps, hiding my shallowness a little better.
(By the way, have you ever heard a more long-winded justification for not dressing well?)