Who are the Pijos, who consider themselves to be high class?
A “pijo” is someone who looks high class, somebody who looks like the stereotype that the average Spaniard has about high-class people. The main difference with other “upper classes” elsewhere is that pijos are defined not by how much they earn, but rather by how much they spend. It is more of an urban tribe than an actual social class.
I have seen people with middle or low income behave and look like a pijo. I have seen wealthy people with tons of money who would be looked down by the allegedly “high class” for wearing simple clothes or having unassuming cars. For example, a wealthy frugal entrepeneur devoted to, say, building his modest library at home rather than attending expensive yacht parties, would not be considered to be pijo. Nor “high class”, either. How could you have money if you don’t spend it? You’re probably lying!
Conversely, a run off the mill office clerk who would be indebted to the hilt, in order to buy the most expensive clothes in the store would be considered to be a “pijo”.This that would grant him access to the circles of the Spanish moneyed class, or at least, some fictional acceptance.
PEOPLE WITH ACTUAL MONEY People with actual money in Spain usually tend really hard to NOT look like a pijo, or have a very low-key type of profile. They might buy a house in an expensive neighbourhood, because the whole real estate investment is too much of a draw, but that’s the maximum extent of their “flaunt”. If they are “young money”, you will likely never, ever guess that they are high class, unless they want you to know, most interesting , many of their connections will likely be of foreign origin. The only sign that will “betray” their wealth is their ultra-specialized type of expertise in whichever area made them rich in the first place.
If they are “old money”, there are more external signs to recognize them, but all of them are very subdued. Most of all will come down to manners and education. They’re probably the last remmant of Spaniards who remember something that resembles actual courtesy. Unlike pijos, they will have very few luxury items, but they will show extremely good taste at picking them, and you will likely need to have lot of “know-how” in order to “obtain” them.
BONUS TRACK: REGIONAL OLD MONEY
A very unique, Spanish-centric type of money, not every Spanish region has its Old Money, but the ones that do… well, they are really truly something else.
Regional Old Money is unable to compete with nation-wide old money and young money, which fuels a huge inferiority complex and resentment. This means that Regional Old money is very visible and far more flaunting-prone than its other counterparts: They will form part of the public life of their region, will take huge, central roles in public cultural festivals such as the Feria de Abril in Seville, the Pilgrimage to Montserrat in Catalonia or the Carnival of the Canary Islands (which is truly something that money can’t buy), and will absolutely not hide their political connections.
Unlike their other moneyed counterparts, they tend to err on the most conservative side of Catholicism. They are extremely insular and while they will treat lower classes with varying degrees of indifference (or even affection, if they serve them or their families well), they are only openly hostile towards the “other” moneyed classes, which they view as illegitimate alien threats from another different planet that requires active (and often political) defence measures.