In a quote attributed to Dolly Parton, she said "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."

While watching old videos of Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos infamy that are percolating to the surface recently, I wondered how someone who (allegedly) spent lavishly on her appearance could consistently have hair that resembled that of someone just rescued from a stormy month at sea in a dinghy.

Is there a single word that conveys this high cost / cheap appearance concept?

  • . . . . gaudy ?
    – Nigel J
    Sep 14, 2021 at 10:49
  • Dolly Parton and Elizabeth Holmes seem to be a very different aesthetic: Parton is high glam (and might be called tacky) while Holmes seems to be dressing down and avoiding glamour or power dressing. Is there something specific you want a word for? Also, try and indicate whether you want a noun or an adjective and how you want to use it in a sentence.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 14, 2021 at 11:40
  • The phrase "studiously unkempt" is sometimes used for someone who has deliberately cultivated a sloppy appearance even though they have the resources to look much more polished. Think of Boris Johnson's infamous ruffled hair, for example. Sep 14, 2021 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


The hair seems to be called "messy" which gets you a lot of hits on Google for purposefully applied styles but no formal definition.

Not many things are made to look cheap but there are aesthetic movements that prize items that are made to look imperfect either through age or use.

For example "shabby chic":

a fashionable but informal style of decoration that uses furniture and other objects that look old and used, not modern and new

For furniture and jeans you can use "distressed"

Distressing (or weathered look) in the decorative arts is the activity of making a piece of furniture or object appear aged and older, giving it a "weathered look"

The above link also gives "antiquing", "ageing" and "relicing"

  • A scruffy hairstyle is sometimes called "just got out of bed" but it doesn't require money - it can refer to people who have genuinely just got out of bed.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 14, 2021 at 11:44

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