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Home > Pt. 2: Calling (kate) spade a spade... why do we shell out for image?

Pt. 2: Calling (kate) spade a spade... why do we shell out for image?

August 4th, 2008 at 08:53 am

I thought I'd try to answer my own question.

I think there are a lot of reasons why my generation in particular is so caught up with labels (and not just Gap or Abercrombie, but Cavalli and Gaultier, too).

1. We feel that luxury is within our reach. Extravagance is not limited to the stars and ultra-rich. We don't dream about Chanel bags- we rent them, if need be, or we eat canned fruit for a month to afford one. We are less prone to idolize and more prone to emulate (think reality TV, youtube, blogging). I could never quite identify when my mom talked about her adoration of certain movie/rock stars when she was young- they could do no wrong, they were glamorous and chic and lived in a fantasy world. Today it seems like we're more interested in photographing our celebs with no make-up or unveiling their latest drug habits than in viewing them through rose-colored glasses. Underlying message: They're just like us! ...Or, "We're just like them!"

2. We associate luxury with being good to ourselves, not with irresponsibility. Commercials and our peers keep drilling into our heads that in a fast paced world, we deserve to be rewarded. A busy woman who takes a two-day spa and yoga retreat is being well-rounded and spiritual, not financially reckless. A career woman who works 7 days a week on the brink of burnout has her priorities out of whack. Unless, of course, her hard work is manifested in a Fifth Avenue address.

3. In spite of #2, we correlate our bank account with our work ethic. Despite a number of bestsellers highlighting the near myth of the rags-to-riches story, we still somehow believe that if we work hard enough we, too, can drive a Maserati. When we're scraping by and our friends are VIPing their way across the country, we secretly wonder if they're just more industrious/dedicated/ career-focused. And then when we have more than our friends, we think, "I worked damn hard on days that they were at the beach."

All of this culminates in the need to perfect an image- both as individuals and as a community- often at the cost of pure rationality. You don't really have to live in luxury, be good to yourself, or have a solid career; you just have to look like you do.

3 Responses to “Pt. 2: Calling (kate) spade a spade... why do we shell out for image?”

  1. gamecock43 Says:

    I get this topic. I live this topic. I hate paying for image and yet I do it.

  2. ceejay74 Says:

    The worst is that new Discover card commercial that starts "We're a nation of consumers...and that's OK!" The show "Maxed Out" on the Style network is a good remedy.

  3. sillyoleme Says:

    I agree pretty much completely. There are so many of my friends and coworkers that astound me. They manage to have new cars, eat out every day, new fashionable clothes, etc. I work all the time, try to be responsible with my money, and still don't have much to show for it.

    Lately I've been struggling with the "I'd rather have fun while I'm young than wait until I'm too old to enjoy it" feeling. I try to tell myself that all the things I'm attempting financially will pay off in the end, but then I get this depressing thought of being the 40-year-old mom who is driving around in a sports car because she could never afford one when she was younger. Not that I'd hate having a sports car or anything, I'd just hate that everyone else experienced it in their "prime".

    Silly thinking, I know.

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