Sunday, September 9, 2007

two words

conspicuous consumption

We all want nice things. A reliable car that gets us from A to B. A safe, attractive place to live. Stylish clothes we feel comfortable in that express who we are. Maybe you want a stainless steel trash can instead of your white plastic one, or an iPod, a new laptop, a couch that isn't a hand-me-down, an expensive new pair of jeans that fits like no other, some new camping equipment, or even a house. My point is, there is a difference between wanting nice things and conspicuous consumption, between "I have a nice comfortable car that efficiently gets me from A to B" and "look look LOOK at my EXPENSIVE car that cost me soooo much and shows off how much money I make and how much better I am than YOU."

In my opinion, conspicuous consumption is represented well by the Hummer. Most people who know me are well aware of my deep, deep, hatred of these vehicles. I despise, nay, loathe them. My blood pressure starts to rise and I actually start to sweat. Really, truly, sweat. There is absolutely, positively NO reason to have one of these vehicles in urban America other than to show off. Owning one shows a complete lack of respect for the earth you call home, the people you call neighbors and family, and your fellow drivers. PERIOD.

Another popular and perfect example of conspicuous consumption are logos. Oh you know what I'm talking about. That handbag or suitcase with an LV printed all over it. ("Look how much I spent on this handbag; I just have SO MUCH MONEY!! Don't you wish you were me?") Burberry plaid. The double C Chanel Logo. Gucci. Prada. Juicy Couture. Tommy Hilfiger. Even brands like Guess and some Target private labels are getting on the logo bandwagon. The thing is, these labels make many many styles of with a discreet logo. If you are really interested in the style or quality/craftsmanship of these items, they offer plenty of options without obnoxious all-over logos. But the people who choose the items plastered in logos are only interested in broadcasting their status and wealth; they are, above all, a status symbol. They say "I am chic, I have plenty disposable income, and I align myself with the marketing, lifestyle, and ideals that this company represents." Of course this logo-mania extends beyond leather goods to clothing, home decor, and as always, vehicles. (Just to reiterate this, I am not saying that having nice things is bad, just that there is a clear difference between having nice things, and having nice things with the sole purpose of showing off.) For example, we have seen the Eddie Bauer Explorer, for the person wanting to say "I am tough, I am outdoors-y, but I like leather seats embroidered with the Eddie Bauer logo and I never leave the safe pavement of my housing subdivision and suburban zip code...shhhhhh, don't tell!" I recently got behind this vehicle (see pic below) and shrieked "NO WAY!" With my right hand I fumbled inside my backpack and found my camera in time to grab a shot just as it turned a corner.

An H3 with a custom Burberry plaid spare tire cover, the red in the plaid matching the red Hummer. oh. my. gracious. Conspicuous consumption at its...worst.

1 comment:

Polly said...

I think walking around showing off with labels shows a complete lack of class. I mean, who are you that it is so important that total strangers that see you on the street receive a false, inflated impression of your net worth? How empty and vapid would you have to be to place this much importance on strangers' opinions. Basically, I agree with you 100%. It's sad that people feel this is necessary.