Fashion & Identity

Chanel-2012-sunglasses-Linda-Evangelista-for-Chanel-02

I just read a study that combines two of my greatest interests: fashion and sociology! Although I knew what the results would be before reading it, it was still quite interesting.

“Consumption is driven not only by function but also by symbolic value” (Berger & Wards 2010: 2). In other words, we buy expensive things to impress others. However, who are we trying to impress and does it really work? We already know the answers to both of these questions – we want to impress those of a higher status and no, it doesn’t actually work. Buying that LV-emblazoned handbag won’t get you into the elites-only club, even if it is real.

In Berger and Wards (2010) study, they found that price and logos had an inverted-U relationship. That is, lower-priced and higher-priced goods had less logo markers, whereas middle-priced goods had the most logo markers. For example, in their study they looked at 120 randomly selected sunglasses from major online retailers. They found that 21% of the sunglasses under $50, 84% of the sunglasses from $100 to $300, and 30% of the sunglasses above $500 showed a brand or logo.

Although logos are the most obvious ways to display one’s status, the true “elite” avoid these “overt brand markings.” Consumption alone is not the only way to display status, because anyone could obtain the same goods. Instead, the elite distinguish themselves by purchasing goods that may seem ordinary but which have special details. As a result, only those “in the know” will be able to identify the minute differences.

To read the study yourself, click on this link: http://marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/documents/research/Subtle_Signals.pdf.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of “signature” or logo-stamped handbags, but I am guilty of owning things which are branded. There is a level of “coolness” with certain brands, but it doesn’t necessarily make you cool. What do you all think?