shopping for likes
“we buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don’t like”.
many might remember this quote from actor edward norton in the film fight club from 1999.
it was said more than 16 years ago, but might be more applicable now than ever before.
because we, the victims of our own social media profiles, are buying clothes we don’t need to impress strangers online. and which items of clothing do we think will impress these strangers the most? it surely isn’t the simple white t-shirt. because that could be from anywhere. we want the t-shirt that has a huge vetements logo printed on the front. or thrasher. or off-white. the list seems endless.
or might it just be a coincidence that with the rising importance and power that social media apps like instagram have over the fashion industry; we also see an increasing amount of logos on modern streetwear designs?
of course logos have been around in fashion for decades. but it cannot be denied that the big flashy logos, that were often frowned upon and labeled off as tasteless by the high fashion industry in the past, can now be found on the catwalks of london, paris and milan. there used to be a big divide between traditional high fashion and streetwear, but these days the lines of categorisation have blurred. streetwear and luxury fashion do no longer coexist, they are intertwined. in the recent years, a wave of new designers coming from a streetwear background has emerged and translated printed graphics and logos into luxury ready to wear. and their designs can be found on every website of every fashion magazine. they clearly seem to know what the fashionable millennial wants from a clothing item. instagram seems to have not only changed the fashion industry when it comes to the ways we buy clothes, but also the way the clothes are designed.
the increasing demand for logos on clothing items derives from us social media users. the overpriced sweater with a bold hood by air logo on it will make us buy something with money we don’t have to show off on instagram. we now are able to not only impress people on the street with how much we spent on a sweater, but also our hundreds or thousands of followers online. and that might even make the higher prices of these items a lot more justifiable for a lot of consumers.
with instagram, clothing needed to become more photogenic. a t-shirt might be of great quality, but that can hardly be communicated with a photo. the item needs to be branded. we buy it to become part of a prestigious club of people that can afford outrageously priced streetwear items. and the equation is pretty simple: no logo equals no likes equals no recognition. we buy the overpriced item, post a picture, tag the official brand account with hundreds of thousands of followers, use their hashtag and become part of their elite club. hoping that the brand will repost it. or maybe that other users will comment that they have the same item and we then share some kind of special bond of brainwashed brand addicts. and the circle doesn't stop there. you can only post a picture of a certain clothing item so many times before your audience gets bored of it and the likes decrease. the industry has to supply us with new designs of branded clothing items every month; thus turning high fashion into fast fashion.
we don’t buy clothes because we like them; we are shopping for the likes of others. while showing off has always been the reason for some people to buy expensive clothing items; the growing power of social media has tripled the effect. we have become obsessed with building our online presences around what other people think. and in order to keep our audiences equally entertained and impressed, we feel the need to present them with new fashionable items every week. buying an average looking sweater that costs a monthly pay check from off-white or gosha rubchinskiy might be absurd to some people; others envision the perfect instagram picture because they have some relatable caption or a huge logo printed on the front. and it seems like these streetwear - high fashion hybrids are what creates the biggest hype online. big logo streetwear has shed its underground status and can now be found at the most renowned luxury department stores of the world; so we can buy and post them on instagram.
the changes we see on the runways are just the supply to our demand; our obsession with recognition from strangers. maybe we can slightly alter what norton said into “we buy things we don't need with money we don't have to get the likes from people we don’t know”.