Friday, April 17, 2015

"...but why would you do that?"

I don't believe I've ever particularly liked Ed Hardy designs, though I can't recall a reason why I began to dislike them. Growing up, I had only been exposed to Ed Hardy clothing and merchandise. I only learned Ed Hardy was a tattooist during this class (oops). His merchandise struck me as the type of thing you would purposefully buy to impress others, and I can recall a very specific memory that reinforces my impression:

In one of my high school English classes, we were discussing having objects for a social standing. Our teacher did a quick survey: "How many of you have bought something because other people liked it, even though you didn't?" Nearly everyone in the class raised their hand.

There's clearly something I'm missing, I thought. "Do you mean, people told us it was good, so we decided to try it?" I asked, "As in, I've never had a Coke before so I'll buy one because other people seem to like it?"

"No no, I mean, you have tried it before and know you dislike it, but you get it anyway because other people like it," my teacher responded.

Out of thirty students, I believe only two or three (myself included) didn't raise their hand. I was totally baffled. After class ended, I was talking with my classmate, Sara, and wondered aloud why anyone would do that. Sara mentioned that she bought her Ed Hardy sunglasses, which had been resting on her head, because other people liked them even though she didn't like them much herself.

Similar to My Classmate's Sunglasses
"...but why would you do that?" I asked. "Why would you buy something, especially something expensive," the sunglasses costing upward of $300 or $400 at the time, "if you think they're ugly?" She could think of no good reason.

I still struggle to wrap my head around this concept. I can honestly say I've never bought anything I knowingly disliked simply because other people liked it. Now I also have Ed Hardy entwined with this weird and confusing idea of buying things for the sole purpose of impressing other people.

Maybe that idea alone says something about this brand and our culture. It says that Ed Hardy's label reflects something to be admired or coveted (although I find it hideous). But it also tells us how consumerism has culturally changed us. I'd argue that the first wave of consumerism emphasized the individual, i.e. asking "What do you want? This is the product you need." This question seems to have shifted to, "What do they like? Do you fit in with that?"

Either way, I won't be dropping $400 on Ed Hardy merchandise any time soon.

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