Not the friends I want

“Carrying a $10,000 Birkin bag by Hermès will make you the envy of your friends. It could also help you snag a higher salary and better job recommendations.”

This is the lead to a TIME article about recent research that suggests, much to my horror, that fashion choices, and specifically designer labels, influence earning potential.

"The present data suggest that luxury consumption can be a profitable social strategy because conspicuous displays of luxury qualify as a costly signaling trait that elicits status-dependent favorable treatment in human social interactions."

While I find the results of this study unfortunate and sad, I like the idea of  designer labels being “conspicuous displays of luxury.”

Not “quality merchandise” or a “sound investment” as has been suggested to me by brand name mavens.

A conspicuous display of luxury.


Specifically, the researchers cite the ridiculous Lacoste shirts that I have criticized in the past as being an example of a conspicuous display of luxury. Though I understand how a purposeful demonstration of wealth can serve as an indicator of success (and probably low self-esteem), I am still stunned that so many people, so many years out of high school, still operate with these beliefs.

Make hiring decisions based upon these beliefs.

Find value in an embroidered reptile or an expensive watch or a series of interlocking G’s on a handbag.

It saddens me to think that all things equal, the guy with the embroidered reptile on his left breast is more likely to get the job than the guy without a reptile.

I don’t love the lead to the Time magazine article either, which begins with the sentence:

“Carrying a $10,000 Birkin bag by Hermès will make you the envy of your friends.”

While I realize that any handbag is unlikely to generate envy from any of my friends, I don’t think any of them have ever experienced envy based upon my clothing or any other of my physical possessions.

I can’t remember the last time I was envious of a friend over something he or she owned.

Nor can I remember a time when a friend expressed envy over something that someone else owned.

I am admittedly envious of friends over their skill on the golf course, their ability to repair an car’s engine and the ease with which they can install a dishwasher, but I can’t remember a time as an adult when I looked at a friend’s clothing or car or jewelry or home and wished it were mine.

Frankly, if TIME magazine was right and a designer label would make the envy of my friends, I might have to question the future of the friendship.

I have no time for such nonsense.

I graduated from high school a long time ago.