Conspicuous consumption and other thoughts on spending

I want to talk about how Conspicuous Consumption has led me to write this post, in a hypocritical state of mind if nothing else. As I posted late last night or early this morning, I am in Portland and it’s been a fun few days. I contacted a few friends to meet up and we’ve been catching up. One of my friends works at Nike and he gave us passes to get into the company store, so we went there today. 

I bought a bunch of stuff, and that’s not to brag, but instead to say it’s a bit disappointing that I did that. But hey, it was a “good deal”. 

The reason I am posting about conspicuous consumption is because this term got introduced to me while I was watching Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. In simple terms, it’s when people buy stuff to show off to other people. If you’d like to read more about it, check out the Wikipedia article on it.

It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind recently and I’ve been thinking about examples of where I do this and don’t even realize it. Today’s trip to the Nike store has been a big one. I bought two pairs of shoes even though I have 4 pairs at home. The ones at home are all due to reasons I use them for, one for biking and everyday wear, one for a big more comfortable walking. And two “dressy” pairs of boots. 

I see conspicuous consumption all around me but it doesn’t bother me, it gets me thinking about how it’s something that the person wearing it had thought of doing. But hey, maybe most people don’t think about it like I do, most people just buy things because they like them and they don’t give it much thought. I don’t want to judge people wearing nice things, instead, I want to understand what they’re trying to show. Is it a lack of something else that is being covered up, or are they just trying to match. I am betting it’s the latter more often than the former. 

Conspicuous consumption is not bad in itself but it can be detrimental to a society when the patterns become reproducible and destructible. Reproducible in the form of marketing, repetitive hype cycles, and large sales throughout the year. Destructive because it can lead people to spend more than they afford, it can lead to jealousy instead of intended envy which can result in negative emotions of many kinds, and it can also lead to a retail cycle that’s too short for people to feel satisfied. 

I believe this pattern will get worse a lot more before it becomes a trap people will want to avoid falling into. 

I’m often reminded about how my parents don’t really think about brands (except for cars). They don’t see the appeal in a brand name or especially a brand name over clothing if the clothing is to be worn to cover you and not to make you a walking billboard for a particular brand which you paid money to wear in the first place.