Saturday, May 28, 2005

De rigueur fashion items

First of, Jen Lang will live to regret posing for the picture accompanying this article. She may regret it when she's a grown-up, but more likely she'll regret it whenever she gets her hands on a copy of this week's Style section.

But the article itself, about teen consumption, does what all articles about teen consumption do and makes the teenagers out to be brats. Alex Williams tells of today's "teenagers, who crave an ever-expanding collection of high-tech items they can't possibly afford." Teenagers also crave things like food and shelter, which they as individuals couldn't afford, either, so the fact that something is above and beyond what a 15-year-old could pay for doesn't by definition make it a luxury.

The story, though is about the sudden escalation of what teens bug their parents for, and in this world of expensive jeans/haircuts/sushi, shockingly the kids want expensive gadgets as well. It's not as though the parents themselves don't spend a gazillion dollars more than their kids on their own nonsense, but nevertheless...

"It is no secret that Apple's sleek iPod, costing $99 to $449, has become, to the American teenager, a de rigueur fashion item, not just a handy gadget."

For some reason, reading this, whatever interest I may have had in getting an iPod is disappearing at a rapid rate. Many people I know at Chicago got iPods as gifts not because they'd been pestering their parents but because parents are convinced that their kids want iPods. My parents were asking me about iPods before I knew what they were (I think I thought it was some kind of memory stick for a Mac, but didn't know until this year that it had anything to do with music), and while my non-teenage income would kinda-sorta permit me to buy one, as convenient as storing all one's music in a pod must be, I have this aversion to de rigueur fashion items, things that aren't fashion so much as pan-wealthy-America uniform. The same thing that's kept the brands Abercrombie and Fitch, North Face, Burberry, and Seven jeans out of my closet is the one that's kept me from walking into the Apple store and spending a couple weeks' pay on the white ear buds. Now, will this resolve continue whenever my discman kicks the bucket? Who can say, but by then iPods may be $10 and so small that they're just headphones with a molecule attached.

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