It used to be that labels ruled. No one would ask, “Who are you wearing?” because the answer was stamped across every outfit. And for items that were not dotted in an outer-logo, the specific shape of a dress or color of a shoe was so conspicuous that without mentioning the brand, everyone knew what it was.
At my uniform-mandatory high school this was especially important. In a sea of khakis and polos, That Plaid Scarf and Silver Bracelet told everyone, “I am fashionable, I am trendy.” They acted as giant airport signs that read “MY PARENTS SPENT X AMOUNT OF DOLLARS ON THIS AND I REALLY NEED YOU TO KNOW THAT.” Prior to Instagram followers, this was our social currency.
Then the trend shifted. A woman’s overall look became more important than the individual things she wore thanks to stores like Zara, who took trends and made them available for mass consumption. And because consumers now craved the entire outfit as opposed to the lone badge of expensive self-illustration, boho, Bowery, the 90s, and so forth became more important (and much cheaper) than the scattering of designer initials.
Off-the-table in this conversation are Nike’s Swoosh, Calvin Klein’s elastic band, Adidas stripes and the Carhartt “C.” These blatant labels are about nostalgia and irony — theme — than they are about persona building and defining.
And when it comes to designer goods? What we showcase now is cost. But this isn’t My Super Sweet 16 — and we’re not announcing how much we spend. We’re loudly celebrating how much we save.
I recently bought a pair of shoes that my mouse wouldn’t even dare to hover over at full price. They were the kind of boots that asked, “Rent or footwear?” and let’s be real: I chose restaurants. But on one fateful day, they not only went on clearance, they were available in my size. And I had a gift card.
Since opening the box, I haven’t been able to shut up about how cheap they were. “Practically free,” I’ve told everyone, unprompted. “Less money than a movie and dinner,” following a compliment. “You’ll never guess how much I didn’t spend,” and so on. But I’ve talked to others about why I do this, and when it comes to excessive Sale Bragging, I’m not the only one.
Part of me wonders if sale-bragging is about making sure that while we can now afford the odd luxury (or make an autonomous decision to screw ourselves over when technically, we can’t), we’re still adamant about proving that we’re not proving anything. Or perhaps that we don’t want to perceived as gluttonous — so maybe it’s about being self-conscious.
The other part of me wonders if the savings are simply a result of the shopping high; we’re so stoked, we can’t shut up. That there’s the hunt, and then there’s the score. That Céline and Dries are great and all, but 80% off is the real artist. Maybe “I got it on sale” is the new It-Brag.