Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anthropology today #2

[NOTE: I wrote most of this some time ago, it's a bit of a mess - if you get bored/annoyed/incomprehensed part of the way through, don't worry about continuing, I don't think it gets any better].

As I wandered past my local Chrysler dealership on the way home yesterday, a thought occured to me as I took in the beefy good looks of the new (to NZ) Chrysler 300C. It's a notion I've had before in one form or another, but it seemed to come in particularly coherently yesterday. Let's hope it's somewhere near as coherent when I write it down:

The 300C is a pretty new car, and it's flavour of the month, at least as far as styling goes. All the schoolboys (including the 40-year-old ones) want one and all that stuff. Even I like it.

As I walked past it yesterday though, I thought, "When does it stop being cool and new and interesting and stylish?" Inevitably it will - all new cars do.

I further thought, "Why is it that people don't seem to be able to recognise that this is going to happen?"

I further further thought, "Don't be so arrogant, pretty much everyone knows that these things happen - how is it then that they either pretend they won't happen, or forget that they will happen?"

I can see that this is already far less coherent than it is in my brain. Let me try a different example - fashion. Everything from Haute Couture to Hallensteins is cool in the present (stretching it a bit with Hally's, I know), but at some point it turns to shit.

Yet, rather than try and get something that will never date, or has already dated, people flock to buy these things that they know will be outmoded in a few months.

I don't have any answers for this, and I'm sure it's been analysed a billion times before as part of the whole "What makes something cool?" question, but I still find it interesting.

Perhaps it only happens in our Western Capitalist cultures - cool and fashion are just cogs in the great corporate conspiracy to make us buy more stuff.

The bit that I find most fascinating is the way everyone - from the dude in the street to the respected commentators - seems to ignore the way new items fall from popularity. Will Jeremy Clarkson still be raving about the Monaro in five years time? Or will he be laughing at it and ridiculing it, like he does with every other five-year-old car?

The really really interesting thing (maybe only to me) is that these same things that are cool/fashionable/whatever now turn into the opposite. In this way, they define what is cool next (by being not cool), and the cycle begins.

Maybe this goes some way to explain the regurgitation of fashions/style from twenty (or more) years ago?

Enough of this!

1 comment:

afraid said...

Fuckin' right it's stretching it a bit with Hallensteins. I went in the other day because I had some money and wanted to buy something, anything. Literally nothing, except for one dress shirt, caught my eye. Virtually all of the casual shirts followed one of two styles: polo with wide horizontal stripes, or t-shirt emblazoned with cacophonous strokes and text. Am I that out of touch, at only 21?

It's the old ideas, I suppose: people want to fit in, so they buy what the corporations tell them to buy. I'm not informed enough to offer specific examples of corporations telling people what to buy, but if you walk into Hallensteins, certain shirt styles are displayed more prominently than others... I'm not saying they make people buy stuff, but if something is pushed under enough people's noses, some of those people will buy it without regard for the past or future.

Marketing people need only to appeal to the here and now; convince people that X is what they need Now, and you're a successful marketeer.