I’m writing about regional symbols of wealth for a project, and I ask my students what wealth looks like here in college.
I had to google search some of their answers because I’m that out of touch. Apparently, it’s the Canada Goose brand of outerwear, the Lululmon athletic clothing, and of course, your Beats headphones. With these three items alone, you have a seat at the rich table in college.
And it’s a coveted, essential seat. People know you–and your family–by these brands. More than your character or ideas, it’s your brands.
I talk about different areas of the country and what wealth looks like there. For some, it’s the right activities–lacrosse and summer camp–and for others it’s where you vacation. Others report wealth is about remodeling, and this remodeling must include granite.
And, of course, you add in the Apple watch everywhere.
I’m interested in how arbitrary the symbols become and how they change. I want to expose the trap of it, the false and empty social pressure of it. Once, I’m told by some, the rich club meant the Outer Banks vacation (with the OBX bumper sticker to authenticate your experience) and the Highander. Now, it’s the two-week rented villa in Italy and the Lexus. The stakes get higher and higher and the pressure more laughable.
Ask a teenager here, and they know the rules: the elite wear Ugg boots and Northface. But in Richmond, Virginia it’s all Nike and Lilly Pulitzer. The Ugg boots and Northface seem ridiculous to some there, even in cold weather.
It’s silly, really. I wonder how to help my daughters rise above it and value themselves and others for who they are.
That’s what I’m studying and asking others about. Living with flair means I’m free from categorizing others, and I live beyond a need to belong in this club or evaluate others by their brands.
I know it’s hard. It’s an ancient problem. The day I wore Guess jeans to school in 1987, with a Benetton t-shirt, I felt like I belonged. You too?
Would you help me with my project? What are the symbols of wealth in your part of the world?