By MATTHEW KRISTOFFERSEN
When walking into any of the seemingly hundreds of luxury clothing outlets in Southern California, one must be wary of checking the price tag: a blank white tee from any Italian-sounding brand could cost upwards of $100 or more, simple jeans 10 times that. Does the material, craftsmanship, or quality justify the price?
Most likely not, many argue. While the average American buys clothes for function and durability, these characteristics are not important to the multi-millionaire artist. At this socioeconomic level, fashion becomes a litmus test for coolness: there is a reason why rappers make songs about Raf Simons coats and not about Skechers sneakers. Brand name makes all the difference. Luxury companies know this, too. That is why Gucci can keep making leather belts with a G on them in China and then sell them for just under $500; similarly, streetwear brand Supreme can add a small red rectangle to the far side of a run-of-the-mill Hanes tee and sell them for five times the regular price.
Economists and political scientists like to advise angry consumers to vote with their wallets. Surprisingly enough, consumers worldwide have almost unanimously voted in favor of this blatant price-gouging. Supreme’s online store sells out of its most popular apparel in under a minute, only to be resold on the aftermarket with a hefty markup, which is then sold to the many who are happy to pay that amount. These prices are no obstacle to passionate buyers. As such, the luxury fashion market’s supply and demand charts are heavily skewed towards the latter, increasing consumer costs exponentially.
Like a growing number of Redlands high schoolers, Citrus Valley senior Krischin Layon finds no problem with this. “The price is part of the flex,” he says, “it shows that you can make money. You could tear up a shirt and it wouldn’t sell as much as a Yeezy shirt [because] it’s not Yeezy. To know that someone can afford the brand…lets everyone know that he has money.”
Humans will always find new ways to display wealth, from Cleopatra’s pearls to King Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles to Roman emperor Caligula’s pleasure yachts, and this fashion trend is no exception. However, unlike the kings and queens of old, streetwear shows no signs of dying out anytime soon.