Hubby and I were out shopping recently and found ourselves in a large outlet center. Outlets of all kinds - every clothing designer was represented from Esprit, to Calvin Klein to DKNY. It was fun window shopping and perusing all the latest fashions, and for the most part our shopping experience was a relaxed affair - casually breezing in and out of the shops that lined the promenade; that is, until we approached the Coach outlet. As we drew closer to the store, the air of calmness was replaced with frenetic chaos. As we peered into the store window, it appeared there was some kind of free-for-all going on. Hordes of women (I estimated over 100) crowded the store, pushing and shoving their way through the aisles, stepping over children, madly yanking handbags off shelves. A woman shoved through a group of shoppers with about 10 handbags hanging from her arm as though she was a human coat hanger. 12 cashiers were working at a fevered pitch to accommodate the throngs of customers, the line stretching to the back of the store. The floor associates were visibly perspiring.
What's going on here? I wondered.
Hubby surmised they must be giving away free handbags and took a seat on a park bench while I went inside to investigate.
To my disappointment, there were no freebies being handed out - just hordes of women acting like there were.
I walked around and looked at the handbags - $179 for this bag, $229 for that. A $500 bag on sale for 30% off (let's see....that makes it $350). A miniscule, cheap-looking change purse for "only $37". Apparently these were bargain basement prices judging by the reaction of the rabid women in the store - aggressively grabbing merchandise and laughing giddily over their big finds, like they had just won the lottery.
And me? I was standing in the center of the store scratching my head.
You see, I don't get the Coach handbag craze. I really don't. They seem to be decent enough bags, but in all honesty, I've seen far more stylish quality handbags from other manufacturers for less. Coach quality is good but it ain't all that.
What really gets me scratching my head, though, is the insatiable hunger women have to look just like everyone else, paying big bucks for the privilege of serving as a walking billboard with corporate logos plastered all over them. Everywhere I look - in the city, in the suburbs, at the mall - it has gotten to the point where 7 out of 10 women are carrying Coach handbags plastered with the C logo. Even underprivileged women who can't afford $50 for a handbag, let alone $500, scrape their pennies together and race to city street corners to buy $10 vinyl knock-offs so they can at least appear to be members of the Coach club.
What is it about being just like everyone else that is so appealing? I don't get it.
As is my usual tendency, I began philosophizing to make sense of it all. I theorized that the same psychological phenomenon that fuels The Coach Craze also fuels The Baby Craze. It seems to me that human beings, and particularly women, are addicted to peer acceptance and approval and being part of a club. In the case of Coach handbags, displaying the esteemed Coach logo gains a woman entrance into some sort of imaginary sorority which deems her culturally superior in some way. But superior to whom, I wonder? When everyone else is doing the exact same thing, how can one differentiate herself as superior?
I asked one of the sales associates which bags are the most popular and he replied that the ones with wall-to-wall Coach logos on them are the biggest sellers. The more elegant, understated (and in my opinion, appealing), plain bags are not as popular. The women who buy the C-plastered bags want to make sure that everyone who sees them knows their bag is Coach, and they are a bona fide member of the Coach cult.
Just as most women wear Coach handbags because that's the thing to do, I believe that most women have babies because that's just the thing to do. Women look around and see what everyone else is doing and they mindlessly imitate. Everyone is carrying Coach bags, so I must carry one. Everyone is having kids, so I must have kids. They don't think about what makes the most sense or whether what they are imitating is worth the cost, or even worth imitating. They just copy and breathe a sigh of relief that they have conformed to the status quo and are now members of the sorority. Coach handbags aren't anything special. They're not exquisite in any way. In fact, in my humble opinion, Coach bags are are best boring and at worst (as in the C-plastered bags) tacky. Reproducing isn't anything special either. Yet most women seem to charge through life with the sole objective of being postergirls for mediocrity, strolling the mall with 2 kids in tow and a tacky Coach bag slung over their shoulders and self-satisfied smirks that say, I'm all that and a bag of chips.
As for me, I've always thought that striving for individuality is the way to go. I like to stand out in a crowd. But hey - if any clothing or handbag designer wants to send me around with their logo plastered all over my ass, I'm happy to oblige. But they better open up their checkbook nice and wide first.