Monday, October 18, 2010

C is for Clone

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.

31 comments:

Hilary said...

Mandy, you are a woman after my own heart. I CANNOT understand the obsession with designer bags--Coach, Dorney & Bourke, the others--nor have I ever owned a knock-off. I was given a Vera Bradley tote as a gift once, which I do use, but most of those look like diaper bags (ahem). It's sort of repulsive to me to spend $400 on a handbag when there are starving children, abused animals and dying trees in the world.

Spectra said...

I don't get it, either. I subscribe to several fashion magazines (which I get for free) that have ads in them for $1500 shoes and $13,000 purses. I would never pay that much money for a purse; that is RIDICULOUS. I think you're onto something when you mention that wanting to be like everyone else is a big part of the baby craze. A lot of women see all the "cool" stuff that new moms get and want a baby, too. It's sort of like the people who get Chihuahuas as a fashion accessory and don't take into account that they're getting a live dog that has needs. People want a baby, but they don't necessarily want all the other crap that comes along with them.

the viking and the celt said...

Exactly! I have a boss who loves the designer bags, but I don't get the allure. I find most of them quite ugly, and I also have a problem with paying to advertise for someone else.

I'd love to see an informal poll on how many childfree people are also not huge brand-name lovers. I don't feel the need to impress anyone with my clothes, purse, shoes, car, or anything else I own or don't own. I am who I am and my possessions (or lack thereof) don't make who I am any different, right?

Wix said...

At the risk of sounding misogynist almost all aspects of mainstream "female culture" seem to fit exactly the trend you've described here.

Purses, marriage, babies... Where's the pause to stop and actually THINK? The men are no better, usually merely tagging along for the ride.

Thank you for being brave enough not to be a clone.

Frugalista said...

I'm just into quality and I love my understated (thank goodness non C plastered) Coach purse. It's the nicest purse I've ever had and to me the quality is better then anything I've had before (mostly cheapos-with most expensive being a Guess). It was a gift since I'd never spend the money to buy it myself but I'm really glad to have it and expect to have it pretty much forever. As far as I'm concered I don't ever need another brown purse unless this one starts to look beat up and old which likely won't happen for a long time. They are definitely a heck of a lot cheaper then a kid and if I get one and decide it's not worth the money, unlike children, I can return it.

Frugalista said...

Oh, but I do know what you mean about people feeling like they have no other choice but to have kids. I say "I'm not having any" and they say "Oh you're waiting" and I say "No. Probably never." They just look confused. It doesn't even cross their mind that somone can do that!

C.S. said...

What's a "Coach purse?" Never heard of it, but then, I've never been part of the 'herd mentality.' That's what you're describing, and it includes the majority of Americans -- otherwise how would ad/PR writers make a living!?

People are so easily manipulated, it's silly. You seem to be the exception...as most childfree people are.

charmed said...

OMG I couldn't agree more. I always thought those bags were hideous and wondered why women would want to carry around a bag that large, what the hell to they have in there? I hate any kind of clothes or accessories with the company logo plastered all over them, I think its ugly and tacky. I refuse to spend more than 20$ on any kind of purse, I just need to carry a few things, its not an overnight bag.

CFVixen said...

1000% agree, as usual, Mandy!

I never understood the Coach craze. It's just a name! I'm not a big purse/shoe girl, though. I usually buy a nice purse and have it for many years. The one I have now is by Fossil, probably 5 years old, good quality, and still in great shape. But no, it doesn't say "Fossil" anywhere on it. And comparing it to a Coach, it's of much better quality.

The whole logo craze is exactly what you said it was...a way to fit in. Are we still in high school?

When you said on Facebook that you were going to draw a parallel between Coach purses and having children, I just hooted....I knew exactly where you were going with it. Great job!

Fanboy Wife said...

I have never understood the need to be like everyone else and jumping on the consumerism bandwagon. I think my purse cost less than $20. There are so many other things I'd rather buy.

Mali said...

Great post. Coach isn't big in NZ, but I've never understood it when I've seen it in the US. Or the need to show "labels." To me, that is often just evidence that you have to wear a label because you have no imagination, or confidence in your own style!

My mother would agree with you too. She always said "we had children because everyone else did. It's what you did. You didn't even think about it."

Childfreeeee said...

I am glad I am not the only one who is blown away by the Coach insanity.

C.S. Coach is a handbag (and accessory) company and they sell in stores like Nordstrom, Macy's, etc. and they also have their own stores.

CFVixen...I love Fossil bags too (once again, we like the same things). Not because of the name on them (they never paste their name all over their bags). They are great, high-quality bags and many are artistic-looking.

I am all for quality and I don't even mind splurging and paying more for high-quality. I don't object to Coach quality. I just don't think their quality is ALL THAT - enough to make otherwise sane women lose their f-ing minds and spend $500 for a purse. Fossil bags are just as nicely constructed and I think I spent $50for mine at a Fossil outlet.

I know women like Coach quality, but I don't think it's quality that is driving most of them to buy the bags. The fact that most women want the Coach bags with the logo plastered all over them is evidence of that. They want to be clones of everyone else and they want people to KNOW they are carrying a Coach bag.

Surfie said...

I don't get the handbag craze either. Why in the world would anyone spend that kind of money on some stupid purse? I bet they don't even use it for long because they have to get a new one every season so they stay "in style". I also don't understand the high heel shoe craze that drives women to pay thousands of dollars for uncomfortable shoes that give them blisters, bunions, hammertoes, corns and more. I'd rather have that money to pay my mortgage, thank you very much!

I've only bought two purses in the past 12 years. One for $13 and one for $9. And they work just fine and are quite sturdy too.

Christy said...

Have you seen that car commercial for the "Mediocrity"? It's a Nissan commercial, I believe, but they try to drag you to their website by advertising a fictional vehicle aptly named the "Mediocrity." The great thing about the commercial is a very average, mom-type lady monotonously saying to the camera, "We already have two kids and a dog, so we don't need any more excitement in our life." The commercial is actually, for a change, conveying that two kids and a dog is NOT exciting. It's great! Keep an eye out for it. Now, if we could just get some other major company to acknowledge that parents make waaay too much work for themselves while raising a mere two brats, and make the job out to be so much harder than it needs to be, then maybe some of the great masses of sheeple out there would concede to what we cf have known all along.

Yes, you are a woman after my own heart, too. The sad thing is, some of these women are deluded enough to truly believe that men are impressed by and attracted because of their brand name choices, or that people in other age categories are impressed. This is rarely true.

I'm about to go to the hairdresser in a few weeks, for some blonde streaks, and to listen to her tell me how unfashionable and unattractive my long, messy mane is, because it doesn't look like everyone else's. I guess there's no money in telling me I look just fine the way I am. I'm hoping to shut her up when she starts whining about how badly I need to take at least 4 inches off (prob 6 in hairstylist inches), when I tell her I'm planning on a mohawk in the spring, so I want to enjoy my long locks while I can. Can you imagine them discussing me after I leave?

Angie said...

Once again, its like you are in my head. I totally agree w/u on all aspects of this remarkable post. I am so thankful to not be a part of that easily manipulated society. I take pride in the fact that I think outside the box & that I have made a decision that most ppl don't get the opportunity to make b/c they didn't take the time to do so, they just jumped on the KID CRAZE bandwagon b/c that's what everyone else was doing so it must be great!

Angie said...

Once again, its like you are in my head. I totally agree w/u on all aspects of this remarkable post. I am so thankful to not be a part of that easily manipulated society. I take pride in the fact that I think outside the box & that I have made a decision that most ppl don't get the opportunity to make b/c they didn't take the time to do so, they just jumped on the KID CRAZE bandwagon b/c that's what everyone else was doing so it must be great!

Jaelyte said...

Coach bags and babies... i will never understand. I guess I'd rather spend my $500 on tickets to Hawaii.

TaoYen said...

Great post! I'd never even heard of Coach handbags until I was working a larceny involving one. The cost of the stolen item determines whether or not the larceny is a felony; let's just say that the going price on these bags floored me. I'll take a child-free and Coach-free life!

liashke said...

I've never understood the excitement of purses, or the idea of spending hundreds (or thousands, egads) on one. I don't get it. Most of the popular ones I've looked at don't look practical at all. It's only been in the last few years that I've spent more than $20. And I love my Baggalini, I really do. It's USEFUL. It has ZIPPERS, so things don't fall out like they would with those fancy-schmancy bags.

And I still only paid $40 for it. :>

I don't get clutch purses, either. Why would you want a purse you have to hang onto all the time? I want my hands free!

flamencokitty said...

I admit there were moments where I wanted a Coach something, even if just a wallet. Just one Coach thing. You're right. It is like entering into some grown-up sorority, like a working-woman right of passage: to have a designer (Coach) purse. But like you, I think most of the Coach purses aren't even appealing, and of course the ones I would consider maybe, possibly buying (the ones that don't have the C's all over) are never "on sale" anyway.

I got a Nine West bag at their outlet for $30 instead. :-P So I guess I still fell for the "grown woman=designer purse" thing. But it is way cuter than any of the Coach ones I saw.

Fashion Puttana said...

I recently discovered your blog and felt a sense of relief to know I am not alone making this choice.
This post reminds me of the Kate Spade mania in the late 90's, I was too young then and didn't care.
In 2002 I had a boyfriend who was Persian gift me a Coach bag similar to the Fendi baguette one with logo diarrhea all over it, needless to say I was horrified. I understood my BF's culture is very status symbol oriented but I couldn't in good conscience walk around with that bag. I promptly took it back an exchanged it for a solid black one with silver hardware and enjoyed it until I forgot it one day in the laundry room and it molded.
This need for labels reminds me of my art history teacher lecturing something to the effect that you are basically cattle being branded and even worse paying for the privilege to sell someone else's product. This lesson has stayed with me since and I am grateful for it when it comes time to go shopping.
As far as the baby thing I am so tired of certain people talking to me in a way that insinuates I am defective for not procreating.
Yesterday I was telling someone that I felt such a relief finding out there are other people who feel not having children is a wonderful because you have your freedom. Well as you can guess she proceeded to tell me I just haven't met the right guy and I will change my mind once I do. When I told her there many people out there who are happy having made the choice not to have children. She was quick to remind me this wasn't true based on the fact that she works in a nursing home. According to her a lot of those people having reached old age are unhappy and wish they would of had kids so they wouldn't feel so alone. It boggles the mind I tell ya!

Fashion Puttana said...

*would have had kids* sorry for the typo ; )

lauracarroll said...

Agreed -- wearing the right "labels" is all part of looking the right part--and part of that is also the image of the perfect parent. Where else do the "right" labels live? On their kids clothes bought where --baby Gap, baby Bloomies and the kid label list goes on. I have even read articles about the craze of high end kids' clothing consigment shops that have lines so long they only let in so many mom at a time. C is for Crazy! ~Laura http://lauracarroll.com

SnarkShark said...

Ok, in all fairness, I own one leather Coach bag. I bought as a gift to myself after my last layoff. But it's a full grain leather purse with none of the big 'C's that you see so often. I viewed it as investment piece under the "dress for the job you want" theory. A well cared for leather bag can last for decades.
I wasn't buying into a trend per se - Coach leather has been around for 70 years.
And my buying one bag isn't going to save the starving children, the trees or keep my cat from eating or stop annual donation to the ASPCA. It's possible to budget for a big ticket item.
I realize I sound a little defensive but it's odd that a group of CH people would be so quick to generalize anyone who owns a designer bag.

SlvrPdle said...

Um. Wow. I don't get your post at all. I really did think I'd found a great childfree blog and now I'm going to have to rethink that. First off, I am happily child free. I don't dislike children, I understand why people want them. I just don't want any living with me...just not my thing. Do I believe that people have them to get stuff and because everyone else is? Maybe a very few, but I really do doubt that a majority of people do that.

I've carried a Coach bag for the past 30 years. My mom carried them too. Not the logo bags, as I don't really care to sport logos on anything I wear/carry, but the leather bags. They are well made and they last forever, and still look stylish. I've purchased cheapo bags before and in no time they look beat up and well, cheap. I'd rather spend a bit more for something that will last. I don't carry them because "everyone else has one." Frankly, I don't notice what anyone else carries and I don't much care. Why do you? It's just a handbag. Why give it so much thought?

polly said...

New here... bookmarking! Thanks for the thoughtful information.

I was going to type more, but started to feel shy. Keep posting, and I'll keep reading! :)

Anna said...

i agree, i never got that bag craze either, and the bag I use now I bought for $3 in downtown, and it has NO LOGO on it!

I'm also sick of seeing all those luis vuiton people, walking around like carrying the bag is carrying a prize!

Cat Enos said...

I don't really get the craze either. Personally I like clothing and accessories that are, if not one-of-a-kind like handmade scarves or handcrafted jewelry, at least unique or original. I get most of my clothing, handbags, jewelry, etc from secondhand stores (better for the environment, cheaper, and more unique), and I HATE clothing that has logos plastered all over it. Why do I want everyone knowing where I shop, and why do I want to look like everyone else? Everyone should walk their own life path and not strive to be just like everyone else. A world without originality is boring, and I wouldn't want to live in such a place. At all.

Caroline said...

I don't get it either, and I see young middle school or high school age girls with the purses..Bet they never give to charity either! I get so many compliments on my Rosetti purse I got from Sears from the clearance section for $7! BTW, check the clearance tables for good prices this time of year!

marmite and jam said...

Oh woman after my own heart. I was searching the web for a support source. Sometimes it is hard to believe that what you are doing is right, even if it comes from the heart. I have spent my whole life "going against the flow" which is why kids have never really been an option. As I am getting older and EVERYONE around me is going baby crazy I have begun to question myself. Am I right or is something wrong with me? I love your post about the Coach bags, to me it is a walking advert for monotony. I recently bought a house built in the 1930s, it is so unconventional and individual. I started thinking about all my friends with babies and the kind of homes they live in, you know the type, in a subdivision where all the houses look the same, located 45 minutes from downtown because that is the trendy thing to do. It made me think of how utterly boring and devoid of character these homes (and often the occupants) are. It's as if someone has told them these cookie cutter homes are where they are suppose to live and the floor design is what a proper home is suppose to be all the way down to a bonus room. Give me a break! I choose my little cottage, downtown, with tons of character every single time.

Temujin said...

I don't see the point for myself of spend that much on something like that, but different strokes for different folks. I spend a ridiculous amount on books that I will probably never read, and some of them I read because "all the cool kids" are reading them.

I would add another pro-childfree point: if you enjoy a life of expensive fashion accessories, then having children could seriously cramp your lifestyle. If someone has to choose between accessorizing with a kid and accessorizing with a handbag, I would tell her to go with the handbag every time.

Trying to find the silver lining here -- purses don't throw tantrums in public and leave greasy fingerprints everywhere.