"We buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like"-- Fight Club
Although this is a film quote, I think there is some truth in it. When I started questioning my life, my purchase habits changed as my self esteem improved. As an introduction to the subject, let me tell you the story of how I started wondering about the link between style choices, purchase habits and self esteem.
I have known this woman some years ago. Although her style didn't have anything in particular, what I found peculiar is that she would brag about the brands she wore, and most of all the price she paid for her clothes. As if the important was not the object itself, but its brand, its price, its social image. The other thing I noticed over time, was how low her self esteem and confidence was.
Is there a relation between style and social status symbols? Between social status symbols and self esteem? I noticed myself that my purchase habits evolved when I started feeling better about myself. Of course, two examples don't make a rule, so I decided to dig deeper into this theory.
My first clue was this post from Jess about emotional consumption and the relationship between clothes consumption and social class. In the paper she writes about, she mentions that middle-class women of lower cultural capital tend to engage in an emotional consumption of clothes - buying new outfits to get positive feedback from their peers. Is there a relationship to self esteem here? Why are only the women with "lower cultural capital" concerned, and why is external feedback so important to them?
Which brings the question of the motivations of a purchase. Does choosing a brand mean jonesing after a status symbol? What impact does it have on personal style then? Do these people choose their clothes because they like them, or because they want to impress their peers? Following this idea, how does this need to impress others influence personal style? And what happens to self esteem when people are not as impressed as we'd like?
This whole questioning is still work in progress, obviously I have more questions than answers at this point, but I'll keep sharing questions and theories about consumption habits, self esteem and happiness as they come. If you have ideas, suggestions or opinions about this I'd love to hear about it.