Sorry, I don’t speak broke: elitism and fashion

Under the Radar

With brands like Gucci and Supreme becoming increasingly popular, numerous KO students are seen “flexing” on campus by wearing the infamous Gucci stripe or a belt with the Louis Vuitton logo on it.

While some view this as just a way of expressing oneself through fashion, others view it as a status symbol to try to show that they are better than others.

Popular trends among KO students have been Louis Vuitton belts, Burberry Scarves, and the $6,000 Cartier “Love” bracelet. Lots of students around school have been seen wearing these, and have caught the attention of others. This attention can either be positive or negative, but the most common reaction is “wow, they have a ton of money.”

Wearing brands like Cartier or Burberry at a high school isn’t exactly typical, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by students. “I usually assume that they are well off,” freshman Ben Baby said of students wearing high end fashion, “and that they can afford it because they are making money or their parents are rich.”

Students at KO come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but a popular conception is that students as a whole tend to come from very wealthy families. When people start wearing expensive clothes, many believe it’s purely so that people know that one’s family is wealthy.

“If someone is wearing Yeezys, they’re just wearing them because they want other people to know they can afford Yeezys,” sophomore Mary Ellen Carroll said. “Nobody’s wearing that because it looks good.”

Lots of people, however, believe that designer fashion looks superior and it’s not always about the name. Sophomore Brandon DeLucia, a student who loves wearing designer fashion, claims that it’s all about looking presentable and having a good appearance and that sometimes it comes with wearing nice items of clothing.

Louis Vuitton bags can go for as much as $55,000, and the most expensive Burberry item goes for around $61,000. With that being said, it’s not uncommon to see women (and men) around Connecticut toting these items. People get worried when they see high schoolers wearing expensive and designer clothing, as many believe that there are better ways to be spending hard-earned money.

Going further than adults judging high school students for wearing designer clothing, some schools have gone so far as to ban designer fashion all together. A school in the UK published the controversial decision to ban Canada Goose jackets (which go for around $625 a piece) from their school all together. This decision was made in order to eliminate what they refer to as “poverty shaming” on campus, and while it might have done that, it also made plenty of students angry.

Dean of Students Will Gilyard mentioned that there has been no consideration of banning high end clothing at Kingswood Oxford. “It’s just not what the students want,” Mr. Gilyard said. However, some students’ opinions contradict that statement.

In a poll sent out to Kingswood students, exactly 50% of people mentioned the fact that they do not like designer fashion for various reasons.

No one, however, brought up the fact that it makes them feel bad about themselves. Many reasons, including environmental issues, moral issues, and just the way designer fashion looks, came up in students’ answers.

“High end fashion is a waste of money and destroying our natural resources,” sophomore Emma Henry said. “I strongly detest it.”

Fashion is one of the largest sources of pollution in the world. With the way that fashion is headed, it could ruin our natural resources during high schoolers’ lifetimes, as well as completely destroy the industry as a whole.

The movement of sustainable fashion has become increasingly well-known, but has not hit mainstream just yet, as most major brands have yet to take a step to become more environmentally-conscious.

Moral issues also prevent KO students from wearing high end fashion. “High end fashion is uglier and also pretty racist,” Mary Ellen said. “Most designer brands are drenched in blackface scandals.”

One of the designer brands that has had a notable controversy is Gucci. The Italian designer brand released a sweater that came out in the fall/winter 2018 collection that many people claimed was racially insensitive. The turtleneck pulled up around the face with a red cut-out for the mouth. It sold for $890. After the controversy, Gucci removed the sweater from all stores, and made plans to hire a new global director, as well as plans to increase diversity in their designers.

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Luxury fashion brand Gucci recently released a controversial sweater reminiscent of blackface. Photo via Google Images.

Gucci isn’t the only brand to have a serious scandal, with Prada and Burberry also having controversies. Many people believe that wearing these brands says something about someone’s moral standards.

“When I see someone wearing a brand that’s had a blackface scandal, I feel embarrassed on behalf of them,” Mary Ellen said. “Clearly they’re either unaware of it or they don’t care.”

With the moral issues with designer brands, a lot of people don’t wear high end fashion. However, the main issue that came up with students is that designer fashion doesn’t always look good.

“I tend to judge people when they buy ugly items from designers because I know they spent so much money on something that doesn’t look good,” Brandon said. “If you have money, why would you waste it on something of such bad taste?”

Logos or notable designs like the Gucci stripe have a reputation of being tacky or ugly, and when they can be remade by other companies, many people believe that it’s not worth buying from a designer.

“Any other company could make [the Gucci stripe] and sell it for half the cost and still make a profit,” Brandon said.

60% of people in a survey believed that fashion is a status symbol, which is where the elitism element comes in for students at KO. If someone is wearing a designer brand, to many it’s obvious that they come from a very wealthy family.

The definition of a status symbol is “a possession that is taken to indicate a person’s wealth or high social or professional status.”

“People use fashion to indicate their socio-economic status to strangers, new acquaintances, and others,” Emma said. 40% of people mentioned that they notice what other people wearing all of the time, and when someone is wearing a designer item, it’s hard to go unnoticed.

When you have students coming from a wide array of backgrounds, many people feel it’s important to look or dress a certain way.At KO, some students feel that they need to wear designer fashion to maintain a reputation. “I pride myself in always having a good appearance,” Brandon said. “I think the way one dresses can represent how much they care about upkeeping a good reputation.”

However, someone’s choices in fashion don’t always represent who they are or their background. “I would not judge someone poorly based solely on their favorite brands,” freshman Teddy Schwartz said.

45% of people at KO have their parents buy clothes for them, which doesn’t always represent their own personal opinions on clothing and how they think of themselves, or how others think of them. A brand or an article of clothing could be from multiple sources. “If it’s one piece [of designer fashion] it could just as easily be a nice Christmas present,” sophomore Cici Chagnon said,“so it’s not really on my radar.”

Sophomore Oliva Pear mentioned that in the end it’s all about how you wear the clothes. “If you feel beautiful and confident, then your status is already above everyone else in the room,” she said,

“no matter what they are wearing.”