Sunday, January 18, 2009

To Cheap To Be Chic?

Jewelry, "It" bags, Range Rovers are these the true status signifiers?
Or is it something more basic?
Daniel Akst in his Wall Street Journal article
I once was chic but now I'm cheap explores the subject.
It's cool, for example, to spend a fortune on solar panels or hybrid SUVs that will never pay for themselves in saved energy, even though the money could do far more for the environment spent in some less ostentatious way. Shopping at Whole Foods is cool, as is obvious from the hipsters in the aisles -- and the high price of the groceries. This kind of cool disdains luxury labels like Rolex and Coach yet works just as hard to impress.

Most of the cool people I know use a Mac. My sense is that they like to think of themselves as egalitarian sorts unencumbered by snobbery -- rather than, say, brainwashed cultists obsessed with class-signaling. Yet at today's absurd prices the Mac is even less than ever "the computer for the rest of us." Instead it's a well-designed status symbol for the elite -- another way that people with money can distinguish themselves from hoi polloi.
Like eating only locally grown food or majoring in gender studies at college, Macs have become luxuries that command a premium out of all proportion to their utility -- unless their utility is simply to broadcast your own disposable income. For a long time the extra cost of a Mac wasn't outlandish and seemed justified by its great design and ease of use. Our years of bitter experience with Windows systems involved far too much hair-tearing over random glitches and security problems. To us, going Mac was the price of computer sanity.

But the affordability gap has lately yawned into a gulf. Today, with money scarce, a Mac costs roughly twice as much as a comparably equipped PC -- and in my recent experience, the PC performs impressively indeed.
The current financial crisis has many causes, but surely the death of thrift has been among them. If there is a silver lining to the grim economic news that besets us daily, it may be that cheap will once again become chic.
I can only hope so because I'm stuck with my Windows Vista system and it will be years before a home technology upgrade will be necessary.
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Deja Pseu said...

I'm able to shut down those MacCultists when I explain that my work software (which I need to be able to access from home or the road) won't run on a Mac.

I rather like Vista. Works better with Firefox than with Internet Explorerer, though.

So I guess my ten-year-old beat up Honda Accord will soon be the height of chic? ;-)

Belle de Ville said...

What can I say...Vista has been working perfectly fine for me. know I'm slightly embarassed because it isn't Mac.

Anonymous said...

If a big Mac will elevate me above the hoi polloi, make mine with two patties!

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