Have you heard the good news? The economy is back! (Well, sort of.)
Or at least things are starting to look up: the government reported a higher than expected increase in personal revenue for February, spending was up, and the Dow Jones Luxury Index (a global equity index that measures luxury goods companies and services) has gone up significantly in the past year.
But before you rush to NET-A-PORTER to empty your pockets, let’s take a closer look at what drives us to purchase luxury goods in the first place. In a recent University of Delaware study, researchers looked into what drives consumers to purchase luxury items, such as a $3,000 Louis Vuitton suitcase. The study found that our motivations are very culturally tied, differing greatly by country. In the U.S., we’re motivated by personal, hedonistic pleasure, while in Asia, luxury’s appeal is more strongly linked to fitting in with one’s peers. Not surprisingly, countries like Germany and Italy looked to luxury items for their quality, and in France, the exclusive nature of luxury was the main draw.
But while our affinity for luxury is cultural, it’s also deeply personal: A recent joint study done by the London Business School and Nathan Pettit of Cornell shows that people with low self esteem are more likely to purchase luxury items to “nurse psychological wounds” and protect against future ones.
Of course the perception of “luxury” is also commensurate with scarcity, as what’s difficult to obtain is often what’s most desirable – case and point: the Nylon Riots of 1945. And while it’s hard to imagine hordes of women battling over stockings in the 21st century, there are plenty of other items that might quickly incite an angry mob if the supply could not match the demand. (Mascara? Sneakers?!) We often don’t realize our attachment to things until they are no longer available. And while some may insist that clothes do not make the (wo)man, we would be remiss to underestimate their psychological and cultural symbolic significance.
So while the economy inches its way back up, how cautious should you be? How do you know when to “invest” and when to skimp? Here’s a quick guide on how and when to splurge:
When looking for high quality, long lasting items, check the zippers and the inside seams. When items are lower quality, these areas are often overlooked. Loose or messy seams, and cheap, lightweight zippers are often signs of pieces that won’t stand the test of time.
Trendy items, subject to seasonal whims, are best bought cheaply at stores like Topshop or H&M. For your classic pieces, such as a sturdy leather jacket or a sophisticated black pump, look to spend a little more, as you’ll want to keep them around for longer.
If you’re looking to save some money without skimping on style, keep an eye on Refinery 29’s sales and deals page for your city. Every week, they share the biggest and best local sales at their favorite stores. It’s not just what you buy but when you buy it.