The classist notion that expensive equals better has been around since the beginning of the modern day western world. Thanks to an onslaught of targeted advertising campaigns, many of us perceive this to be fact. Here's why we're wrong.
We live in a world that is constantly showing us new items, painting them as a necessity. We would survive easily without getting that new phone, especially to replace our phone that still works quite nicely. I am certainly guilty of this as well-- even though I acknowledge the powers of advertising, I am not liberated from this lifestyle.
In another way, though, the constant need for exclusivity is about competition with our peers. How will we look if we’re the only ones not sporting the newest sneakers? How will we be perceived if we’re the highly respected first to purchase something that everybody knows is expensive.
Exclusivity in the College World
The obsession with exclusivity becomes immensely apparent during the college process. It’s easy to become enamored with the thought of heading off to an Ivy League college or one with an extremely low acceptance rate.
How impressive would that sound to your family at Thanksgiving? What about your friends at school who are also applying to colleges?
Of course, Ivy League colleges are branded with such high remarks and praise for a reason, but quality of education is not measured by the acceptance rate of the institution.
Is a Low Acceptance Rate that Important?
An acceptance rate means nothing more than how many students a college accepts out of how many apply. A low acceptance rate is also perpetuated by this exclusive mindset because when we hold value to competitiveness, we strive for it.
Thus, there will be more applicants at these colleges that already have low acceptance rates, and the acceptance rate will continue to decrease if the school does not increase their class size. We continue this cycle when we believe that the best and sometimes only acceptable education is from a school with a name that others will be impressed by when, in actuality, an amazing education can be found almost anywhere.
Low Acceptance Rate ≠ Better
Also, this mindset that lower acceptance rate equates to a better education is fundamentally untrue, especially because college is incredibly personal for each student.
Your college experience and what you get from it is truly what you make of it. In other words, a student could be very lazy at a college with a low acceptance rate and learn less than another student that goes to a school with a high acceptance rate who immerses themselves in their learning and gets so much more out of it.
Don't Judge a Student by Their School
Additionally, an applicant might want to go to college for a certain trade or activity, and finding that specialty at a college with a higher acceptance rate will provide a more beneficial education than a school that is just known for its low acceptance rate.
Additionally, some programs have a lower acceptance rate in colleges than others, also, so the general well-known acceptance rate of a school is not one size fits all for every program. For example, at UMass Amherst, the general acceptance rate in 2021 is 63.8% (https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/umass-amherst-2221). But their nursing program’s acceptance rate is 12%. (https://www.umass.edu/nursing/academic-programs/nursing-major/admission)
Thus, even if a college is marked “selective,” that does not mean that every student that attended was admitted under that acceptance rate. The nursing program is extremely selective and not many people know that about UMass Amherst. This means that when somebody in the nursing program explains that they go to UMass people perpetuate exclusive atmospheres may think less of this school because it has a higher acceptance rate, when in actuality, not only is college what you make it, but the program that the student is in is very selective as opposed to the college itself.
Exclusivity in the World of Clothing
When we buy more than we need in attempts to keep up with the exclusive and ever-changing fashions, what do we do with it? I don’t frown upon unnecessary purchases here and there for fun, but if it becomes a habit it will have bad effects on the environment.
For example, fast fashion follows trends, so when we perpetuate that a certain style is superior, it will cause a rise in production and consumption of that style in fast fashion which will continue the exploitation of child and slave labor (as with many other not fast fashion brands). (https://www.borgenmagazine.com/fast-fashion/) (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fast-fashion).
So, even though fast fashion is the antonym of exclusivity (in terms of pricing), they thrive off of the benefits of a world centered around competition.
Gucci vs The Gap
I believe that this idea of exclusivity and desire to be ahead or superior is harmful for our society in a multitude of ways.
For example, in the case of luxury brands, having a Gucci belt does not make somebody superior to another person with a similar belt from The Gap. But, for some reason, in our society, we’ve equated wearing an expensive item to success and power, even while the person that is wearing a belt from The Gap might just be using their money differently. We cannot pursue this notion that exclusive items are the mark of a better person, because that is simply not the case in many situations.
The Flex of High Fashion is... Not Worth It??
In a couple of months, fashion always moves to its next obsession, so ask yourself before purchasing something expensive, “will I really want these shoes when they’re no longer a flex?” or “do I only want this sweatshirt for its logo?” or “Can I be spending my money in a more effective way?”
Purchasing items, especially with the intent that they will land you numerous of compliments from people who wish they could be sporting a piece as special, can be therapeutic at first, but the fun will be short-lived. When that Louis Vuitton bag that everybody wanted is in the back of your closet collective cobwebs in a few months, will it still be worth it?
As I mentioned before, I am not free from this mindset and lifestyle, even though I realize it’s not healthy or inclusive. I will continue to work on evaluating my purchases before clicking “add to cart” and not letting advertising tempt me in an inescapable way.
One Size Fits All My A**
Brandy Melville has been under fire numerous times due to their unrealistic body standards and exclusive sizing.
For example, they do not display any plus size models, nor hire anybody who does not fit with their size ideals. This poses an enormous problem because 70% of American women are size 14 and above (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/10/diaco-caters-to-the-70-percent-of-us-women-fashion-ignores.html). The brand, and many others that are similar, preserves this notion that (usually unhealthily) thin is the only acceptable body type.
This exclusive sizing is harmful for young people who cannot fit into the clothes marked “one size fits all” in Brandy Melville because they are excluded from “all.”
As if, because they don’t fit, they don’t even count as part of the population anymore. This also makes people wish to fit their standards, even if it’s impossible for them; leading them to live less happily just because they cannot fit with what a certain exclusive brand provides.
Free Yourself From the Burdens of Exclusivity!
Just remember: exclusivity does not make something better. As I've noted, we typically understand that colleges that are notoriously impossibly to get into are fantastic institutions: truly second to none. When in reality, school, as with life, is what you make it.
Unless you are a billionaire who does not care for the environment, throwing your money at every new inaccessible, exclusive trend is not an effective or sustainable way to live. It’s harmful to yourself because you’re leading yourself to believe that with this purchase something in your life will suddenly improve, but if it does, it will only last as long as the trend. It’s also harmful to the people around you because you’re showing them that you have something that they may not have the money for, and that makes you better.
We should put more focus on donating our money to causes we support, instead of the continuation of an exclusive world.
Lastly, there will always be body standards. If you look at our history, they've changed many times. So we should stop letting others decide if our body will be regarded as beautiful or the exclusive fad in this year. Take charge of your life and remember to be inclusive to not only yourself, but others!