When I opened my kids holiday lists this past November, I was surprised to see a list like never before. A list of things that I couldn’t buy locally and some stuff that I couldn’t even easily order on-line. $550 sneakers, $100 tee shirts that you had to wait on line for 2 hours to buy- what was going on here?
Now, I know teenagers use labels to boost their self confidence and self esteem. That being said, my teenagers let me know that the moms were wearing these items as well. Was this something I craved?
The interesting thing about me is, I am desperately trying to be my own person but who is that person? Am I the yoga teacher that removes all clutter around her or am I the designer clothes shopping spree girl? Then of course I come to my big question- can I be both? This is why I was thrilled to read that Jebbia’s (founder of Supreme) wife seems to be doing just this.
This description of his wife really resigned with me. Vogue reports: Bianca, who grew up in Elmhurst, Queens, in a Chilean family, raises their children at their apartment in Lower Manhattan. “She’ll shop at Prada, she’ll shop at Chanel—and then she’ll shop at Uniqlo and she’ll wear something from Supreme,” Jebbia says. “And it’s not ‘Look at me dumbing this stuff down.’ She’s just wearing what she likes, and I think that people are more like that now.”
I believe: wear what you like and create your own style
But the even bigger question is- what am I teaching my children by engaging in this label craze? The teens watch their parents really closely and not only do I need to think about my own values, I need to think about the values I’m passing down.
One article states “A brand is an extension of one’s self—psychologically, in terms of how you want the world to see you, or what you want the world to believe you are,” says Gabay. “But deeper than that: what you believe you are, through that brand.”
Brands like Supreme, are run by independent cool folks (like skateboarders in this case) and are private equity backed big businesses. Click here for their whole story. Supreme, the cool/ anti-establishment company, is said to be valued at over $1 billion dollars! Supreme is run by James Jebbia. In 1994 Jebbia founded and to the brand and today he runs the SoHo-based company.
I think its important we think about these things…Is this ok? Is this who I am? Is this who I want my kids to be? And what draws our kids to these lifestyle brands? I think there is a tremendous need to fit in especially amongst teens and pre-teens. Wearing these products tends to say “hey, I’m part of the club too”. But what if we do not want our kids to be a part of this club? How can we realign our values with our children’s? Is it harmful for kids to crave these items and identify themselves visa via these labels.
According to a very interesting article on the APA website:
By the time children reach their teens, a developmental stage when they’re naturally insecure and searching for a personal identity, they’ve been taught that material possessions are what matter, Kanner says. Advertisers understand the teen’s desire to be “cool,” and manipulate it to sell their wares, a concept that’s been offered to marketers by psychologists including James McNeal, PhD, who wrote “Kids As Customers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children,” published in 1992 by Lexington Books.
“Teens want to identify with their peer group and in a certain sense, that is a vulnerability,” Kanner says. Indeed, teens and tweens, children between the ages of 12 and 14, are attracted to the prestige they believe brand-name clothing provides them, according to a 1998 article in the journal Adolescence (Vol. 33, No. 131) by economist Linda Simpson, PhD, of Eastern Illinois University. The attraction to prestige brands develops in adolescent years because it’s a time when peer pressure and fitting in are very important, she notes.
The problem, says Kanner, is that marketers manipulate that attraction, encouraging teens to use materialistic values to define who they are and aren’t. In doing that, marketers distort the organic process of developing an identity by hooking self-value to brands, he adds. “More naturally, you might develop your identity around, for example, doing good in the world or building a career out of an interest,” he explains.
And even when good bubbles up, or creativity flourishes on its own, it’s likely to be co-opted by advertisers looking to keep up with trends among teens, says Linn. For example, advertisers use hip-hop culture to sell products such as Sprite, and the emergence of extreme sports coincided with the branding of associated products such as skateboarding.
Identity-oriented branding also encourages disapproval of anything different, be it a different generation, different cultural group or different school clique, says Linn.
My advice to parents:
- Talk to your kids about what brands are and why they are created. Explain marketing strategies to them and make sure you share your own values with them.
- Discuss what is going on at school and in your kids friend groups. Be aware of the pressures that surround branding.
- There are advocacy groups, such as the Coalition to Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, that lobby politicians and companies to be responsible marketers. This might be an interesting way to learn more. Also, you may want to look into supporting foundations that fund research on marketing effects on children.
In reality, I believe we need to talk to our children about our personal values and try to explain to our kids what we feel is important in life. For me that doesn’t mean never getting brand name products but it does mean spending time teaching them that these products do not define them and letting them know how the marketing is coming at them.
Babe and Golden Goose are two more brands I am bombarded with in my home. While I agree the products are nice, I worry about the messaging that comes with them. Kith is another store the kids love to view a selection of branded stuff (and amazing treats).
Do your teens identify with these brands? Are they begging you to be at your computer on Thursday mornings when the Supreme goods are dropped? Did you know that the Supreme website “closes”?
How do you manage your teens and the brands that they identify with? Please share your tips with me.
Aren’t puppies so much easier to raise? I couldn’t resist throwing up another picture of Bella…
Let me know your thoughts…
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products that I link to and recommend them because they are companies and products that I have found helpful and trustworthy.