Long gone are the days when wearing an Abercrombie shirt was the epitome of trendy fashion (well, USC Village may want you to think otherwise). If only it was still that simple. Now, trends have turned flashier, fancier and — you guessed it — pricier.
Namely, popular “haul” videos — where beauty gurus on YouTube reveal what they’ve purchased on a given shopping trip, whether it’s clothes, groceries or home décor — are nothing new, but the content and price points of these hauls have increased dramatically since the videos first started popping up online.
In my youthful YouTube fandom of years past, most beauty influencers kept their shopping videos relatively moderate, routinely cycling between stores like H&M, Forever 21, American Eagle and the like. Now, hauls exist on polar ends: Either influencers are spending hundreds or thousands on cheap clothes from brands like Zaful or Wish to “prove” those items are worth it, or they’re dropping major coin on luxury brands for no apparent reason.
Either way, the hyper-materialistic nature of the beauty influencer community promotes unsustainable shopping habits and unrealistic consumer behaviors to the average viewer, especially since most of these influencers’ key demographics are young and impressionable teens.
Focusing on the latter end of the spectrum, no designer brand has seen more of the spotlight lately than Gucci. A quick YouTube search for “Gucci Haul” will load pages upon pages of videos with titles like Tana Mongeau’s vlog “$5,000 GUCCI HAUL… uh oh,” Nicolette Gray’s (a.k.a. the “Beverly Hills Brat”) “$35,000 LUXURY HAUL” and Jeffree Star’s “GUCCI HAUL.” Each of these videos has over 2 million views.
The trend of leveraging luxury for views extends beyond the beauty community too. Notably, controversial 17-year-old YouTuber Emma Chamberlain has faced backlash for how her lifestyle habits have changed as her following grew. When Chamberlain first started in 2017, she was known for making fun of YouTubers who latched onto materialistic trends, demonstrated in her “$450 GUCCI T-SHIRT” parody video (over 3 million views) where she poorly painted the Gucci logo onto a basic white shirt.
A little less than a year later, in her “TURNING ME INTO AN LA GIRL” video (17 million views), Chamberlain is seen taking a trip to the Gucci store and buying an actual Gucci belt. The difference between her and a classic beauty YouTuber, however, is that she approaches trend-following in an overtly sarcastic fashion. Her tone mocks the idea of spending so much money to be “cool” on the internet, an idea which largely stems from L.A. culture.
Last April, research analysts at Piper Jaffray found that Gucci was No. 10 among teens’ favorite apparel brands. Additionally, the brand’s comparable sales grew 48.7 percent in the first quarter of 2018 alone, according to Business Insider.
This means that teens — who are constantly setting the standard for future trends — are buying into the notion that investing in designer brands like Gucci should be a common spending habit. And it shows: Nearly every day, I see someone whether in real life or on Instagram, wearing the classic Double G buckle Gucci belt, Gucci slides or an imitated Gucci design on some piece of apparel (I myself am guilty of having an imitation sweatshirt, I’ll admit).
Don’t get me wrong, the belt makes a statement and looks great with many outfits. But I’ve had multiple conversations with friends who’ve all said they want to buy one (heck, I’d love to have one), and when I ask why, they just shrug.
Often, there’s no thought-provoking reason we choose to buy into ridiculous internet trends. We just do.
It doesn’t stop at Gucci or any other ridiculous consumeristic habits promoted by influencers for that matter. Internet culture can no longer be satisfied by watching someone who’s just like you, buying another pair of American Eagle jeans or vlogging while on their weekly trip to Trader Joe’s. Now, it’s about buying into someone who exemplifies an idealized version of life, which often involves content that glorifies living in extremes. Spending thousands on designer brands. Experiencing a $10,000 plane seat. Buying a mansion at 19.
A large reason I stepped back from YouTube was that my YouTube consumption and spending habits were becoming directly connected. The more hauls, makeup videos, travel vlogs and challenges I watched, the more I felt the need to buy things to live up to an influencer’s idealistic existence. The less I watched, the more I was able to discern what activities actually aligned with my lifestyle and perception of self.
Social media can convince you that designer brands are the new standard of living. But it’s not a way of being — it’s a way of buying.
So go ahead, invest in what makes you feel happiest and most like yourself in whatever form that takes, but remember that owning a Gucci belt is, in fact, not a personality trait.
Rowan Born is a sophomore majoring in journalism and law, history and culture. She is also the social media director of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Internet Cultured,” runs every other Tuesday.