Illustration by Gauraang Biyani

The Sole of a Trend

Yeezy taught you wrong

Oct 1, 2016

Some things in life are uncertain: Is there life on Mars? Should you finish the last season of Game of Thrones before writing your assignment? But some things simply don’t fit into this realm of uncertainty. The new Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 sneakers, for example. They’re ugly. There’s simply no alternative. They’re the ugliest pair of shoes I’ve seen, and New Zealand isn’t exactly home to the world’s most well-dressed individuals, so a statement like this speaks volumes about how unattractive they really are. The curious thing about these sneakers is that they retail at 200 USD and sell out within seconds. The resale price can reach up to 1,000 USD, only a few moments after retailers have sold them out.
When I first discovered this new sneaker trend, I wondered if I was the only person in the world who was left out of the big international joke everyone seemed to be in on, like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Was everyone else having a laugh at my expense? I decided that this simply can’t be true — the purchasers of items like the Yeezy Boost 350 genuinely do believe that what they’re in possession of is certified, platinum-level cool. The worst part about these shoes is that they’re just one case in a seemingly endless archive of baseless fashion decisions.
My bewilderment at the popularity of something like these Adidas hellspawn led me to wonder about the peculiarities of the fashion world. Why are we so infatuated with trends artificially manufactured by brands? Who really decides that ripped jeans are going to be cool this summer? Big, world-shattering questions, clearly.
One of the central tenants of consumer behavior is that consumers will always be predictably irrational. We’re easily duped, easily convinced that something is worth far more than it actually is. The concept of false scarcity only further exacerbates this idea. Brands such as Adidas produce limited amounts of special-release shoes like the Yeezy Boosts mentioned earlier, even though they have ample opportunity to flood the market with stock at a much cheaper price. But where’s the fun in that? They can make far more money off of convincing consumers that the product is rare, charging an incredible premium and returning with a new iteration of the product in six months. It’s a smart business strategy that preys upon the irrationality of modern-day fashion fiends.
We’ll never be able to change the influence that big brands and fashion executives have on our perceptions of what’s trending or cool. We buy based on what we perceive the item to be worth. If it matches up with what the retailer is charging and what we’re willing to pay, then bingo — you’re running home with that new pair of purple, studded, LED light-up sneakers.
So, what can we — the seemingly helpless consumers — do in the face of corporate and contrived fashion? The solution to this problem lies in ensuring that we can see through falsely manufactured trends. If you wouldn’t have worn it before someone told you it was designed by Kanye West, then you probably shouldn’t pay the exorbitant price for it anyway. But if it makes you feel that much better about the clothes that you’re wearing, then who am I to judge? If it makes you feel cool because everyone else knows it’s rare, exciting and different, then go for it.
My final request is that you imagine the conversation held in the boardroom at the Zara head office about the product you’re about to buy. If it goes something along the lines of, Jim, 50 bucks says we can get young people to think leopard print is cool this summer, then maybe it’s a good idea to check out what’s hanging on the next rack instead. Just don’t be surprised if you walk down the street next week and find everyone from your roommate to the lady at the dining hall sporting leopard-print socks.
James Pearce is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
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