Back in college, a girl had a crush on my longtime boyfriend and she was persistent in letting him know it. She flirted with him shamelessly and she even did it in front of me. I tried to nicely (albeit, obviously) clue her in that we were engaged. I casually flashed my ring at her, I leaned on his shoulder and pointedly referred to him as my fiance. She needed to get the hint.
Now I know, I should've just flaunted my go-to Givenchy hangbag in front of her.
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That's, of course, if I believed in this new study that says some women purchase luxury items to prevent other women from stealing their man.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota studied 650 women and found that besides being a statement-making accessory, luxe handbags double as flashy defense mechanisms against other female rivals in love.
"The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel, and Fendi to other women," explains one of the leading researchers, Yajin Wang. "We found that a woman who is wearing luxury items and designer brands is perceived to have a more devoted partner and as a result other women are less likely to flirt with him," Wang continues.
And to be fair, that's probably at least partially true. Americans spend over $250 billion on women's luxury products a year, with the average woman purchasing three new handbags a year. There are endless reasons why we splurge on well-recognized brands like Chanel, Coach, Louis Vuitton. We ooh and ahh over the seamless stitching and the timeless style. A good handbag will last you for years to come. They give us a false boost of self-esteem and emote a kind of status, however superficial that is. Yep, retail therapy is a proven phenomena.
Just this spring, researchers proved that women buy luxury items mostly to impress other women. Nearly two-thirds of women admitted that they set out to wow their girl friends with their looks. So it's not about men (or the relationships women have with them) at all. For women, it's about securing what is rightfully theirs: the relationship status. The guys themselves aren't so important.
So is it such a stretch to say that women use luxury brands to ward off flirtatious man-stealers? Think about it: We make an effort to look our best in order to impress the men we date. As shallow as it may seem, we doll ourselves up for dates, we cake our faces with beauty products (even when we can't afford them) in desperate effort to nab a guy (who offers financial security — again, about "status"), and as much as we don't want to admit it, some of us thrive off of one-upping our frenemies in an effort to look good. When our luxury purchases are so provenly wrapped up in "status", why shouldn't this apply to our "relationship status" as well?
Don't get me wrong: When I first heard this study, the feminist in me was riled up to write about how ridiculously sexist these results were. This statement works off two offensive assumptions: one, women are shallow consumers who will buy anything with a ritzy logo and two: they indulge in these luxuries not for themselves, but for a man. I didn't know which was more insulting. But then I thought about that girl who non-stop flirted with my boyfriend in college. And when I tried to remember how I reacted to her advancements, I guiltily realized that I had caught myself dressing up more for our on-campus dates. Was that part of this alleged knee-jerk reaction to the threat to my relationship these researchers were talking about?
So am I saying we ladies should all rush out and max out our credit cards to splurge on a new bag? Obviously not. I'm not sure that it works on a blatantly psychological level that this research makes it appear. But I think it wouldn't stop some women from trying. Never, ever in my life have I had a girl friend admit to me that she splurged on her Coach purse to benefit her love life ... but then again, do you really think that's something any woman would admit?
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