Let me just say this disclaimer up front – there have already been hundreds of articles about the fact that the spending habits on Sex and the City aren’t realistic, and this is not one of those articles. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
What are we actually paying for??
K and I were talking the other day about how we’re getting to a place in life where we like the finer things, but we’re not willing to pay full price for them, especially since we see things ridiculously discounted all. the. time. And I commented that I had well over 100 pairs of shoes, and I had not paid anywhere near the $40,000 that Carrie Bradshaw had paid for her shoe collection. (Remember – when she was trying to get the down-payment money to buy her condo after she and Aiden broke up for the gazillionth time, and Miranda asked her how many shoes she had, she said 100 [I’m paraphrasing] and Miranda said “100 shoes at $400 each – there’s your down-payment.”) Here’s the thing though – I was recently looking at fancy shoes, because I am kinda-sorta getting to a point where I could conceivably purchase a pair of shoes for $400, and you know what??? Manolo Blahnik shoes (which, I think we can all agree, is the vast majority of Carrie’s shoe collection) are no longer in the $400 price range! In fact, this pair, which I am reasonably sure is the pair that was stolen at the baby shower and which Carrie said cost $600, is now $755. The most basic black, pointy-toed pump that I could find on Nordstrom’s site was this one, which is $595. So, in the years since SaTC was the big thing, these shoe prices have gone up about $150 – $200, which, at least for the “cheap” pair, was an increase of 50% (K, check my math).
Which begs the question – what the heck are we paying for?? Sure, I get supply and demand, and I understand that the show made these shoes much more popular, but still! The shoes were already $400/pair, which is not in the range of “average” people (considering that the national average on salaries in around $47,000/year). What has happened to make the price jump so dramatically?? Is there a shortage of Italian shoe-makers? Have the special cows whose skin we use for these shoes gone on strike until they get better food??
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that certain luxury items cost more for a variety of reasons. An Hermes purse will always cost more than a Coach purse because the former is hand-stitched, usually has higher quality materials and standards, and is produced in smaller numbers. I also get that it is a status symbol. Not every college co-ed is running around with a Birkin on her arm. (Side note – I’ll be honest, I feel the same way about Hermes as Holly Golightly felt about diamonds in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – “They look divine on older women, but I just don’t feel they’re right for me.”) However, remember when the Murakami Prada purses came out? It seemed that every single girl I passed on the way to Chem 101 was rocking one. There’s no way that all of those girls could afford one, nor, with the limited number which were available, do I think that every purse which was produced somehow ended up on the Texas State campus. I am all for luxury items which only the few and far between can afford. But when items which were once supposed to be achievable to the modern woman (or man, if you’re into that kind of thing) become out of reach for no fathomable reason other than that the maker saw a way to make more money, I get more than a little pissed.
On the Nordstrom site, there is a pair of lime green Manolos, on sale from $595 to $227.59. Now, you know that the maker is still making a profit off of these shoes, even on sale, so what was the extra $365.41 for?? Vanity?? I understand that in a free-market society, you can set your price wherever you want, and as long as people will pay it, you’re fine. I realize that we’ve always paid a premium for “the label,” but what exactly has that label gotten us in return? The sidewalk grate that scrape the heels on my Nine West finds are going to do the same to your Jimmy Choos, and rain does not care if you’re wearing leather or suede before it starts pouring down. I am constantly hearing stories about luxury makers complaining that their designs are being ripped off by other companies and sold for considerably cheaper. Legitimate question – would that still be happening on such a large scale if luxury makers charged a bit less? Is it better to sell 10 pairs of shoes at $600, or 100 pairs of shoes at $400?