Here’s an article from the WSJ’s Personal Finance section.Â It’s entitled Are Designer Sunglasses Worth the Price?, and it’s probably one of the more ridiculous things I’ve read in the past few days. Not due it’s substantive content, though. I’d say that everything the author says, assuming it’s factually accurate, smacks of reason. He talks about huge markups, many brands manufactured by a single company, questionable health benefits, and even an appeal to the value of money in a long term investment. (“Over a lifetime these things add up. Indeed they compound. Even at, say, 4% interest, $200 a year over 50 years adds up to $30,000.”)
No, what amuses me is the very idea that he’s laying out a rational point-by-point argument against spending money on designer sunglasses in the first place.
I’m going to divide the world into three types of people.Â The first set of people laugh at the article and laugh at the idea of buying designer sunglasses, because it’s so bleeding obvious that the whole affair is a crock of shit.Â The second set of people consists of those who, for whatever reasons (and there are many), buy into that crock of shit and are unlikely to care about the article’s arguments. The third set of people, probably the target audience of the article, are the people who will actually be persuaded that there are some good reasons why spending $300 on a pair of designer sunglasses is a crock of shit, and I fault them for lacking the common sense to figure that out themselves. Talk about a failure of education.
This isn’t to say I have anything against fashion or certain designer products. I’m not personally that into it, because I think that there are better things to spend my money on, but fashion on the whole is no less productive than a thousand other human activities.Â If you’re going to be into it though, and I think there are a number of very good reasons for fashion as a lifestyle or a hobby (e.g. as an expression of human creativity), then you should go into it with open eyes and realize that the pursuit frequently necessitates poor financial decisions. If you can do that, then I respect you more than I do the perpetually oblivious who need to be informed that their decisions are silly.
On a side note, I wish I had some extra money, so I could invest it in some sunglasses companies. And a fun fact, Oakley has trademarked one of their synthetic rubber materials as Unobtanium.
Update: Sly bastards. Luxottica, speak of the devil, is opening new “interaction-oriented” stores (NYT) in order to attract people away from mall sunglass kiosks (a great number of which are theirs anyway) and discount internet shopping. So they’re pushing an Apple store/Disney store kind of vibe, with treadmills in a “wind tunnel” to test sunglasses against the wind, interactive monitor displays, educational stations, and other doo-dads. Â This smacks of gimmickiness, but I suppose if they keep a wide price-range of sunglasses available they could pull it off.
They’re aiming at making “buying eyewear more of an event,” which is simply classic consumer habit creation that has been done successfully over and over in the past. I would definitely couple it with scare ad campaigns about the danger of UV, glare causing car crashes, etc.; up the R&D to create more composite materials and subtle “grades” of UV/glare/etc. protection (“So are you mainly going to wearing these at high altitude? While skiing? At night?”) and overwhelm consumers with choices; and make anyone who just “runs down to the pharmacy to pickup a pair of sunglasses” look like a fool for missing out on free “expert” advice about wearability, style, and health.