Faux for the plebs, real for the slebs

If you lust after a vintage car and not just the top-end sporty type like an E-type Jaguar, it will almost certainly have leather seats as that would have been the standard seating material when the car was manufactured.  Cost back then presumably wasn’t the determining factor.  Cloth upholstery is a more recent cost-driven development, with the more expensive models in any range having a leather steering wheel or even a leather gear knob; these are presumably status symbols though it mystifies me exactly why.

Although imitation leather clothing exists, because real leather clothing is still commonplace, the latter doesn’t really have much status.  Similarly with leather shoes, which in any case are not usually designed to look like animal skins any more than a hamburger looks like part of the carcass of an animal.  Shoes made of synthetic material are now so well designed that one cannot tell whether or not they are made from leather, just as it is difficult to tell by inspection the difference between a veggieburger and a hamburger.

Silk ties for men and silk lingerie for women may have a certain amount of price-associated status with them.  In the former case ties have largely gone out of fashion and most men will make do with a polyester one on the odd occasion (business meeting, job interview) where one needs to be worn.  In the latter case it is more the designer label than the material itself that determines the status; cotton or synthetic lace will suffice if the brand name has the correct allure, Victoria’s Secret probably being the most obvious example.

The promotion of low-cost faux fur has however had an unintended consequence as fur coats do look like they are made from animal skins.  Not only has it created a demand for fur where possibly no such demand existed before, but it has helped to reinforce real fur as a status symbol, which can only be purchased by the wealthy; those who are not of wealthy origin but want to show off their acquired status (Rihanna springs to mind) like to flaunt themselves wearing real fur. So, faux for the plebs, real for the slebs.


So how can this status association with animal derivatives be overcome?  Let’s assume that the proportion of the population who become vegan gradually increases.  Let’s assume also a genuine free market economy in which the breeding of animals for milk production, slaughter and other by-products do not receive hefty amounts of taxpayer subsidy.  If meat, dairy, eggs, leather, all become more expensive as a result of market economics that surely is a good thing, but the downside is that they could become desirable status symbols of wealth.  All of which is a loose end from my previous post.