Every now and then, we’ll hear or read about a handbag or telephone priced so highly that we wonder who in the world would be silly enough buy one. But perhaps it is better to stop and think before mocking those who do blow their cash on luxury items- you may be just as crazy.
The term ‘luxury item’ can describe anything which costs more than normal people would usually pay for such a thing. Some examples are very well known, having achieved a high degree of brand awareness: BMW cars, Bang & Olufsen sound systems and Rolex watches, for example. Other brands, either through choice or through appealing only to a niche market, are more obscure.
Most people have one or two things on which they'd spend an amount of money which would be deemed silly by most other people. When one of these luxury items is advertised on a billboard or in the newspaper, the majority or people who see it will scoff at the outrageous price and question the sanity of the few people who will purchase it. But for every busload of those people, there will be one who will be saving their pennies in order to one day own said item. Ironically, each one of those people, while they mutter something about “more money than sense”, will probably be dreaming of the day that they can buy some other outrageously priced object.
The fun thing is that the man who moans at his wife for spending £80 on her hair will often have spent a similar amount on a few months' worth of sports channels. "That guy at work was crazy to spend all that money on alloy wheels," sez you with your Italian leather handbag. Did she really need those Ferragamo shoes when you can hardly even see them through your Moss Lipow shades?
Most musicians would love to own that Bosendorfer or Taylor, the petrolhead wants the Lamborghini and the audiophile craves a Meridian system. A fashionable lady may want a Fendi and the sartorial gent would love a pair of George Cleverleys. My shotgun-toting girlfriend gets misty-eyed at the thought of a Beretta EELL and my computer-gaming friend spent a good portion of last Saturday explaining why Alienware PCs are worth the cash.
And all that is okay. I'd even call it a Good Thing. Most things in the world are made at minimal cost in order to maximise profit. That’s just business. It means using the cheapest designers, the cheapest components and the cheapest productions methods. It usually results in a product which is generic or unattractive, unreliable or unpleasant to use. It might be acceptable, but only just.
But every once in a while, a company decides to do business in a different way: Instead of building down to a price, they produce they finest item they can. It will be the strongest, the prettiest, the fastest or the most accurate. The resulting price means that instead of selling a million, they’ll only sell a thousand.
If these luxury items didn’t exist, we’d be swimming in an endless sea of tat made of thin, squeaky plastic. And if we only ever bought that which is absolutely necessary, we'd all have a lot less than we do. Our homes are full of things we don't need, people just draw the lines at different places according to personal values, income or passion. So when chatting to a nutter who just spent two months’ wages on their personal ‘holy grail’, be it a hand crafted fountain pen, a set of forged kitchen knives or some other piece of over-engineered lunacy, think twice before deriding them. Instead, thank them for spending their hard-earned cash on making the world of the consumer a bit more interesting, and for making it a slightly less poorly constructed, lazily designed and miserably styled place.