Branding Your Unique Identity™: Consumer Culture and the Social Self
Consumption can certainly afford us a sense of individuality. A collection of consumer items, shopping habits, and style decisions can come to feel like they express something about who we are. However, there is a paradox at work here: in contemporary consumer culture, the things we buy and covet are purchased and coveted by many other peopleand that’s often why we want them! Thus, the very things that express our uniqueness also align us with a larger group. We often employ brand names to convey our sense of self to others. Think here of a Coach bag (signaling your sophistication and wealth), a pair of Air Jordan sneakers (demon - strating your connection to basketball and hip-hop culture), a Chevy truck (suggesting that you’re the rugged, off-roading type), or a pair of Lululemon yoga pants (showing off your body and/or interest in fitness). Even a lifestyle group known for their aversion to mainstream brand labels-hipsters-can seem to be following a kind of eccentric dress codee.g. knitted hat, thick-rimmed glasses, ironic t-shirt, colorful cardigan, and messenger bag. In this chap - ter, we explore this paradox: the search for indi - viduality and uniqueness in a broader consumer culture where most items we purchase are massmanufactured, mass-marketed, and branded by trans national corporations.