For those that take an interest in fashion, wearing the latest trends in designer labels can be easy for the financially stable, yet prove to be very difficult for those that cannot afford them. From purses to jackets, sunglasses to high heels, the counterfeit merchandise culture has become one of the most popular alternatives to owning designer fashion. These counterfeit manufacturers are increasingly growing in expertise that it is now difficult to tell the real from the fake. In fact, a recent episode of the television show, The City¸ proved that even the creative director of Elle magazine could not tell the difference between a real and fake handbag. With price tags up to more than half the price of the original, the growing popularity of counterfeit goods leads me to examine how it shapes our society into consumer culture. Using the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Jean Baudrillard, I will examine the extent of power the designers and consumers have in the reproduction and consumption of counterfeit goods. While both theorists agree that the power to buy knock-offs lies in the buyer, ultimately it is the consumer culture we live in that guides our desires in owning the latest trends.
Counterfeiting is illegal worldwide, yet there is always a high demand for knock-off designer goods. Selling these counterfeit purses and watches attracts naïve tourists and employs those that need to make ends meet despite the consequences of their vendors being shut down. Bourdieu would find the phenomenon of counterfeit merchandise as a result of culture because he sees it as a type of economy, or marketplace (Ritzer, p. 181). People utilize their cultural norms rather than economic capital. When people see a Rolex watch, they associate the person wearing it to having high status. However, if the Rolex is counterfeit, that person’s status is called to question. Bourdieu believes that “people pursue distinction in a range of cultural fields” (Ritzer, p. 181). Society distinguishes what is high or low class by the products that are consumed by each class. Counterfeit goods are most commonly associated with lower class statuses. Because they are sold on the streets of Chinatown and not Rodeo drive, counterfeit goods carry the demeanor of being cheap and low class. Bourdieu explains “rational” habitus as the “precondition for appropriate economic behavior” (p. 64). Thus, a capital that exists in a lower economic status will produce goods that are accessible to those living in that habitus. In relation to field, the acquisition of capital for the designer goods is low in economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital and therefore this habitus must provide an alternative—counterfeit goods.
Continue reading here: Sociological Analysis of Conterfeit Culture