Hype culture, what it is, and how pros and cons affect the future

Human mileage, sites going down, products sold out in minutes. There is a culture – called hype – which is defined by the obsessed search for an exclusive limited edition product, and which represents (potentially) a status symbol for those who manage to be a part of it. Something extremely cool so that it reflects and pours all its apparent coolness into our way of being, or even better, feeling. But do we really need it? And above all: does it have a future?

The narrative used to tell the exclusive drops often involves a whole series of correlated phenomena that bring together the directly interested parties: the customers. Those who camp out in front of the shops at night, those who are ready to stand in line at dawn. Customers become an active part of the hype culture’s storytellingand recently a journalistic title de mail, following Swatch’s recent collaboration with Omega: “The reason for queues outside Swatch stores”. A title (valid food for thought) that wants to explain the reason for the queue, even before it tells us about the product. What the product saw, in the article, they also tell us. But again the real focus is the hype: the boundless euphoria that people have tried to grab themselves with a reissue signed by Swatch of the historic Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, sold for 250 euros (compared to the real watch, whose cost varies from 6 thousand to 50 thousand euros). All this paves the way for further reflection: what exactly do we pay when we buy hype pieces? Are we paying for the product or the scarcity strategy behind it? Answer: both because one would not be able to exist without the other.

hypeculture what it is

London, March 26, 2022. The line to launch the Omega x Swatch watch started the night before.

Yui Mok – PA PicturesGetty Images

In the name of democracy, it is far from us to criticize procurement choices and habits. But by asking us if there is a future for hype culture, it is also reasonable to ask ourselves whether hype culture ultimately has more advantages than disadvantages (and what they are). I will give an example. My memories as a young university student when I strived to work with fashion (that is, to be part of an industry, of a society that shares interests and sometimes values), refer me to one of the most exclusive drops of H&M : the one with the Versace house in 2011.

hypeculture what it is

Shanghai, 2011. Customers lined up in the rain to access the Versace x H&M collection.

VCGGetty Images

Like all H&M drops in collaboration with major fashion houses, it has also generated rows and rows of customers across Italy, in front of the stores since the early morning hours. However, only in selected single-brand stores in selected cities. I was the first to be lucky enough to grab a pair of Versace x H&M ankle boots, which I would resell on the Vestiaire Collective platform a few years later. The hype, however, had triumphed in full: I wanted to be part of a circle I aspired to wear Versace, but I could not afford it. Knowing that I could buy a Versace piece in a “reissued” H&M version had come to my mind: I must have it. The same thing has happened these days with the new Swatch x Omega watch, which confirms it the affordability of some prices can be a big plus in favor of the hype culture. But then, as in everything, there are disadvantages as well.

hypeculture what it is

London, November 2011. Donatella Versace in the H&M stores.

Nick HarveyGetty Images

The hype puts us on hold, the hype gives us a sense of insecurity to the last. Can I do it? Will I be able to get it? A condition lived with relative acceptance, based on how important it is for the individual to grasp a particular product. But hype is also a vicious circle that nurtures similar strategies against any sustainable logic. The more drops there are, the more we want more drops. The more exclusive collaborations there are, the more we want others. News, news, news. Continuous sense of novelty, ongoing betting on the next sold-out product, continuous production. “We need to end the addiction to the hype phenomenon,” Alec Leach wrote iD, in support of this dissertation. – It’s easy to point the finger at Instagram (which does not affect us a bit, ed) or against the children standing up in front of Supreme stores, but the truth is that this is a problem that has infected the entire industry.

hypeculture what it is

Edward BerthelotGetty Images

Can you blame him at all? Let’s remember what happened during the first lockdown, where the brands and their communication did nothing but revolve around loungewear: the tracksuit to be comfortable at home, the sweatshirt, the joggers to have now. And even the Instagram world was filled with Pangia suits that generated – guess what – another chapter of the hype phenomenon. “The problem with the hype – Alec Leach concludes – is that it’s a carousel that more and more people continue to climb. And the more people go up, the faster it turns. We must instead understand that everything we do buyer, whether we like it or not, has an impact on our lives ”.

hypeculture what it is

Edward BerthelotGetty Images

However, we have no faults. This is for sure. Another interesting opinion in this regard is the journalist Eugene Rabkin, who on High nobility mean it it was the pandemic that gave such a boost to hype culture. In a historic moment of strong humanitarian crisis, fashion does its duty more than ever: it nourishes the emotional gaps, the emotional needs through the thirst for shopping. And here it is to be able to buy something that is no longer available in a few hours, because in a limited edition it will be a source of pride and satisfaction. Reason for personal satisfaction. But how long will this feeling last for us? Is it enough time for a sold out, or will a season’s lifetime be enough? Will we be able to wear it enough times before we get tired of it? Meanwhile, the carousel continues to turn.

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