product: jewelry

I found these Ray Ban ads at Copyranter,

I also found this cassette tape belt buckle (here), cassette tape bag (here), and boom box pendant (here).

These remind me of this T-shirt with pictures of safety pins on it.  When you’re so old school that you, um, buy a t-shirt with… well I guess you’re just buying a t-shirt.

Soon after reading my post on “ethnic” fashion, Robin noticed an article in the New York Times about “tribal” elements in fashion. According to the article, “The tribal trend, seen on spring runways awash with ikat, batik, and African wax prints, is hot this summer.” We helpfully learn, “The specimens are rarely authentic, mind you. Rather, designers have appropriated ethnic elements and given them a modern spin.” According to one designer,

“It’s a dialogue between what’s traditional and new, and between East and West,” she said. “Our weavers in Uzbekistan find it really surprising and a real struggle to begin with. At first they don’t like the reworked designs, but over time they acquire appreciation.”

A quote from another designer:

“The enticement of ethnic dress in modern culture is like going on a guided safari,” he said. “We can enjoy the element we are familiar with and attracted to, while not giving up our daily comforts. We can wave to the lion from the safety of our S.U.V.”

So wearing “ethnic” clothing is like going on a sightseeing trip where you can look at savage animals but in a safe way that doesn’t actually bring you in contact with them…interesting. “We” (non-ethnic) people can pick and choose a few things from other cultures but without giving up “daily comforts,” or, like, knowing anything about other people or thinking through thorny issues like who that “we” encompasses and who is doing the defining of “we” and the ethnic “them.” I have to say, the “We can enjoy the element we are…attracted to…” made me think of sex tourism.

Notice here that, first, “ethnic” or “tribal” is applied to an enormous range of cultures spanning the globe that have little in common except not being from Western Europe or the U.S. Also, we see that “ethnic” fashion = traditional = non-modern = wild/animalistic = Eastern, whereas “modern” fashion = Western = non-ethnic. Because there is no ethnicity in the “West.” Except when designers use “traditional” Aztec or Mayan or Mexican or Laplander or etc. etc. prints in their “ethnic” designs.

Here are some pictures from the accompanying slide show:

This purse is $565. The weaving is what the quote from the first designer above was saying she struggled with Uzbeki producers about, since they didn’t like her reworked versions of their “traditional” patterns. I wonder how much of that $565 goes to those weavers?

The caption to the photo of these boots is “cultural gumbo.” They are $350.

These bangles come in cashmere, tweed, and cotton and are $45-125. The article does not tell me if I am being “ethnic” and going on a fashion safari every time I wear my black cashmere cardigan. Maybe it has to be brightly-colored cashmere to be “tribal.”

These shoes are $715. They are ethnic because they are silk and I guess maybe that’s supposed to be a vaguely Asian-y print on the black ones. My years of training in a rigorous sociology Ph.D. program also give me the critical thinking and analytical skills to tell you with certainty that they are hideously ugly.

These clutches are $450. They are ethnic because they use a style of dying called ikat, and also probably because they have a vaguely animal-print design.

Great find, Robin!

NEW: Katie J. sent in a link to Pepperlime (part of the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy empire), which features shoes that let the wearer “go tribal”:


A while ago I posted a set of ads for engagement rings, asking what those ads had to sell you in order to also sell you a diamond ring (see the post here).  Then Miguel sent us the ad below, writing: “This ad is almost too honest.”  Indeed.  Notice that it also supposes that it is the quality of the ring, and not the quality of the groom, that makes a woman happy on the day she says “yes” to marriage.


I use this set of engagement ring ads, though any set would do, to illustrate the way in which ads have to sell much more than just the product. To sell an engagement ring, these ads also are selling: monogamy and the pair bond; marriage as the proper way to cement that bond; love, and love as a basis for marriage; the need for a symbol of commitment and a ring (a diamond ring specifically, apparently platinum preferably) as that symbol; men’s role as financial provider and decider (in that he buys the ring and proposes); the importance of the proposal (it needs to be a surprise and an event in itself); the importance of an expensive ring (i.e., “Does he know how much I really love him?”); and… what else?


Text: “When you can truly be yourselves. Your love has just gone Platinum.”


Text: “Tacori: A symbol of unending love”


Text: “Never compromise… when asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you.”


Text: “Platinum. For a lifetime of love. Platinum’s purity endows it with a natural white luster which allows the true radiance of your diamond to shine. As uncommon as true love, platinum is 35 times rarer than gold. Like the bond between you, platinum will hold your diamond securely now and for always.”


She asks: “Does he know how much I really love him?”

Under the image: “With love comes questions. The right diamond shouldn’t be one of them.”


Text: “For one moment the world is spinning around her.”

Here’s an ad for earrings that has the same message about love:


The smaller text says,

Every hearts on fire diamond is cut and polished at 100% magnification to guarantee a life of intensity.

I honestly don’t know what we’re supposed to get out of this–that buying this ring will bring so much passion and “intensity” to your relationship (by setting your “hearts on fire”) that there will be no reason to stray? That buying her a ring will turn her on so much that the sex will be fantastic enough to satisfy him? I really don’t know.

From Metropolitan Home.

I found this Rolex ad in Metropolitan Home magazine. Pair with this ad series that plays on the idea of “generations” of class. Or this ad for Patek Philippe ads, also using the generations theme. Then compare to this Acura ad that ridicules “trust-fund,” old-money types. It could also lead to an interesting discussion about the ways in which we use the word “class” both as an economic group and as a personal characteristic (i.e., “She has class”) and the way “classiness” is here turned into something you can buy for yourself.

This is an ad I found in The New Yorker for Patek Philippe watches. The text in the lower-left corner says “You never actually own a Patrick Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.” So by buying an expensive, new watch, you’re creating a “tradition.” I’m going to use this in the future when I talk about inventing traditions.

This is a nice compliment to our post of the t-shirt with pictures of safety pins on it (an example of the co-optation of punk culture):

When you’re so tough that you are compelled to hang a razor blade around your neck, but not so tough that you want an ouchie.

This one is a nice example, also, of the way in which we “play” with gender by collapsing traditionally distinct ideas (masculine toughness symbolized by the razor blade and sweet femininity symbolized by the heart) (see also sparkly camouflage, trucker hats with the word “princess” written across them, and pink sports jerseys).

Buy the fake razor blade jewelry here (or don’t).

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.