It would appear that Puma hasn’t wholly and entirely grasped the complexity of Veblen Goods as yet. Which is odd, as the entire brand, the company, is built upon the idea itself. The thing that makes it all work, the essence, the nub, is that a Veblen Good is made to be displayed in front of others. That’s the function. Something that, by definition, is worn or used in the comfort of one’s own home, alone, isn’t really going to work all that well.
Thus these video shoes, well:
Puma has released an £80 pair of shoes specifically designed for wearing while playing video games.
The company’s “active gaming footwear” look like high-tech, space-age ankle socks. Puma promises they will deliver “seamless comfort, support and grip so gamers can adapt to different active gaming modes and game their best.”
The idea of wearing special shoes to sit on your sofa and play video games may seem ridiculous, but Matt Shaw, team head of digital marketing and gaming for Puma, said there was a market for athlete-designed clothing.
“Obviously, Puma’s heritage is as a sports brand, but it’s patently obvious to us that our consumer makes very little distinction between athletes in stick-and-ball sports and esports athletes,” he said, earlier this year.
To start from the beginning – a Veblen Good is something which shows off social status. Given that humans are social status seeking beings these work very well with our species. It’s also true that we rarely have just the one social status pyramid. Thus all sorts of things can indeed be that status displaying market. Prison tats, trousers with the crotch at knee level, a Bentley, the pure and clean Chelsea Tractor, an accent and so on and on. Even, these days, having the right (or rather left) view on the environment.
More specifically with the Veblen bit, these are things which are desirable because they are expensive and thus show off that economic version of social status. If you can afford this then you must, be definition, be rich enough to afford this.
The entire Puma/Adidas footwear offering is that you gain that status by wearing the stuff. They’re all made in the same factories that create the Primark £5 versions, largely to the same designs and from the same materials. It is the brand, the marker upon them, that is the Veblen.
Of course, to most of us it screams “twat” with more money than sense. But inside certain social structures having the right tick or whoosh on your trackies indicates status and thereby gets the babes.
But the important thing here is that all are a form of social display, something which rather assumes the display bit. Something which is worn in private to an audience of none doesn’t quite achieve this.
Still, perhaps it’s not all that silly a bet. For the bet being made is that some useful portion of consumers are too stupid to know this themselves. And given modern education systems who is to insist that that’s a losing proposition?