At 9 a.m., in an Uber, I gave into temptation. Airpods were immensely popualr, and many of my friends have been talking my pod-less ears off, evangelizing the “next generation of listening.” But, let’s face it: I don’t have that kind of money.
So, I did the only thing I could do. I searched for knock offs.
Now, I wasn’t searching for any True Wireless Headphones, I was on the hunt for headphones that could make people think I had Air Pods, and all of the cultural capital that’s associated with them. When I was flicking through reviews of brand after brand of fake Apple products, I noticed the choices being made to keep the tech within budget. The size was right, but the battery life was 1/10th of the original’s. Or it had the Airpod shape, but the sound quality was that of a blown out speaker. These products weren’t selling their own design as headphones; they were selling their ability to pass, and I was their target consumer.
While the many knock offs are made to profit off of brand-loyal consumerism, some are made for art. For example, Cody Ben Lewis, an American artist, created the American Duck “luxury patch,” in order to democratize the cultural capital the iconic Canada Goose jacket carries at a fraction of the cost. Although he was stopped in his tracks by the jacket company, the project raises questions about how design and brand interact, and the roles the two play in drawing social lines.