Health is Wealth: How Matcha & Acai Bowls Became A Status Symbol
Thirty years ago, if you used the phrase “status symbol” you probably meant a fast car or a designer bag. But if you look at the lives of the rich and famous today, it could also mean something else. Scroll on their Instagrams and there’s more than the traditional trappings of LV suitcases and private yachts. Chances are, there could be a photo of them meditating (in $90 spandex). Or a flat lay of an acai bowl on a marble table, with a succulent or two in the background.
When did projecting a healthy lifestyle become so aspirational?
I believe that the rise of “conscious consumerism” has impacted how people want to be seen by others. It’s no longer cool to come off as flippant and ignorant or even to stay neutral on an issue. Everyone is expected to take a stance - whether it’s through their purchases, their diets, or their politics. And people are expecting the same from brands. In two major industries, fashion and beauty, there are profound changes being made. In fashion, fur used to be considered the epitome of luxury, however now it seems to be on its way out. In the past two years, two leading fashion houses, Gucci and Chanel, announced that they are banning fur. In beauty, consumers are expecting more than luxurious packaging and formulas - they want products that are better for the environment, vegan and cruelty-free. You see this in the fast-growth of indie beauty brands like Milk Makeup, Nudestix and RMS Beauty. And it’s even trickled down from prestige to the drugstore, when Cover Girl announced they were officially certified cruelty-free in 2018.
I also view health and wellness products an attainable luxury for the younger generations. Do you need to spend $15 on avocado toast? Not really. But in a reality of flat wages and rising costs, the majority of the population can’t afford to buy designer clothes or fancy cars to project status. But posting a photo of an overpriced mashed up fruit on baked by a bearded hipster? You might feel a touch of self-loathing, but also a little shot of dopamine from your special purchase.
Finally, this notion of “treat yourself” is pretty firmly entrenched in younger generations, myself included. Along with health and wellness comes the concept of “self-care,” where some of us are believe that taking care of ourselves is an important investment in our mental health and overall success. This is a mentality that our generation embraces more than previous generations. And while it means more awareness about mental health and work-life balance, it also provides convenient justification for purchasing beautifully-branded products like CBD gummies and scented candles.
Through social media, there’s the idea (whether conscious or sub-conscious) that all of us are “brands” to be project on on our own personal platforms. Everything from where we vacation, to what we wear and what we eat, is potential content to share and receive validation from our social circles. Humans have always been obsessed with status symbols and social peacocking (see white lead powdered faces for Romans and the beaver felt top hats that basically led to the foundation of Canada). However now there are infinite amount of ways to project our desired selves. And social media is more than being validated as being physically attractive, it’s the idea that people want to be seen as intelligent, in-the-know, and “cool.”
So while some people might roll their eyes at the idea of a $9 “detox” activated charcoal lemonade, the desire for people to increase their social capital and be perceived as a step above the rest has always existed. It’s just now that we have a new way to express it.
I was inspired to write this article after seeing the "Health is the New Handbag" headline by Edwina Ings-Chambers on The Business of Fashion . Unfortunately, that article is behind a paywall for me so I used that headline as a jumping off point to explore why I believe healthy living has become a status symbol for young people today.
Cover image used on the home page is from Keepitkind.com.