February 5, 2009

In case we needed an non-economic indicator that the financial system is still in virtual meltdown and economies everywhere are slowing down (despite my previous optimistic predictions), two fashion oriented indicators have been offered by The Economist and The Independent.   The Economist highlights an old theory that lipstick sales tend to go up during recessions, a theory perpetuated by some statistics that cosmetic sales increased markedly during the Great Depression while the rest of the economy was in free-fall.  While the data doesn’t quite convince that there is real correlation, the economic logic is somewhat convincing: women rely on relatively cheap fixes to make themselves feel glamorous in a downturn.  Rather than buying a new and expensive pair of shoes, they opt for a relatively cheaper lipstick.

The Independent, in contrast, makes a link between short hair styles and periods of economic downturn.  This one doesn’t make much sense to me because short hair is more expensive to maintain, as it requires frequent cutting.   In fact, I note that several female friends have started joking about their “recession proof hairstyle” which requires going back to your natural colour and avoiding expensive highlights.  I myself have the longest hair I’ve had since I was about 8 years old after decades of haircuts ranging from pixie to bob, so I am definately bucking The Independent‘s so-called theory.  But perhaps rather than being some insightful piece of “fashionomics,” it is merely an indicator that I am behind the fashion moment.

Thanks to Freakonomics for the links.


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