Fashion In Tech

Aron Schatz
February 12, 2007
Has it become cool to be a geek? Tech has become such a large part of our lives that it has become almost unavoidable. The cell phone and digital media player market has become one of the most profitable markets to hardware manufacturers. Why? Because it has become extremely important for us to have the newest, high-tech trendy gear available. Has tech become one of the latest fashions? I think so...

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Tech in Fashion or Fashion in Tech

What does it mean to say that tech has become more fashionable? Some may interpret it to mean that tech has become so common that it has been worked into out wardrobe. Fashion designers have modified their designs to integrate with our high-tech lives. Pockets, purses, belts, coats, and even hats have been redesigned to function based around the most common personal tech gear (laptops, digital music players, cell phones, etc.). Not to mention that furniture has been redesigned to pleasantly hide or display home tech (desks, shelves, seating, etc.). But what I'm referring to is that the tech industry has become more like the fashion industry. Tech products are designed with careful style consideration, have become trendy, and are clearly sold at much higher price points than ever before. Tech has been incorporated into so many aspects of our lives and we have to see it constantly. So, why not make it easier on the eyes? Plus, tech manufacturers can use the fashion industry's business model to turn some really nice profits.

How the Tech Industry Adopted the Fashion Industry Business Model

Since competition in the tech industry has become more and more serious, the prices on most tech gear have gone down tremendously. Most manufacturers are only making a few dollars on each single product sold. These manufacturers have to come up with other ways to make a wider profit margin on their products. How do they do it? Usually they just jack up the prices on product support, insurance, and accessories. Hell, computer manufacturers make such a low profit on every computer sold that more of their profits comes from 3rd party software manufacturers. These techniques have been enough to sustain these companies for years, but recently one manufacturer gained an edge on all of the others. How did they do it? The manufacturer gained an edge by creating a quality tech product that was carefully aesthetically designed and became so trendy that no one thinks that they can live without it. If you haven't already realized it, I'm talking about Apple's iPod.


The iPod is the obvious, iconic, high fashion tech product. The reason behind the iPod's domination of the market wasn't its core functionality. There are hundreds of quality digital music players on the market; Most of them are significantly cheaper than the iPod. But, it was the iPod's quirky, abstract, and versatile design aesthetic, plus its ingenious viral marketing scheme, that made it the profit driving force behind Apple. The iPod did for tech what jeans did for fashion. Jeans, though first introduced in the 1950's, became a common "must have" item by the 1970's. The iPod managed to accomplish this same feat in just 3 years! It was introduced in 2001 and became the top selling digital media player by the end of 2004. Now, telling someone that you don't own an iPod is as shocking as telling them that you don't own a pair of jeans.


Since the iPod achieved it's "icon" status, it has placed Apple in a very good position. Not only can Apple easily sell a large number of units, it can also take advantage of the demand for the product. Now that everyone needs to have an iPod, Apple can maintain the product's high price to maintain high profits. Under normal circumstances, pricing on even the hottest tech items would drop quickly. This is exactly how fashion designers make tons of money. Once a designer achieves an "icon" status, they can increase the price points of their product lines. We all know that a belt made by Levi's and a belt made by Dolce and Gabbana will both hold your pants up. However, Levi's isn't the designer that everybody who's anybody wants. So, by utilizing the same business tactics of the fashion industry, tech companies like Apple, could increase their profit per unit sold over time by maintaining a high price point on their products. Again, this is done by creating a quality tech product that becomes "high fashion".

Why Use the Fashion Industry's Methodology?

Why do the fashion industry's tactics work so well for the tech industry? The two industries share many elements (cheap overseas slave labor, arrogant and overpaid key players, etc.). But, there's only one similarity that's important to both fashion and tech. It's the short life of the products. New fashion lines are introduced every spring and fall seasons. This doesn't give the designers a whole lot of time to make money from each new creation. Tech has this same problem. New and improved tech is constantly being introduced. When new products are released, older products' prices must be reduced in order to sell at all. Though tech and fashion share this problem, there is a major difference. It costs more money to manufacture tech than it does to manufacture clothes. So, when the prices on tech products have to be reduced, the manufacturer has the potential to lose enormous amounts of money. So, I contend that this problem is even more of a concern to the tech industry. The solution to this problem is to sell as many units you can at a high price point before a new, more exiting product is released. The only way to get people to buy products at obviously ridiculous prices is to market them effectively. Since tech manufacturers have to accomplish the same goal as fashion designers, they've begun employing the same marketing strategies.

One of the strategies is to send celebrities free gear just so people can see them using it. Fashion designers do this for every "red carpet" event knowing that entertainment reporters will ask celebrities which designer's clothes they're wearing. So, not only do designers get free advertising, they get free celebrity endorsements. Tech companies have begun doing the same thing, knowing celebrities are being photographed and videotaped all of the time. Perfect examples are: Paris Hilton with her T-Mobile Sidekick being hacked and the Nokia 7820 being used in J-Lo's music video. Also, the Motorola Razr V3 was placed in the "swag bags" for celebrities at the 2005 Oscars.


Until recently tech wasn't even endorsed by celebrities. Now, tech celebrity endorsements have become commonplace. For quite a while it seemed impossible to get away from a U2 iPod endorsement. HP now has advertisements with Pharrell and Jay-Z explaining how they use their customized laptops. Apple even has celebrity-created play lists on iTunes. So, the tech industry no longer relies on quality and functionality to sell their product.

Expressing Yourself with Your Tech

All of the business aside, tech, like fashion, has become a method of expression. New hardware products are becoming customizable, allowing the consumer to stylize the product to their taste. Dell has a huge assortment of notebook skins broken down into 11 categories ( HP also has their own selection of skins, but takes it further by adding the option to desktops as well as notebooks. HP even offers the option to upload a photo to have it "skinned" ( Motorola has its own "tattoos" for their cell phone products ( Even Microsoft has made the 360 faceplates customizable ( These are just a few examples, but the 3rd party tech customization market is huge. Cell phone shells, cases, tattoos, and "bling" selections are never ending for all models. X-box 360 faceplates are also pretty common within the 3rd party market arena. With the rise of all of these 3rd party manufacturers of tech customization products, it's pretty obvious that tech expression has become increasingly popular.

So now I will address the question: Has it become cool to be a geek? I know that the war between the geek freaks and the trendy fashionistas still rages on in high schools everywhere. Neither would ever dare compare themselves to the other. But the reality is that whether we like it or not, we're all just a bunch of geeky tech-toting fashionistas. It's the same game - different subject matter.


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