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'Bling' Culture Kicked to the Curb by Recession

Yo, this economy is a lot less fly than it used to be.

bling
bling

The recession’s latest victim is the bling culture, according to a recent report by the AP.

Low-income urban youths are a lot less focused on designer labels and bling than they used to be as they grapple with job loss and other added hardships from the recession.

This snaps a nearly two-decade trend where people with lower incomes spent disproportionately more money on designer goods than those with higher incomes.

Youth centers serving low-income communities have noticed this shift happening from coast to coast, the AP reports.

"I think there's a definite shift — our young people are looking more closely at how much labels cost. I think that's causing them to rethink where they're directing some of their money," said Greg Morris, program director at The Door youth center in Manhattan.

Adolescents are typically worried about their appearance, something that's exacerbated by poverty, Morris explained. And that's what used to dominate the chatter around the center.

Now, they're more worried about finding jobs since they're often the first ones laid off in a crisis. They're talking about the fact there just aren't the opportunities there used to be and where they're going to need to cut back, he said.

The recession has impacted them "in ways that I've never encountered in my 15 years I've been doing this kind of work," Morris said.

The latest data on spending on designer wear shows a 29-percent drop among families earning less than $25,000, compared with a drop of just 7 percent among families making $50,000 to $100,000, according to research group NPD.

Kids at The Door youth center in Manhattan told the AP they’ve switched to shopping at more affordable chains like Old Navy instead of buying the latest Rocawear outfit.

"They want to look good, but they don't want to spend a lot doing it," Morris explained.

The girls have stopped checking the labels when they get a second-hand prom dress, and the guys aren't up in each others grills as much about how much they paid for their sneakers. (Though they still check the Nike Web site when they use the center's computers.) You can tell the shift just by looking at the lost and found, Morris said.

In fact, any kids around The Door who are still bragging about that kind of stuff "may be ignored on some level," Morris said.

You know what else I’d like down and out of my grill? Baggy pants that show your underpants.

Oh, and actual grills — those diamond-encrusted gold teeth that just make you look like you’ve got bad teeth.

Let’s hope the recession claims those “trends,” too!

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Contact Pony Blog

  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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