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YouthNation: Building Remarkable Brands in a Youth-Driven Culture by Matt Britton

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Chapter 1From Status Symbol to Status Update

The notion of the status symbol goes back as far as human history. In ancient China, once a man reached 20, he was permitted to wear a cap. This was celebrated with a ceremony called Guanli, or Ceremony of the Cap. As each new dynasty took hold, the caste system of the cap evolved, developing ever more specific rules and privileges associated with each style. What your cap looked like, and what shape or color it was, said very important things about you. For example, in the Han Dynasty a “lowly person” had to be content wearing only a headband, whereas the elite could get really decadent and wear a headband with a matching hat.

Since its early beginnings with the highly nuanced Chinese cap trend, the notion of the status symbol really took off, taking hold all over the globe in an ever widening array of objects and styles, all designed to tell a story about the importance of the owner. In America today, Maybach vehicles, Christian Louboutin shoes, Hublot watches, and real estate in glamorous places like the Hamptons or Malibu are the de rigeur status symbols of opulence and power among the super wealthy.

America's youth has had a love/hate relationship with status symbols. For one, the glittering objects of the affluent elite have been by and large out of reach for them. In earlier generations, young people were motivated to work hard and long to reach the point where status symbols such as a beautiful home or a nice car were attainable. ...

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