We’ve all heard of Balenciaga— it’s a pop culture phenomenon. Cardi B sang “those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks”, and countless other rappers have expressed their love for the brand. Influencers flaunt overly simplistic logo bags as a status symbol, and the followers follow. Balenciaga’s satirical statement to mock couture has been widely debated. Their objectively unattractive items like the ‘shirt-shirt’ and ‘Triple S Sneakers’ have propelled the brand to gross (confusing) billions in sales. Why is it that young people are buying into these seemingly absurd trends? 

First, let’s talk about the relevance of absurdist humour in meme culture. Glosbe.com defines absurdist humour as “[noun] a form of humour predicated on deliberate violations of causal reasoning, producing events and behaviours that are obviously illogical.” Prime examples include the ‘BONK’ filter on Snapchat, and the notion that Mark Zuckerberg is part of a ‘lizard race’. Regardless of whether those references are familiar to you as a young person, I’m sure you can think of a vine or meme that is inexplicably funny. (https://glosbe.com/en/en/absurdist%20humor )

Gen Z is enamored with this kind of content, which is commonly perceived as a response to collective internal turmoil. Absurdism gives a chance for our brain to completely check out; a vehicle for escapism. While humour typically references a universal truth in a creative way, absurdist humour can be about absolutely nothing. No wonder it’s so easy to scroll for hours— it’s a relief from the burden of actual thought. 

Historical forms of entertainment such as theatre or films are often valued as art forms— a stark contrast from the way we see memes. It’s clear that we value and enjoy them— popular instagram meme accounts like @fuckjerry have followings upward of 15 million. This generational culture has grown to value the relieving quality of mindlessness, and this is likely what we can attribute to Balenciaga’s popularity. Is the brand made to make us laugh? No. Yet, the brand thrives under current social conditions where consumers (mostly youngsters), can look past inherent absurdity and see something valuable. 

Is the brand’s recent success a result of a collective mindset of rebellion against past generations? An increase in creative open-mindedness? These questions are valid, but how would we begin to accept these trends without the ability to see value in absurdity? 

Acceptance and celebration of the brand could create a precedent for future designers. Is there there true value in absurdity? Can we see something bigger within something that appears meaningless? Answers to these questions will emerge in time— who knows, maybe one day, the ‘shirt-shirt’ will be an on-campus trend. 

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