Sociological Images on an anti-knockoffs informational campaign from the U.S. government, to discourage plebeians from faking the fashions of elites:
This National Crime Prevention Council/Bureau of Justice Assistance ad, spotted in a mall in Portland, tells you that if you buy knock-offs, you are “a phony.” Yikes. I would have preferred “savvy” or “cost-conscious.” But, no… you are a fake person, a liar, a hypocrite. You are an impostor.
Counterfeits don’t really cut into Chanel’s profits directly. The people who buy bags that costs thousands of dollars are not going to try to save some pennies by buying a knock-off… [And] the people who are buying the counterfeits wouldn’t suddenly be buying the originals if their supply ran out.
Instead, policing the counterfeiters is a response to a much more intangible concern, something Pierre Bourdieu called “cultural capital.” You see, a main reason why people spend that kind of money on handbags is to be seen as the kind of person who does. The handbags are a signal to others that they are “that kind” of person, the kind that can afford a real Gucci. The products, then, are ways that people put boundaries between themselves and lesser others.
But, when lesser others can buy knock-offs on the street in L.A. and just parade around as if they can buy Gucci too! Well, then the whole point of buying Gucci is lost! If the phony masses can do it, it no longer serves to distinguish the elites from the rest of us.