Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.
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At a dinner last night I was sitting next to a woman who works in the retail sector. I started to talk about Glasgow marketing itself for 'style' and immediately she corrected me: 'This city isn't about style', she said. It's about brands.' I had never quite made this crisp distinction before but she's absolutely right.
What I had been saying is that Glasgow may like to promote itself on the basis of its fashion, shopping and style but unlike other fashionable cities such as Paris or Milan we're not designing or making the stuff – we're just selling it. What's more, the city's fashion stores are generally chains or international designers – there's nothing particularly Glaswegian about them either.
But the woman seated next to me helped me see that Glasgow's love affair with fashion isn't really about looking stylish or attractive. It is, to use her words, about badging yourself (or your family) via brand names. A resident of Edinburgh, she claims this isn't the case there as the emphasis is much more on looking attractive rather than buying clothes with the right designer names.
She went on to tell me that there was a queue outside one Glasgow shop selling expensive Hunter wellies for kids. Now I've no doubt that Hunter wellies are top quality and worth buying if you are an adult who does a lot of walking in the rain. (I don't possess a pair myself.) But buying expensive wellies for kids who will grow out of them within the year simply doesn't make sense. According to this Glasgow based retail expert, Gucci branded dummy tits that cost £30 are also doing big business.
Now if Victoria Beckham or other rich mothers buy Gucci dummy tits for their kids then it may seem shallow, and will contribute not one iota to their babies' well-being but at least it is not going to affect their household income. However, if women on very low, fixed incomes spend money this way then it is an issue. These type of purchases may make you feel good for five minutes but have no real or long term effect on your own or your families' well-being. Babies don't need designer anything - they need real, down to earth care and affection.
As I explain in my new book, The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives, there is considerable research showing that the more people pursue materialist values the worse their well-being. Given that Glasgow is still a strong contender for the title 'the sick man of Europe' should we not suspect that Glasgow's excessive materialism is a contributory factor?
I know that a growing number of people share my views so it puzzles me that there isn't a growing protest in the city against the city council and others who are intent on marketing Glasgow on the basis of such empty, destructive values.