Check out the full notes for “Wanting” by Luke Burgis
Wrote this thread about a short exercise for anyone to start thinking about mimetic desire.
What are you wearing?
Finishing @lukeburgis's "Wanting", on mimetic theory
Came up with an exercise: For each outfit item, consider why.
Comfort, sure. But what desire did you have when you bought it? *Who* made you want it?
An athlete? Marketers? Reviewers? Friends? pic.twitter.com/1trBzLEJxJ
— Francis (@activerecall) June 13, 2021
Some additional notes, just going through each of the items in the sketch.
- A Visualize Value hat — Bought this because I needed a hat and also just like Jack Butcher’s work and the community he’s built. And there’s some connection here to the book itself because Jack collaborated with Luke Burgis on some visualizations to celebrate the book launch. For years, he worked in advertising agencies, which roughly have a sole purpose of manufacturing desire.
Some of us like to think we recognize advertising and are above being manipulated. But you can advertise to that target as well. From Wanting:
The goal is getting people to think, “Oh, those lemming-like, silly people in the commercial.” The moment a person exempts themselves in their own mind from the very thing they see all around them is the moment when they are most vulnerable. As David Foster Wallace pointed out, “Joe Briefcase,” sitting on his couch watching the Pepsi commercial alone, thinks he has transcended the mass of plebeians that Pepsi must be advertising to—and then he goes out and buys more Pepsi, for reasons that he thinks are different.
We’re all the same: we want to be different.
- Uniqlo oversized pocket t-shirt — Bought this because it’s comfortable. I bought like 7 of them because I don’t want to think about what I wear on most days. Yes, the whole uniform thing. It gets a little more meta, because I don’t want people to think that I do it to try to mimic Steve Jobs in some way.
I didn’t go full turtleneck. From Wanting:
Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of the now-defunct biotech company Theranos, openly imitated Steve Jobs. She wore black turtlenecks and hired every Apple designer she could find. But imagine if a junior employee at Theranos started mimicking Holmes, walking around in black turtlenecks, sporting blue contact lenses, mimicking Holmes’s intense stare, even speaking in Holmes’s low pitch and dry style. What do you think would happen? They’d lose their job.
- Lululemon joggers — Again, comfort first. So I say. But there are plenty of much much cheaper pants that are comfortable. These also look good. Another thing is that a decade ago I definitely didn’t think “I need men’s pants, I should go to Lululemon.”
From a CNBC article about lululemon in 2019:
“We have very low brand awareness with men,” CEO Calvin McDonald told analysts during a meeting in New York on Wednesday. “The opportunity isn’t just to be known,” he said, “but also being understood” as a brand that men — not just women — can shop.
And from Men’s Health:
Initially, I doubted whether such unicorn pants existed. Ultimately, I discovered my new favorite pair: the ABC Pant Classic from lululemon. When the pants were recommended to me by a colleague, I was skeptical. Doesn’t lululemon make yoga pants? But it turns out they have a really sharp, functional-yet-classy menswear line and after wearing the the ABC Pant for a full week, I’m now a lululemon convert.
- Darn Tough socks — Again, comfort. I knew my 5th and 6th pair would be comfortable because I had a few already. But what about the first pair? I probably went online and searched for comfortable socks on Amazon, looked at customer reviews, then searched Reddit for confirmation. In this case of footwear, I wasn’t following the lead of an elite athlete. I’m slowly replacing a drawer full of Nike Elite Basketball socks, which are also very comfortable, just hot for California. But I also would sometimes overthink wearing those out, because I’m not particularly good at basketball. Which shouldn’t matter, but mimetic desire is kind of all about taking things that shouldn’t matter and making them matter.
- Nike Metcons — Working backwards: I want to be healthy so I try to work out so I want to try the thing where you treat yourself to nicer workout clothes as motivation so I bought Nike shoes but wanted shoes with a low heel to toe drop because I think it’s supposed to be better for some leg movements but mostly I learned that from blogs and podcasts I listened to when I was really into Paleo (and lightly into CrossFit for the 1-2 months before lightly injuring myself) but didn’t verify it beyond that by reading any primary sources (not that I’d understand them anyway) and I got the black and white color because it matches with most things and matching matters because I don’t want to go out in completely unmatched clothes but I also don’t want to go out too color coordinated but but but…
And if you don’t want to match, you can choose not to match—the same way as everyone else. From Wanting:
When mimetic rivals are caught in a double bind, obsessed with each other, they go to any length to differentiate themselves. Their rival is a model for what not to desire. For a hipster, the rival is popular culture—he eschews anything popular and embraces what he believes to be eclectic, but he does so according to new models. According to Girard, “the effort to leave the beaten paths forces everyone into the same ditch.”
Next thing I want: to stop overthinking.