By Niamh Casey
Ask yourself, how many times a day would you see someone wearing a branded hoodie, or see a post online, be it Facebook or Instagram, where someone is on a luxurious holiday? If you were to count, the number would probably be quite high. This new “flex culture” has become very prevalent nowadays, which spurs the question; is it a healthy form of self-expression?
Some would question whether it’s self-expression at all. Can wearing a brand, created by someone else, be counted as self-expression? And what does another tropical holiday really say about a person? To many, wearing brands is unnecessarily pricey for something that seems so generic, especially when places like Penneys and New Look often replicate the same thing for a much more affordable price. The “flexing” of brands, from clothes to makeup, has become synonymous with materialism, and most world religions will tell you to be humble and not to show off wealth. Parents tell children not to be show-offs and it is agreed that asking about another person’s salary or annual income is rude and should never be done, so “flexing” and “flex culture” is centered around something that has been avoided by previous generations beyond millennials.
However, like many things, opinions on showing off wealth and things that people have worked hard for, have changed. Attitudes toward money have become less taboo. Nowadays brands can definitely show someone’s personality. Just take Gucci and Chanel as two examples, both are very expressive, yet very distinct from each other. Different brands display different personalities. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it isn’t or that it’s not a healthy form of self-expression. The author Fay Weldon said, “The desire for self-expression afflicts people when they feel there is something of themselves which is not getting through to the outside world” and, for many, the way they want to express themselves to the outside world is by wearing certain brands that they like, or by going to different countries around the world and sharing the experience online. If it genuinely makes them feel good doing so, then it is certainly not unhealthy.
The feeling that “flexing” or showing off brands and wealth is bad comes from an attitude deeply rooted into our society, that showing off is something that should be avoided at all costs. It is very similar to believing that you have no right to be upset or give out because other people have it worse. The same belief applies to thinking that “flexing” is unhealthy, people think you shouldn’t do it because there are people that aren’t as fortunate as you.
Thinking that flex culture is unhealthy, or unacceptable, is only true when you assume that the person “flexing” is doing it in a malicious way. If someone intentionally tries to make another person feel bad by showing off their branded clothing and makeup, or by posting holiday photos, then that is a horrible and unhealthy thing for both people involved. However, it is crucial to realise that “flexing” shouldn’t always be perceived as negative, with harmful intentions. If someone wears a brand or posts about a holiday, it’s probably not the intention for you or anyone else to feel bad. If you see flexing as unhealthy, then you are choosing to see it that way. So if it affects your self-esteem, maybe changing the way you view this new culture will help, rather than seeing the bad in it.