Spoils of Competence: The Status Game of Luxury Brands

The Status Game of Luxury Brands with Will Storr and Tanner Leatherstein

Have you ever wondered why people are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a leather handbag or a designer watch? Luxury leather goods always come with a hefty price tag, yet people can't resist spending a fortune on them. From designer handbags to premium leather jackets, these goods are considered a status symbol that boasts prestige and success. Luxury goods have always had an allure that cannot be explained by the quality of the product alone.

So, what drives people to splurge on these items? In a recent podcastWill Storr, the author of the book “The Status Game”, and I delved deeper into the psychology behind why people pay top dollar for luxury leather goods. In this blog post, we'll explore the psychological reasons behind why people pay more for luxury leather goods, explain it in greater detail, and uncover the reasons behind this phenomenon.

The Status Symbol

One of the reasons why people are willing to pay more for luxury leather goods is the perception of exclusivity. Luxury brands manufacture limited quantities of their products to maintain their exclusivity and value. This creates a sense of exclusivity and rarity around the product, making it more desirable to consumers.

Owning a luxury handbag or watch is not just about the product, it is about the sense of privilege that comes with owning a rare and exclusive item. This feeds into certain people's desire to belong. Owning a designer bag or leather jacket from a high-end brand can provide a sense of belonging to a group that is generally seen as elite and sophisticated. This status symbol also creates a sense of pride, reinforcing the idea that owning these items is a sign of success.

The Quality Element

While the price of luxury leather goods may not always justify the quality, many people believe that the higher the price, the better the quality. This perception creates an illusion of luxury brands being superior to others. The craftsmanship, attention to detail, and high-end materials used by these brands add to the value perception. Consumers may not always be experts in the field, but the perception of luxury can often sway their decisions.

Luxury goods are perceived to be made with high-quality materials and superior craftsmanship, which make them more durable and long-lasting. These products often have a luxurious and unique feel to them, which is a result of the craftsmanship involved in their creation.

Not all luxury brands have excellent craftsmanship or use great leather for their products, but the feeling of luxury makes people feel good about themselves and enhances their confidence, leading them to be willing to spend more on these items.

Emotional Attachment

The feeling of luxury and pleasure that one derives from owning a luxury leather good also plays a crucial role in why people are willing to pay more for them. Luxury goods are famous for eliciting consumer emotions. People can form an emotional connection with the items they own, and they often attach great value and significance to them.

From family heirlooms to designer handbags, these items can evoke positive emotions, such as nostalgia, happiness, and pride. The emotional attachment is one reason why people keep going back to luxury brands when they make a purchase.

The Hunter-Gatherer Mentality

As Will mentioned in the podcast, luxury goods are a modern version of a hunter's necklace of teeth. The spoils of our success are reflected in owning these items. In our evolutionary past, belonging to the elite group meant showing off one's success, competence, or wealth. This evolutionary behavior plays a role in modern-day buying decisions, where owning a luxury item can be perceived as a symbol of competence and success.

People are willing to pay a premium for them to demonstrate their wealth and social standing. Luxury leather goods in particular are viewed as timeless and classic, embodying elegance and sophistication. Owning a luxury handbag or watch is not just about owning a high-quality product, it is about owning a piece of a desirable lifestyle that is associated with the brand.

Conspicuous Consumption

Conspicuous consumption is a term used by economists to describe the act of spending money on luxury goods to display one's wealth and social status. People who engage in conspicuous consumption often want to signal their socioeconomic status and distinguish themselves from others. Owning a luxury leather good is an ideal way to display one's wealth, taste, and status, making it a desirable purchase for those who value conspicuous consumption.

Moreover, luxury brand marketing is built around creating a sense of emotional connection with consumers. Advertising for luxury goods is often aspirational, promoting a sense of sophistication and exclusivity. This emotional connection plays a key role in the way consumers perceive luxury goods and their willingness to spend more money on them.


So, why do people pay more for luxury leather goods? It is not just because of the quality of the product, but also because of the social status, exclusivity, feeling of luxury, and emotional connection associated with owning a luxury item.

As humans, we are wired to seek status and demonstrate our success, and owning luxury goods is one way to do that. Luxury brands have successfully tapped into these psychological needs and desires to create a market for their products. The next time you see someone sporting a designer handbag or watch, remember that there is much more to it than just the label.

From status symbols to emotional attachment, and the evolutionary hunter-gatherer mentality, people's psychology plays a significant role in why they are willing to pay more for luxury leather goods. The perception of exclusivity, quality, and emotional attachment, combined with the desire for conspicuous consumption and belonging, creates a strong pull to own luxury goods. Understanding the psychology behind it can help us make a more informed buying decision and appreciate these purchases for what they represent.

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