From toasters to tech, we take a look at how status symbols have changed over the years.
We asked Brits from all walks of life what they would consider a sign that someone is ‘doing well in life’, and compared our findings against those of the past 70 years.
Decades of desires
What people deem to be ‘status symbols’ has changed massively over the last 70 years. In the 50s and 60s, there was a big focus on practical household items, like toasters and washing machines, reflecting the priorities of lots of families at the time.
Moving into the 70s - the decade of the dinner party - fondue sets, hostess trolleys and colour TVs reigned as the supreme status symbols.
Then as the interest in technology grew, the early 80s saw the introduction of the Commodore 64 computer, which was the must-have item of the decade. With over 17 million sales of the C64 system, it is still one of the best-selling single computer models of all time .
The 90s saw a technology boom, with portable CD players, games consoles, mobile phones and laptops taking centre stage. However, it wasn’t all about the tech, as popular interior trends also influenced the ‘must have’ items, such as beige carpets and a black dining table set.
The price and calibre of status symbols seemed to shift over the next decade, with more luxurious items being considered as the item to own. A hot tub, walk-in wardrobe and double door fridge/freezer were among the most desired items of the 00s. This trend continued into the 2010s, as high-performance cars, first-class travel and owning a swimming pool became signs that someone was doing well in life.
With the average UK salary increasing by almost £20,000 since 1950 , it is understandable that the benchmark for ‘doing well’ has changed. What was once considered a luxury – such as a toaster or a mobile phone – has now become commonplace and considered a necessity of modern life.
According to our research, owning a holiday home is the biggest status symbol of today, with over half of the people in our study of 2,000 expressing that they consider this to be a sign of success. Interestingly, although many see it as the top status symbol, only 37% would actually desire to own a holiday home themselves, showing more of interest in taking early retirement instead (44%), which highlights a shift from aspiring to own physical property in favour of a ‘better’ lifestyle.
Are we a society of show offs?
The average Brit aspires to own five out of the top ten items above, with over a third (37%) admitting they have made purchases they were desperate to show off straight away to family and friends. People between the ages of 18-24 expressed greater desire to show off their purchases (56%) and those over the age of 55 showed the least interest in doing so (25%). In this instance, the question could be asked – are younger generations buying status items just to ‘show off’ to friends, family, and even strangers?
Men vs women
The study also looked at consumer buying behaviours and how these differ between men and women. According to the data, women are more likely than men to see the items listed as ‘status symbols’, with 15 out of the 24 items listed being selected by a higher percentage of women to men. Women are also typically more impressed by another’s ownership of a status symbol, and more admit they pay attention to what others have/do (41%) versus men (33%), but say they don’t let it impact their buying decisions.
While men are less likely to let others impact their purchase decision (54% versus 44%), they are more likely to aspire to own items that are considered to be ‘status symbols’, scoring a higher percentage on 15 out of 24 items that people aspire to own.
Perhaps surprisingly, women were the most in awe of a brand-new car and number plate, with 41% saying it was a sign of success, but only 32% of men agreeing. Despite this, men expressed a greater desire to actually own a new car, with 29% saying so - 4% higher than women (25%).
The role of social media
The report also highlighted the role of social media and how this can affect the nation’s perception of success. This was particularly prevalent among 18-24-year-olds, with 32% of them saying they have, or aspire to have, a large number of followers on social media, and one in ten saying they see it as a sign that someone is doing well in life – a higher percentage than any other age range.
With social media following beginning to make an appearance among the nation’s top aspirations, it begs the question of what might make the cut in future decades as the ultimate status symbols? Based on our research, it’s a very real possibility that we could also soon see the resurgence of some classics from the 80s and 90s, which we’re already finding with the revival of vinyl records and retro games. It’s interesting to think about what the future will hold and when the status symbols of this generation will begin to become outdated!
The full list of status symbols in 2018
- Owning a holiday home (53%)
- Early retirement (49%)
- A brand new car with a new registration plate (37%)
- Wine cellar (27%)
- Having a cleaner (26%)
- Designer clothing/accessories (26%)
- Ski holidays (25%)
- Personal trainer (20%)
- A walk in wardrobe (20%)
- Ride-on lawn mower (18%)
- A double garage (17%)
- A custom number plate (16%)
- A motorhome (14%)
- The latest smartphone or gadget (14%)
- The children always owning the latest craze (10%)
- Real wood flooring (9%)
- Exotic or luxury pet breeds (9%)
- An outdoor pizza oven (8%)
- Emperor bed (8%)
- A Smart TV (7%)
- A roll top bath (6%)
- A log burner (6%)
- A coffee machine (5%)
- A large amount of social media followers (4%)
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