iPhones, not clothes, represent social status for teens, says researcher

Research from Piper Jaffray suggests gadgets and food, rather than clothes, are the main areas where teens spend money.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

The choice of the image-conscious teen? Apple/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Have you noticed that your local teens have been looking especially shabby of late?

Are they sporting T-shirts that don't even appear to have come from Abercrombie, American Eagle, or any brand that belches a logo as loudly as it can?

I may have a reason for this.

Apparently, the young rulers of tomorrow are eschewing mere clothing for some of the finer things in life. According to the International Business Times, teens are examining their wallets and deciding that, oh, clothes are so yesteryear. They don't give them the status and power they used to.

Instead, teens are spending more money on food and gadgets.

The IBT cites research from Piper Jaffray, and quotes an associate professor in Business Enterprise at Fordham University, Marcia Flicker.

The suggestion is that those gaudy teen clothing brands that you see peppering malls are all suffering from a lack of financial seasoning from their former regulars.

Fashion, it seems, is how teens used to show off their social wherewithal. Now they spend a fulsome 21 percent of their money dining out.

It's unclear whether these teens are dining out at Burger King a lot, their local trattoria sometimes, or the French Laundry hardly ever. However, if they're not showing off by eating out, they're apparently doing it by buying gadgets.

Flicker explained it in terms of the specific iPhones teens display: "Will they buy the iPhone 6 when it comes out, or be stuck with the slower iPhone 5? Or, even worse, still have an iPhone 4?"

Yes, there cannot be much worse than the iPhone 4, can there? The sheer shame of it.

Yet the researchers insist that expensive phones are where teen preening is at.

Perhaps it's odd those examining the research specifically refer to iPhones. Sometimes, that's the shorthand for "cell phone."

However, researchers have bent their brains over backward in order to definitively declare Apple as the teens' favorite. Or not.

Last year, research from Buzz Marketing insisted that, as far as teens were concerned, Apple was done. The Samsung Galaxy and the Microsoft Surface were apparently the gadgets closest to teen bosoms.

Last month, however, research from Piper Jaffray offered that 61 percent of US teens had iPhones -- a 13 percent rise from last year. Moreover, 67 percent said they expected their next phone to be an iPhone too.

Those passionate about numbers will, though, wish to make calculations. Are teens really spending so much less on clothes in order to afford their not exactly cheap iPhones and Galaxys?

Or have parents been forced to spend more of their own hard-earned income on keeping their little status-conscious loved ones happy?