Stop, Watch, and Read.

Before reading this blog we ask you to watch this entire music video, listen to the lyrics, and hear the artist’s message.

What do you think? Tell us. We honestly want to know. For us, this video resonated with so much we have learned in our IMC classes with Dr. Persuit. The first time we saw it, we found ourselves instantly clicking replay. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have created a masterpiece in our completely unprofessional opinion. It is hard to quit being awestruck. We will stop the raving now and get to the good stuff.

This song delves into the difficulty many young people face today in navigating our consumerist cultures. Specifically, the song is dissecting the obsessive sneaker culture. Ben Haggerty, a.k.a. Macklemore, raps about his fascination with shoes. He explicitly mentions Nike, and Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of the 15.9 billion dollar brand. In this interview, Macklemore gives insight into what his thought process was in writing the song. He started out simply wanting to write a song about shoes, and ended up evaluating the consequences of the consumerist culture brand names have created.

Some of Macklemore's personal shoe collection.

Some of Macklemore’s personal shoe collection.

In the interview Macklemore explains that he still considers himself a “sneakerhead,” and even compares his urge to consume with his struggle with drug addiction. He states, “I think, in the background of the sneaker culture, there is this lust and addiction for more and more and more. You know, new colors, new versions of shoes and this desire for more to consume.” He is right, and the reality is this type of lust and addiction isn’t reserved solely for shoes in our culture as a whole. I mean, we all have that friend who couldn’t believe their iPhone 5 took a whole three days to arrive after the release, or that friend who won’t wear any clothing that isn’t brand name. Macklemore jokes on our culture’s obsession with brand name clothing in his song, Thrift Shop. (We think this song is worth a listen too.)

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis bring attention to such an interesting issue with the song “Wings” because they are not only discussing the addiction to shoes, they are also discussing the underlying issue of crime in the sneaker culture. The lyrics “my friend Carlos’ brother got murdered for his Fours” were written into the song because the event actually occurred. Macklemore lived in an area where the cultural obsession over brands paved the way to crime and theft. He explained, “I got a Starter jacket in third grade, but you had to be careful wearing a Starter jacket, and you had to be careful with which neighborhood you were in while wearing Jordans.” The brands people wore made them targets. Yet, they still paid money for these name brands. This shouldn’t be made to seem like a thing of the past either. This article from the Washington Post briefly details an incident that occurred only a few days ago. A student was robbed of his Nike Air Jordan 7 Retro Olympic Edition basketball shoes.

So, what does this all mean? Is Macklemore calling for Nike to cease production? Not in the least. Macklemore still buys Nike shoes, as we mentioned he labeled himself a sneakerhead. The writer himself explains, “this song was my attempt to break down my own, conflicted interest in the sneaker culture.” It is admirable and difficult to critically analyze culture you are heavily involved in as Macklemore did with the sneaker culture. It is something that we should all strive to do in our own habits as consumers.

Here is what we would like to leave you with before our time writing for the IMCHawk ends: Think before you consume. Analyze the messages you might be sending by the brands you are wearing and using. Realize that consuming doesn’t equate to happiness. The song is correct in saying our dreams are sold to us, “consumption is in the veins.” Our dreams in life shouldn’t be based on the possessions we hope to one day have. As Dave Eggers writes, “the greatest use of a human was to be useful. Not to consume, not to watch, but to do something for someone else that improved their life, even for a few minutes.” Keep Calm and Consume Thoughtfully.

– Alexandra HussCaroline MerrillAlyssa MorrelloLauren Van TrigtDann Williams

6 thoughts on “Stop, Watch, and Read.

  1. The musical work and subsequently the social commentary of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis has been a favorite of mine for quite some time and I really apprecciate the break down of “Wings” that you presented here. This song advocates thoughtful consumption, a concept that is practically mythical in the real world where we want immediate gratification, which normally does not require any deep thinking.

    In part of your analysis you include the quote from Macklemore that states that “this song was my attempt to break down my own, conflicted interest in the sneaker culture.” I found this statement to be extremely relatable to the ideas developed in the “One Nation Under God” chapter in James B. Twitchell’s “Branded Nation”. This song is almost confessional in nature: Macklemore is confessing his sin of being a participant in our almost religious consumerist culture. The brands (Nike in this case) are the Gods and the equivalent to the promise of an afterlife marketed by the churches would be the brand’s promise of a cool image. EX: Buy these shoes and you will be cooler, faster, jump higher than you could in (Brand X) shoes, etc. Nike is essentially the megachurch of the shoe industry. Its following is almost inconcievable when you open your eyes to the reality that the only unique aspect of this sneaker in comparison to off brand/ cheaper sneakers is the embroidered “swoosh” on it’s side.
    As I said eariler I greatley apprecciated you analyzing this song, not only because of its obvious relevance to IMC but also because I found this song very relatable, for I myself am a consumerist culture sinner (though Michael Kors shoes are my poison of choice). I will take your wise words that “Our dreams in life shouldn’t be based on the possessions we hope to one day have” into account as I pursue my degree in COM in the hopes of eventually graduating and getting a job that not only makes me money but makes me happy.

  2. I admire Macklemore’s bravery in addressing such a large label as Nike and seemingly chastising them for the hype created by the brand. If there is one realization I have had from IMC I, it is that marketing is ever present. Our culture’s consumerism is engrained so deeply, that people are literally willing to die for fashion. Product branding has become an identifiable characteristic of one’s being and I applaud Macklemore for calling our culture’s attention to the ludicrousness of the situation. Interestingly, as a female, our culture expects us to crave designer labels and has carefully brought us up to be consumers demanding nothing less than the latest fashions. As a male, Macklemore reveals, and reminds, that consumerism does indeed infiltrate the male gender as well.
    The first step to creating a less consumerist fueled culture, is to raise awareness. Creatively. Because honestly, people don’t want to acknowledge that they are driven by something as simple as brands. They don’t want to admit how silly it is. As a culture, we have become complacent. It takes a “masterpiece” to even capture the attention of today’s society, and even more to even inspire them into action and realization.

  3. I first clicked on this link because I love Macklemore, but I would have never thought this song would be so closely related to IMC. It is clearly marketing the brand Nike and giving a very artistic message of how consumers think and why they buy a product. In this case the boy was saying that even though they were expensive, they made him feel like he could do anything. This is the kind of branding Nike puts on their shoes; that if you wear them you will jump higher, look cooler, and shoot more baskets. I enjoyed this video very much and was a great example of how IMC is always around us.

  4. This song and your post resonated strongly for me in particular because not only am I a Macklemore fan, but also an all-around female “sneaker-head.” The term “sneaker-head” makes me laugh and shake my head at the same time. It sounds so silly when I picture the word so literally, yet I shake my head because it’s sobering to realize how material things can go to one’s head.
    The thought of the shoe setting one free yet entrapping him or her, is a fascinating one. I can relate to the excitement and feeling of invincibility when wearing a new pair of shoes whether it’s custom Nikes, colorful Vans, or BCBG pumps. It’s a power struggle. Who’s really pulling the strings? It’s easy to say I bought the shoes–I chose THEM. Apparently it works both ways, and I fell into the trap. Thanks to the encouragement of this blog which pushed me to think further, I must honestly admit that I’m feeling slightly disillusioned in regards to my apparent shoe fetish.
    On the other hand, I can thank the blog and this song for opening my eyes to the reality of my consumerism. Similarly to Macklemore, I too will continue to purchase my favorite labels. Perhaps the knowledge that I’m paying for more than simply leather stitched together with a popular name will make me more of an equal to my brands. Not to say this makes me less of a consumer, but I would like to think it makes me more than just another credit card swipe.
    I am grateful for the ideas you have brought to light concerning the inevitable nature of the consumer. It has been said that knowledge can be freeing, and this is certainly the case. While I will always be a consumer, I would like to say that I am at least a coherent one. As I move forward in my life and career, I hope to experience it as a non-comatose, educated being.

  5. Your analysis for this song by Macklemore was truly on point. I could not have summed up what he was trying to get across in any other words. Are we supposed to feel guilty for those purchases that we make? Are we giving in to the mass consumerism?
    I think that we are, but you have to accept that when you choose to buy certain things. I know I struggle with that daily, wondering if I am just buying something because I like it or if the brand is really that great at marketing. People buy things because there is a promise or certain look that they are going for. Buy these golf clubs and you’ll have the best swing ever, buy these high heels and you’ll be the hottest girl at the club, they’re never ending. I think that we secretly hope that what we’re buying will deliver on that promise.
    But what happens if that promise comes with a price? Nike shoes are causing people to get killed, over a pair of sneakers! If a company does something that we don’t agree with or something negative happens relating to that brand, we may go in an uproar about it but generally we’ll go right back to buying the next best thing that they have to sell.
    Addictions come in all different forms and I definitely think that shopping can be considered one. It is in our culture to always want the next best thing.

  6. Honestly, it’s difficult for me to watch Macklemore’s video, “Wings” without getting goosebumps. I physically cannot do it. His message is freakishly accurate and relevant to the themes in IMC.
    Today, brand names dominate our society. Whether we agree with it or not, I think we are all conscious of what brands we wear, what type of cell phone we have (are you an iPhone person or a Droid one), and what type of laptop do you own (MAC or PC)? I think it is safe to say that we may underestimate how important brands are to us.
    Even though there are brand names that may not stand for the most beneficial values, i.e. the people’s benefit, there is one that comes to mind that has very good intentions. TOMS is a company that strives to help people in need. TOMS is an ideal example of a brand name that can restore hope to society. With all of the brands like NIKE, APPLE, and UGG it is refreshing to see a brand rise up and help others. WE as a society need this.
    Macklemore does a great job arousing personal thought. “Do I know what the brand stands for?” and “Do I support the company’s ideals?” These are questions I found myself asking after listening to the artist’s message. I agree with Macklemore. We, as a society need to be conscious of what we are purchasing.

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