Headphones As Fashion Fetish: A Beats By Dre Exhibit In Times Square

by Thomas Brett


It was here and gone in a day, but I couldn’t quite figure it out: a promotional tent for Beats By Dre headphones for which people were lining up to get inside. What was inside? As far as I could tell, an opportunity to try on headphones in different colors and have your photograph taken while doing so. Here’s the warning sign alerting the public:


I tried to get in but was stopped by large man with a small head who told me I had to get in line. But the line was way to long so I left.

I have written on this blog previously about the popularity of Beats headphones, citing their extended bass range as one of the qualities that makes them appealing for a lot of listeners in large noisy cities like New York. But it hadn’t occurred to me that wearing headphones could be a fashion statement and an opportunity to be photographed.  The “be seen” aesthetic has become de rigeur in Times Square over the past few years as giant LCD billboards have multiplied at alarming rates. Some billboards even cover entire skyscrapers:

And there is one clothing store that encourages customers to have their picture taken inside and then go outside to see themselves displayed on a gargantuan billboard for a few moments.

I don’t know what Beats did with all the photos they captured of folks smiling and wearing their headphones. But the exhibit is a reminder of how stylish music technology threatens music itself as a main object of our attention. As listeners we’re simultaneously technology consumers, fetishizing our gear.