I’ve said it before, I’ll say it in the future and I’ll say it right now; the Internet is great. So great, that it basically moves faster than anybody knows what to do with it. Though the people creating the content are at the heart of the Internet, the platform’s potential is miles ahead of contemporary human thinking, and as we catch up, it simply moves faster.
On top of that is the problem that human thinking hasn’t really approached the problem of the Internet in a way that’s conducive toward progress or improving existence. With its potential to inform, engage and educate the people, the Internet could be achieving incredible things in broader society — even more incredible than what it has already — but because it’s been leveraged primarily as a platform of sales and commerce, all of our best and brightest minds are being put to work finding out how to sell shit to you better rather than unlocking its potential in different spheres. It’s a far more complex discussion than can be covered here, but the Freakonomics podcast has a great episode on the subject if you’re curious.
YouTube pretty much exemplifies that fundamental issue of tech moving faster than the human imagination. When the service launched ten years ago, very few people predicted the scope of its potential. From memory, for the first year or so it was dominated by home videos and old flash videos you used to find on eBaum’s World and Newgrounds. Music videos eventually found their way on there, not always legally, and then Vevo came in and tied the whole game up. Now it’s got everything from entertainment and memes to educational and instructional videos, the latter of which are undoubtedly brilliant.
Some of the best examples of YouTube being put to good use is instructional and educational videos. I genuinely can’t fathom how people coped as adults before YouTube came along and basically showed you how to do all that grown up shit that you figured would never be a problem for you. Likewise, product reviews for things like tech, music and film work really well on YouTube’s platform. I especially like being able to see how interfaces for tech products or gameplay before buying. These kinds of videos work, as demonstrated by how gaming is one of YouTube’s biggest categories.
For every great idea, however, there’s a dozen fucking terrible ones. As long as the concept of unboxing videos have existed, I have absolutely loathed them. It’s only in the past few days that I’ve been able to articulate exactly why this is. This is no exaggeration; I really fucking hate unboxing videos, and I hate the people that do them. If you have ever done an unboxing video and are reading this, understand me clearly; I hate you.
The reason that demonstrational videos work so well with things like technology — both hardware and software — is that the product is dynamic. That is to say, there’s some action of movement or action to the product that can be demonstrated visually, whether the interface of a new phone or the action of a power drill. It allows a potential customer to see the product in action and find out if it performs the way it should. If Apple boasts that its latest iPhone has the best user interface yet with 50% faster loading speeds, you can test that in a video, quantify it, hold it up to scrutiny and inform people.
Clothes and shoes are static. They are lumps of fabric, leather, cotton and other materials. Beyond basic features such as zippers, buttons, laces and other components with which we are all completely familiar, they do not move. There is nothing for you to demonstrate about the product. Getting a static item like a pair of shoes out of a box and waving them around in front of a camera achieves nothing more than still product shots on a webstore; as a matter of fact, it often achieves less because those photos were taken in a professional setting for the express purpose of selling the product in the best possible light, whereas you are just some twat in his bedroom with a GoPro.
So how do you add something to give the viewer a better insight into the product? I guess you could describe the features, like the materials and what it looks like and so on. Because there’s genuinely nothing better than watching someone pull a pair of Vans Eras out of a box and then confirm that, yes, the canvas feels like canvas, the sole feels like rubber, the lining feels like lining and the print looks like a print. Extra, extra, read all about it: Denim jacket feels like denim. I cannot begin to describe how much these vacuous commentaries make me want to bash my own brains in with a claw hammer.
And guess what: ecommerce already had this bit fully fucking covered as well. If there’s one thing you can be sure about when it comes to buying stuff online, it’s that you’re going to be given a pretty detailed description of what the product actually is; it’s kind of how buying stuff online works. So when you unbox that waterproof jacket and confirm that, yes, it feels waterproof and is red and has a label on the inside and comes in a plastic dustbag, you literally sound like some Alex Jones InfoWars moron searching for a conspiracy. There is no magic or trickery going on; you bought something online, you were told what it would be, it is what it is, and yes, you are a fuckwit.
Evidence that the format is fundamentally flawed: I picked a random computer game in my head and searched “Witcher 3 gameplay” on Youtube. Top video: 7.5 million views. I searched “Supreme unboxing” as well. Top video: 100k. Even accounting for the difference in audiences for gaming and streetwear, the evidence tells us one thing: Nobody fucking cares.
Which leads us to the real reasons these videos exist, and it’s got sweet fuck all to do with providing something of value to people, and everything to do with dick-measuring contests and a desperate attempt to validate stupid purchases and “me first” hype races. With video titles like “I SPENT $3000 ON SUPREME?!” and “Unboxing $2000 worth of supreme Heat!”, the whole process exposes itself as people spending obscene amounts of money and then trying to reverse engineer some sort of justification. ‘I’ll unbox it online,’ they tell themselves, ‘and that way I’m not throwing money into a pit, I’m providing a service!’ Return to my first point: You are providing no service whatsoever.
I’m a child of forum culture, “What Did You Wear Today?” and “Latest Pick-up” threads, so I get the basic premise of sharing information with likeminded people about stuff, but the idea of dressing this up as some sort of informative service is absolute horseshit. Sitting in front of a webcam screaming about how everything is sick and confirming that an item of clothing has stitching, labels and graphics is the epitome of vacuous tripe. I am reminded of a product description for an item I was looking at on Grailed the other day, where the seller had helpfully confirmed the quality of a shirt as, “when you feel it, you know”. A nice soundbite, but absolutely nothing of substance whatsoever.
One of the banes of the streetwear & fashion industry is its fawning over fuckwits who do absolutely nothing, and I’m sure that some of these unboxers have great aspirations towards eventually becoming one of those fuckwits, getting contacted by the brands to be seeded free stuff and be welcomed into the upper echelon that is “Influencer” status. Newsflash: If you openly boast about spending hundreds of dollars on a brand on a weekly basis, why the hell would they change that dynamic in any way? It’s like the morons who go to Supreme’s London store every week spending stupid amounts of money and even cleaning up litter around the store afterwards. Surprise, surprise, you’re still not in the Supreme Team and Jason Dill hasn’t asked to be your best mate; you’re a tool.
During the US election campaign a prominent Twitter user had a “one size fits all” response for people who attempted to derail her discussions into big election arguments: Post Your Vote & Go. Don’t drag other people into your bullshit, don’t turn your personal view into a vendetta, don’t force people to engage with discussions against their wishes. To channel that same spirit, if you’re spending money on something because you like it, then do it. Go ahead. If you’re doing it in order to have new “content” for your shitty YouTube channel in the hopes that it will somehow make you relevant, interesting or some sort of respected pundit in the fashion world, stop. You are achieving nothing. Buy your shit and go.