In 1999, the New York Times reported that Americans were flying to London just to procure rare jackets “with a camouflage pattern of apes” from the exclusive Tokyo streetwear brand A Bathing Ape (BAPE). “I paid $700,” boasted art director Ramon Yang, “But it was worth it because all my friends wanted it, and I got there first.” Two decades later, the lust for rare ape goods remains with us, albeit in digital form. The Bored Ape Yacht Club sold out its run of 10,000 simian-head “unique digital collectible” NFTs in a single day, and no one even had to get on a plane.
As rational people of the modern age, we get very anxious about consumer frenzies for goods without obvious inherent value. There are the expected reactions: NFTs are a bubble! They’re the next Beanie Babies! Certainly no one is naive enough to believe they are “fine art” (except this HK gallery). In our desperation for credible explanations, there has emerged a compelling rationale for NFTs: They are status symbols. At least the creators themselves believe so.
A crypto CEO told Dirt’s own Kyle Chayka at The New Yorker, Bored Ape NFTs had become “a status symbol of sorts, kind of like wearing a fancy watch or rare sneakers.” Kevin Roose in The New York Times heard from one of the Pudgy Penguin avatar project founders, “The way I describe it to my family members and friends is like, people buy Supreme clothes, or they buy a Rolex.” The spotlight on status inspired Packy McCormick at Not Boring to analyze NFTs within Eugene Wei’s “Status as a Service” framework, concluding “Powerful things happen when you combine money, status, and community.”