• 08.23.10

Scientists Prove That Designer Knockoffs Turn You Into a Lying, Cheating Hot Mess

It’s what the fashion industry’s been telling us all along. Now there’s proof.

Scientists Prove That Designer Knockoffs Turn You Into a Lying, Cheating Hot Mess

Bad news for all you broke-ass brand whores who do your shopping in Chinatown alleyways: Knockoffs don’t just cheapen your look, they blacken your soul.


In a series of tests, as Scientific American reports, researchers from UNC Chapel Hill, Harvard Business School, and Duke found that women who thought they were wearing fake designer goods were more likely to lie, cheat, and, generally loathe humanity than those wearing the real deal. In other words, it turned them into Snooki, on the inside and the outside.

The first experiment asked women to put on authentic Chloe glasses then perform a series of tasks to assess their honesty. The catch: Half the subjects were told they were wearing fakes. Of those, 70 percent lied about how well they accomplished the tasks and stole money meant to reward good performance. (The figure was 30 percent for the other half.)

In another experiment, test questions were linked up to financial rewards, effectively forcing subjects to choose between a correct answer and a more profitable one. There again, women who believed they were wearing knockoffs were more likely to pick raw cash over the truth.

The most troubling aspect of it all is that the counterfeits actually turn people into skeptical misanthropes. Another experiment asked subjects to answer questions about people they knew on matters like whether they’d lie on expense reports, steal office supplies, and so on. Sure enough, the women in the fake-shades-but-not-really group were waaaaaay more cynical than those who thought they were wearing real Chloes.

It sounds almost too neat to be true, as if it were some sort of clever ruse drummed up by the fashion industry–long an enemy of imitation brands–to make people feel worse about themselves than they already do. But maybe we’re just skeptical misanthropes (who may or may not own a fake Louis Vuitton).

The lesson for all you ladies out there swinging plastic Birkin bags and dudes rocking faux Prada belts, is this: You’re not fooling anyone, least of all yourselves. From Scientific American: “?Faking it” makes us feel like phonies and cheaters on the inside, and this alienated, counterfeit “self” leads to cheating and cynicism in the real world.?

So what’s a broke-ass brand whore to do? Is the moral that maintaining your integrity means anything’s better than buying fakes? Like stealing the real thing? And does the study prove that cheating trickles outwards into your life–or does it prove that owning nice brands makes you feel better about yourself, and more virtuous as a result?


[Read more at Scientific American]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.