MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If you see a woman strutting down the sidewalk in a flashy pair of Christian Louboutins or swinging a Louis Vuitton purse with extra zeal, it may be that she's trying to send a message specifically to potential romantic rivals, not interests.
According to a study from the University of Minnesota, women who purchase designer handbags and shoes may be expressing their style and giving their self-esteem a lift. But they may also be using those luxury items to try and deter other women from stealing their mate.
"It might seem irrational that each year Americans spend over $250 billion on women's luxury products ... but conspicuous consumption is actually smart for women who want to protect their relationship," Carlson School of Management Associate Professor Vladas Griskevicius said.
The study took a look at the shopping habits of nearly 650 women, and determined that when women feel their romantic relationships are being threatened, they will often turn to designer labels.
"The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel, and Fendi to other women," PhD student Yajin Wang said. "A designer handbag or a pair of expensive shoes seems to work like a shield, where wielding a Fendi handbag successfully fends off romantic rivals."
The study results suggested that women's shopping sends a message inverse to the message sent off by men who purchase expensive labels. Whereas past studies have shown men use designer gear to show off to potential mates, women use labels to "protect their turf."
"When a woman is flaunting designer products, it says to other women 'back off my man,'" Griskevicius said.
The habits were shown to affect both single women as well as women who were already in a relationship.
Griskevicius coauthored "The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think."
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