Malls and the Filipino Hypebeast: Reclaiming the Public Space

From Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho

With the sharp decline of democratic public spaces in the Philippines, Filipinos seek new places to create social bonds and solidarity. The congestion in space inevitably leads to a clash of diverse identities that transpires in places like malls (Rico and de Leon, 2017). This includes the Filipino Hypebeast: a group of youth who loiter in mall grounds and patronize counterfeit street fashion designer brands (Mendoza, 2018). Within this discourse of spatial conflict, the Filipino Hypebeast actively reclaims their position and existence in public spaces.

Malls are essentially contested public spaces (Reyes, 2016). On one hand, mall managers have the prerogative to impose spatial control to regulate the behavior of individuals. This allows them to deem acceptable or deviant behavior within the premises. However, mall goers like the Hypebeast also exert their agency to redefine their position in public spaces as an arena for self-expression and autonomy. Their behavior may contradict the rules of mall authorities and even the norms of fellow mall users. In other words, there is a constant struggle in malls that challenges the definition of public inclusivity and the pluralities of identities that are allowed within these grounds. Considering the dearth of parks, museums, libraries, and other public spaces, tensions will certainly arise among different social groups.

The Hypebeast is regarded as an object of scorn and distaste of customers who hail from the middle class and can afford the relatively high prices of consumer products. Most of the aversion principally emanates from classist preferences of acceptable presentation and behavior within gentrified spaces like malls. To elaborate, Bourdieu explains that our tastes and preferences are socially conditioned and reflect a symbolic hierarchy (Allen and Anderson, 1994). Hence, middle class consumers deem the Hypebeast culturally inferior and their presence repugnant due to the symbolic value of objects such as the Hypebeast’s cheap clothing. Since majority of the customers is abhorred by the co-existence of the Hypbeasts in malls, managers create spatial constraints that conform to the preference of the middle class to avoid potential profit loss.

Despite these challenges, the Filipino Hypebeast consciously resists and asserts their domain within the public space of malls. They continue to brazenly display their knockoff apparel with pride amidst mainstream prejudice to brand imitations. Even if mall authorities deliberately ban them , the Hypebeast persists and creates new strategies to reclaim the mall grounds by negotiating their behaviour. Hypebeasts redefine the boundaries of public space.

References:

Allen D. and Anderson P. (1994). Consumption and social stratification: Bourdieu’s distinction”, in NA — Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 70–74.

Mendoza G. A. (2018). Plato’s mimesis and the pinoy hypebeast, The Sword: The UP PolSci Review of Political Science, pp. 42.25

Reyes R. (2016). Public Space as Contested Space: The Battle over the Use, Meaning and Function of Public Space,” International Journal of Social Science and Humanity vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 201–207

Rico J. & de Leon K. R. (2017). Mall culture and consumerism in the Philippines, State Power, Transnational Institute of Research, pp. 1–9

This paper was written in partial fulfillment of Sociology 101 (Introduction to Sociology) course at the University of the Philippines — Visayas.

Hot Girl Academic / Political Science and Sociology