Bling Bling

Jeweled teeth

Bling bling is a style associated with hip-hop sub-culture. A grandiose display of jewelry, gold, and diamonds denotes its exuberance with no uncertainty. Wearing several large gold chains at once is common. Large gold dollar sign pendants are also a stereotype of the style. I believe the real hallmark of bling bling is that it is a blatant display of wealth.

This style contrasts with traditional American prominence-culture, where subtlety is both an aesthetic and a virtue. I believe the style is blatant because it emerged from impoverished conditions and in neighborhoods that were high in crime. The ability to hold on to precious items in an area controlled by gangs would connote considerable power and influence. Today, the style has been popularized through Hollywood and the music industry.

The last statement has me wondering how influential celebrity is at establishing new status symbols into cultural norms. Celebrity may be taken to be a high status individual (celebrity being relevant)—the gang leader is a celebrity in his neighborhood. Perhaps the status symbol is established first as a semiotically ‘indexical’ sign before it becomes a cultural symbol. However, the celebrity power of hip-hop musicians in establishing bling bling would have been symbolic rather than indexical—they are beyond the streets now. Thereby, celebrity might not be a good term to explain how the symbol originated though it did so indexically and through the renown of high status individuals.

“Celebrity” as I first used it referred to Hollywood and the music industry and I could have substituted it (more accurately) with “arts” and entertainment. What role do the arts have in imprinting a status symbol on to culture?

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