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MIT business professor Renee Richardson Gosline is at the helm of a study suggesting that people are largely unable to tell authentic luxury goods from fakes without first making generalizations about the people carrying them. The study finds that people base their judgments of knockoffs almost entirely on how they perceive the person in possession of the item. If a person appears to be wealthy, or of a higher social status, it is automatically assumed that he or she is in a position to afford luxury items, and therefore is carrying an authentic piece.  Conversely, if the person does not appear to fit into a certain socio-economic bracket, then he assumption is that he or she is carrying a knockoff.

The study also states that the allure behind luxury items is their ability to communicate messages of wealth, status and exclusivity. Those who purchase the fake or knockoff luxury items are trying to attain such an image. Accordingly, it states, we judge by how well the person measures up to the image associated with the given luxe item.

According to MIT news,

Consumers are willing to pay twice as much for luxury apparel when they can use those products to send or receive social signals.

Based on their comments, the people in the survey group were deciding if the person in the photo matched their preconceived notion of who is likely to own such products. “Basically these consumers look at the person, the setting, and determine the authenticity by seeing if the person’s image corresponds with the image they have of the brand,” Gosline explains.

In a sense, consumers are not so much rendering a verdict on the bags as deciding if the people measure up. By demonstrating this habit, colleagues say, Gosline’s research is highly innovative.

So essentially, if you are rocking your fake Louis bag with a cheap outfit and riding in a broken down ’88 Buick, you are not fooling anyone. However, if you are wearing a fake bag with a fur coat on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, you might be able to slide.

While this study is very interesting, the final verdict is that if you are buying knockoffs you are doing nothing but creating a facade that people can most likely see past. Save yourself the embarrassment and stick with what you can afford. Read more on the study here.

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