Consumed by fire
Bonfire of the Brands
Neil Boorman Canongate, 247pp, £12.99
Few of us think that Colgate toothpaste makes us “more dynamic in social situations”. Fewer still conclude that a predilection for branded goods constitutes an addiction. Almost no one would then attempt six months of unbranded cold turkey. Indeed, only one person has gone so far as to burn all his branded items in a latter-day bonfire of the vanities. He is Neil Boorman, a former nightclub promoter and style magazine editor, who publicly destroyed everything from his Dyson vacuum cleaner through to his Habitat sideboard in September 2006.
This book, written up as a diary, makes for a great read, partly because Boorman knows he is on shaky ground. Yes, as everyone points out, he should have donated the goods to charity; true, unbranded products are more likely to be made by poorly paid workers. Indeed, as one person commented on his blog: “Taking on ‘the brand’ in order to change the economic order is like ending racism by getting a haircut.”
Though Bonfire of the Brands is an inadequate challenge to consumer culture, this striptease of Lacoste and Gucci, Mac and BlackBerry, remains a vivid portrait of one man’s relationship with adverts and unnecessary spending.