Love it or hate it, Google Glass still has cachet driven by limited supply

On April 2, the NYPD had to disperse thousands of New York’s most stylish kids lining in front of Supreme, a streetwear store, for a chance to buy a limited-edition Nike sneaker. In effect, it was a one-day only opportunity to get a buzzed-about and rare product. While Google Glass may be criticized for not having any style, its own one-day sale tomorrow is a good example of how Glass is already fashionable in its own way.
Google is borrowing strategies from Nike and other clothing companies to keep interest high and products exclusive. It’s an age-old trick: to make demand appear insatiable, simply restrict the supply. By artificially limiting sales — which it doesn’t do with more commodified devices like the Nexus line — Glass remains an insider product for those well-connected and in the know. Glass is fashionable because it’s exclusive.
While there have been devices with spotty initial availability in the past, such as game consoles and the first iPhone, Google’s one-day Glass sale shares more in common with handbag trunk shows than lines waiting for the PS3. In fact, the entire Glass rollout playbook has been taken from high fashion. It started invite-only, like haute couture clothing, with luxurious pickup locations in — no surprises — New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the tastemaking capitals.
Once a few glossy magazines picked it up and Glass became more well known, the invites became easier to come by, but they were still distinctly capped. On Tuesday, Glass will take another step towards general availability with a limited edition release: if you’ve got $1,500 and follow Google’s procedure, Glass can be yours.
First, you have to express your interest by signing up for the Glass mailing list on Google’s website. Second, you’ve got to log on at 9ET Tuesday morning and hope you get a pair — according to Google, supplies are limited. While it’s not as simple as buying most things online, it is at least possible. Unlike the first two waves of Glass, you don’t need a reason or an invite. The process to sign up and purchase Glass even resembles Nike’s policies for “launch products” — similar limited edition releases primarily meant to generate buzz instead of revenue.
Officially, the one-day sale is taking place because Glass needs more testers. And it’s hard to tell whether the slow rollout for Glass is because of technical issues, production issues, or by Google’s choice. Plus, it’s hard to estimate the actual demand for Glass: there’s a chance that everyone with the desire and funds already has a pair. But by keeping the barriers to becoming a Glass Explorer high, specific, and limited, Google is helping it retain its cachet as a rare luxury good, completely independent of its promised functionality or features.
But while Glass may be a fashionable topic of discussion, it is not aesthetically pleasing. Even the newest titanium frames remain more cyborg accouterment than stylish accessory. Chic eyewear companies like Luxottica and Gucci have signed on to make Glass less aggressive and more conventional-looking. But its ugliness may be its biggest fashion bonafide — you can’t mistake Glass for another face computer the same way that even the most premium iPhone at a glance can resemble the least expensive Android handset.
Lots of high fashion pieces are clunky and garish, meant to be noticed instead of appreciated. In fact, I personally find the Supreme Nike Foamposites mentioned at the beginning of the story to be hideous, and certainly not worth $1000, as some resellers are asking on Ebay.
But like Glass, it’s hard to miss them when someone on the street has them on.