Imagine your teenager taking his most expensive pair of Air Jordans and setting them on fire, all in an effort to impress his friends.
Sounds preposterous, but that’s part of the latest craze sweeping across certain parts of South Africa.
Young teenagers gather in parks, not to catch impromptu basketball games, but to watch high fashion Ukukhotana “swag battles” where materialism reigns supreme.
As explained by Yolanda Sangweni of AfriPopMag.com:
“What is “Ukukhotana”? Loosely translated, “ukukhothana” means to lick. “Ukukhothana” is a controversial new subculture created by youth in townships in and surrounding Johannesburg where they organize in fashionably-dressed cliques called izikhothane and set up mock battles to brag about who wears the most expensive designer labels, has the most money, and all-around swag.”
But flaunting expensive designer gear that they can’t afford isn’t enough for the youngsters to prove their “cred.” In the most outrageous display of swag, the competing crews burn their designer fashions, expensive shoes, and even money.
“It is no longer enough to merely afford the pricey clothing and bling; you have to be rich enough to not need it. This means publicly taking a pair of scissors to a R500 t-shirt, and playing tug-of-war with a R3000 pair of jeans before throwing the scraps to the unaffording, undeserving rivals,” writes Lindokuhle Nkosi of mahala.com.
The winning crews in the swag battles gain celebrity status among their peers. Yet, most of the competing crews come from impoverished communities. They work extra jobs, place financial stress on parents, and even engage in illicit activities to maintain their bling lifestyles.
But before we criticize our South African brothers and sisters, perhaps we should look at our own materialist culture where hundreds line up overnight just to purchase Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 2 sneakers at $375 a pair.
As the saying goes, you can either act rich, or instead work to become rich.
BMWK, do you think we’ll see American teenagers burning money or expensive gear in the near future?