The Sunday Times Magazine column: Faking It



They say you can buy anything in Bangkok’s Chatuchak market, which is true — as long as it’s fake. Amid the maze of stalls piled with sequined elephants and plastic flowers you’ll find an endless selection of rip-off goods British tourists haggle over to take home. Rails of fake Adidas T-shirts, racks of fake Nike trainers, piles of fake Hello Kitty memorabilia, fake Levi’s, fake Louis V handbags, shiny fake Rolexes and pink plastic fake Beats by Dre headphones. And because I was there on holiday with Thai baht burning my pocket that I didn’t fancy spending on a ping-pong show, I found myself buying a fake Mulberry bag.

Back in Britain, the bag seemed ridiculous. What do I want with a Mulberry bag, FFS? My friends who know me knew I couldn’t afford a real one. The people who don’t think I’ve become someone I hate. And so I found myself immediately telling anyone who saw it that it was a fake.

Not that it matters. I’ve still got a lovely soft-leather tote. Besides, it’s not faking it I’ve got an issue with — it’s lying about it I cringe over.

I wear hair extensions too, but when anyone compliments my locks, I cackle: “Thank you, they’re not real”! I laugh about my pleather jacket and buying Diamonique. I’d go for the full fake-nails-fake-tan look if I had time for it.

Faking it almost feels rebellious in a world where authenticity is prized. Born from urban culture’s mantra for Keeping It Real (even if it ain’t). Authenticity, which once promised the genuine article, is now only real as a marketing concept. Authenticity is ready-ripped £200 jeans, posh restaurants serving Irish peasant food, artisan bakers’ rough-cut loaves and designer flats with “distressed” brick walls.

If authenticity was once a vaguely boutique concept, now it’s become so mainstream, McDonald’s has opened an “authentic hipster cafe”. “Real” is ubiquitous these days: in Dove’s Real Beauty commercial featuring Real Women, and Real Food from Starbucks and Tesco. Which must be what the postmodernist Baudrillard meant when he worried about simulacra being “no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real”.


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