There is a group of people who mostly exist for a social enterprise that has been described as “seeing and being seen.” If COVID-19 stays around longer than medical experts predict, these people would still be able to see but are certainly going to be forced to recalibrate the other half of that equation – being seen.You certainly want to be seen if you leave your house dressed in a tailored P1.2 million Dormeuil Vanquish II business suit, P50 000 Aubercy Diamond shoes, P700 000 Luxuriator Style 23 Canary Diamond sunglasses, P7000 Ralph Lauren dress shirt, P12 000 Christian Lacroix Fantasy Pattern silk tie, a P13 000 pair of Vicuna-fabric socks, smelling like a bevy of on-stage Miss Botswana contestants on D-night and almost all the people you encounter rubberneck at you with a 180-degrees head turn that lasts longer than 10 seconds.
To answer your question: yes, that is the level of conspicuous consumption that tenderpreneurship has brought to Botswana. However, in this COVID-19 era, how do people see who you are when over 60 percent of your face is covered with a cloth mask that you are legally required to wear in terms of health regulations that parliament passed last month? Farther afield, plastic surgery will lose its appeal for socialites (described as unemployed, perpetually late rich people) for the same reason. For now at least, the enforcement of the mask-wearing law is lax but if you are a betting person, you can bet any amount of money that, as community testing reveals the extent of COVID-19’s penetration in Botswana, enforcement will become very, very strict. So, the sharp dressers who may currently be taking liberties with health regulations would risk parting with P5000 on a regular basis if they contravene mask-wearing law. While the reward of getting admiring looks from friends, family, neighbours, fans, fellow workers and promenade strollers as well as future ex-lovers has to warm the cockles of one’s heart, a penalty of P5000 per encounter with law enforcement would generate much lower temperature.
Full compliance with the law means that members of the public wouldn’t be able to tell who the sharp dresser is and the motivation to dress sharp so as to be seen would be eliminated. Sharp dressers are drawn to large gatherings in much the same way that prosperity-gospel pastors are drawn to prosperous countries. In much the same way that Botswana is about to lose both its prosperity and appeal to these pastors, gatherings will also lose their appeal to sharp dressers as they become smaller and smaller. Then there would be no need to lavish oodles of money on expensive clothes.
The historical record shows that when national economies are ICU’d for a protracted period of time, they have never been able to support the luxury-goods market. That means that when sharp-dressing loses its social capital because face masks obscure faces whose owners want seen, the fashion design industry will take a really bad hit.No commercial element is involved but there is every indication that style-walking will also be disincentivised: there would be no need to prance around like a Central District nouveau riche at a well-attended cattle auction sale when the people you are performing for can’t see who you are.