During the eighteenth century many young men left England for the West Indies hoping to improve their fortunes. Consumption of certain status goods, such as fashionable clothes, was important to these aspiring gentlemen. Passing as a person interested in fashion and the latest consumer goods was a means to maintain or improve one’s social standing. In order to successfully present themselves as gentlemen these colonists had to employ several strategies. Consumption by proxy was one of them. The aim of this article is to study how consumption by proxy worked in the Atlantic world during the eighteenth century. The article is based on letters sent from the West Indies to England, containing orders for specific goods such as furniture and clothes. Through their correspondence with friends and relatives in England the colonists received information about the latest fashion: fabrics, styles, materials and so on. On the island the traders and shop-keepers served as conveyors of information. By reading the shop-keepers advertisements the consumers received information about goods that were for sale, but also about the latest fashion in Europe.
However, consumption by proxy also involved challenges. Trust between the final consumer and the person doing the actual buying had to be established. A Jamaican colonist had to trust that the person appointed to act in his place had the requisite knowledge about taste and fashion to know what to buy. The lending of money was also often part of this relationship of trust.
|Publication status||Published - 2013|
|MoE publication type||A1 Journal article-refereed|