When supermodel Bella Hadid walked out of the New Orleans airport a couple of years in her signature Prada black boots she might have inadvertently made another lifestyle statement. It wasn’t just her Y2K era shades but also Apple’s humble wired headphones that caught the attention of trend spotters. Almost two years later an Instagram account Wired it girls is making wired headsets cool all over again.
Apple’s AirPods arrived in 2016, the same time the iPhone 7 was launched. The 7 became the first iPhone to ditch a 3.5mm headphone jack. The first gen AirPods sparked a meme fest and the lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter became one of the most trolled devices on online stores. But all that changed in quick time. Whether you loved it or hated it, AirPods soon became ubiquitous, spawning a raft of clones. TWS Earbuds remain one of the fastest growing gadget categories, getting a further boost in a WFH world where clients and colleagues judge you for wires during online meetings. That’s exactly the conformism that a whole new generation of users are trying to break.
Divya Dureja, a spoken word poet and psychologist likes to dance to her own tune and steer clear of trends. She still swears by her small-screen iPhone and wired headphones. She switches between over the ear headphones for music and wired earphones for calls. She told me about how she doesn’t care about being judged and how she’s run over 30 live webinars with her wired headphones in a post-pandemic world. Charging Bluetooth earbuds has remained a deal breaker for her. That’s one of the key reasons why many users haven’t ‘cut the cords’.
For a whole bunch of Gen Z users, like the WiredIt girls, it’s not just the charging routine, it’s a style statement. Their Instagram profile features the now iconic image of Bella Hadid with her Apple wired headset or what Apple’s store calls the EarPods with lightning connector that you can snag for Rs 1,900. That’s about 10% the cost of the new third gen Apple AirPods. They call themselves the practical trendsetters. Shelby Hull, the 24-year-old creator of the Instagram account describes wired as an attitude. The wires don’t just add to the whole non-conformist vibe. It’s also a ‘Talk to the hand, don’t talk to the face’ unapproachability that many Gen Z users want to convey.
While Instagram sensations like the WiredIt girls and multiple TikTok users across the world might eventually ensure that we don’t get judged for sporting wired headsets, it’s unlikely that TWS earbuds are going anywhere. Prices have crashed, battery life has drastically improved, sound quality and active noise cancellation keep getting better each year too. Our tip – don’t ditch your favourite wired headset from the 2010s just yet.