Why is Gen Z going crazy over the Dyson cordless vacuum?

UNITED STATES – When you imagine a life of luxury, what comes to mind? A mansion filled with walk-in closets the size of bedrooms? Garages housing sleek vehicles with German and Italian names?

Whatever it is, it is probably not a cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner, mounted in a 550 sq foot studio decorated with nothing but a bed frame.

“I don’t know what I would do without my Dyson,” said Ms Donna Chen, 26, a software engineer who lives under these exact conditions with her boyfriend in Brooklyn. “If I had to choose between saving my bed, my boyfriend and my Dyson in a fire, I’d choose my Dyson V15. Twice.”

While Dyson’s cord-free stick vacuum has been around since 2010, it has only recently become a product that young adults are willing to pay about US$300 (S$400) to US$1,000 for: a compact (slim) and lightweight (2.2kg to 3.6kg) version of the bulky, cumbersome Hoover.

Does that make the vacuum cleaner a status symbol?

In fact, at various times in the United States, the vacuum has served as an expensive item of aspiration and a signal of domestic success – once the housewife’s crowning jewel.

To many Gen Zers and young millennials, for whom traditional markers of stability such as home ownership and early retirement seem largely out of reach, a Dyson cordless vacuum provides a more attainable kind of security.

“If you can’t get a mortgage or a house, you can get a Dyson,” said Ms Caroline Solomon, 35, a cleaning expert who goes by @neat.caroline on TikTok. “It’s one signifier of savviness – a stepping stone towards something bigger.”

When Ms Chen started living alone, her parents promised to buy her a Dyson – which ranked above requests for other similarly priced house-warming gifts such as a furniture set or Wusthof knives.

She said: “I love my Dyson, and I am not ashamed.”

‘Almost weirdly sexy’

New status symbols – Le Creusets, KitchenAids, even full-body magnetic resonance imaging scans – are continually anointed in headlines. But what distinguishes the Dyson as the latest must-have household accessory is not so much what it is as how it is kept.

Whereas vacuum cleaners of the past – and their tangled, serpentine cords – were relegated to the closet, out of sight until the next time they were pulled out, cordless sticks have to be charged and near an outlet.

In other words, the Dyson is not something to hide – it is a silver trophy on display.

Mr Andrew Nguyen, 26, a graduate student in Philadelphia, described his Dyson as “almost weirdly sexy”.

Ms Liz Weech, 25, a software engineer in Brooklyn, loved her former roommate’s device so much that she bought her own and convinced her boyfriend to purchase one too.

But customers and social media influencers say other brands – Shark (US$200 to US$500), Miele (US$600 to US$1,100), Tineco (US$200 to US$800) and Bissell (US$35 to US$400) – are sometimes cheaper and can function just the same, if not better.

Mr Frederick Hissenkaemper, 27, prefers his Miele over the Dyson he inherited from a housemate. “Moving the Dyson around is no fun,” said the Los Angeles marketing manager. “It’s rather stocky, and the suction isn’t even strong enough to get all the dust.”

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