From practicality to fashion, we are a nation of headphone-wearers

There once was a time when families and friends would sit around the radio or record player and listen to music. But 40 or 50 years later, is this form of playing music long-gone?

According to research by Asda and analysts GfK, people prefer to listen to music in more solitary ways, with sales of headphones outstripping those of speakers.

The research, seen by the Independent, shows that right up until the late 1990s sales of headphones and speakers were pretty evenly split, but the never-ending popularity of the iPod has led to sales of headphones beating speakers by almost two to one.

Other reasons for this was thought to be down to a disposable culture (i.e. cheap throwaway products) and the demise of the family unit – we no longer find it fun to socialise with our family with the record player on.

Another reason for the growing popularity of headphones could be down to its new fashion status.

What was once a practical way of listening to music without bothering other people, particularly when on the move, is now a fashion accessory too.

Sven Grundberg this week wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal noting how headphone manufacturers are catching onto the trend and tapping into a market of “young, tech-savvy and fashion conscious consumers who seek to stand out from the crowd”.

He observed that as sales of smartphones and the latest Apple products increase, so too do headphone sales.

A separate GfK study found that sales of headphones increased by more than a third in the UK and other European countries between 2010 and 2011.

It has led to a growing number of fashion labels launching their own designs and music stars like Dr Dre and Lady Gaga have also got in on the act.

Sony, Grundberg stated, is looking to release a line of brightly-coloured PQ headphones that are inspired by Tokyo and New York skate culture.

“In essence, headphones have become an extension of peoples’ personality, which means that consumers are increasingly willing to pay for certain brands,” Lucy Twist, an analyst at GfK in the UK, told him.

While they come with a price tag, getting celebrities to launch high-end headphones could be a way of encouraging music fans to listen to improved sound quality, just like they would with home speakers.

Do you still listen to albums through loud speakers or are headphones now your listening method of choice?

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