A $500 pair of sneakers is one of the latest status symbols at USC frat parties, and it highlights the massive wealth divide among students

Han Myung-Gu/Getty ImagesGolden Goose sneakers are a status symbol at USC.

Turn up at a college frat party, and you just might find students in $US500 Golden Goose sneakers.

It’s the latest trend among USC students in fraternities and sororities, where “some of the most overt signs of wealth” exist at the college, reported Jennifer Medina for The New York Times.

These sneakers typically cost around $US500, according to Medina, but range from $US445 to $US1,700 – a high price for a college student, especially considering that many share the burden of carrying the $US1.5 trillion national student loan debt. Their three-figure price tag is a sign of a much larger wealth divide that runs rampant on USC’s campus.

“The divide between rich and poor students could hardly be more vivid than it is at USC, where the children of celebrities and real estate moguls study alongside the children of nannies and dishwashers,” Medina wrote. “The campus remains a place of pervasive wealth, where celebrity, money, and status are still a part of daily life.”

She added: “Students of all backgrounds said they often silently worried that they were being judged by their peers – either for having too much or not enough.”

According to USC’s website, yearly tuition is $US55,320. USC has recently come into the spotlight amid the recent college admissions scandal, in which 33 parents were accused of paying a collective $US25 million dollars to fabricate their children’s credentials during the college admissions process in hopes of getting them accepted to elite schools.

Read more: From Converse to Air Jordans, sneakers have been a status symbol for decades – but millennials are redefining what that means in 3 major ways

The popularity of Golden Goose is part of sneakers’ evolving status

Golden Goose sneakers don’t just highlight the income gap on the college campus because of their price point – their appearance further enhances the divide.

Some of the high-end Italian brand’s sneakers have a grunge aesthetic – they come pre-distressed. Golden Goose’s $US530 Beige Scotch sneakers – calf-suede shoes with dirty-looking soles and taped trim at the toes – elicited accusations that the company was “mocking poverty,” reported Andy McDonald of HuffPost.

Golden Goose has recently been spotted on a host of celebrities, from Taylor Swift to Selena Gomez, according to Courtney Thompson of Bravo. But they have been a status symbol for more than a decade – according to The Cut’s Emilia Petrarca, the pre-distressed Golden Goose started the “ugly-fashion” trend that the wealthy have been favouring as of late.

“Ten years ago, when the Golden Goose Superstar was first released, ‘ugly’ was different; today, it’s a badge of honour,” Petrarca wrote.

Unlike critics, she says their “power lies in its disguise or mocking of luxury.” By appearing worn-in, they don’t come off as too precious like the clean, minimalist sneakers of other high-end brands like Lanvin or Common Projects, the latter of which “indulges in the idea that luxury can be quotidian,” she said.

Lanvin and Common Projects, which are commonly priced in the $US400 range, are popular among Silicon Valley tech CEOs to signify power in the workplace, according to Business Insider’s Avery Hartmans. Meanwhile, $US900 Balenciaga Triple S sneakers – another shoe deemed “ugly” – are taking over the fashion world. It’s all part of how millennials are redefining sneakers as a status symbol.

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