Wearable technology has been biting at the edge of mainstream consumerism for a few years now. There's Google Glass, which was possibly the most publicized and promising device at first, but has since entered a weird limbo. Then there's the Apple Watch, which drummed up its own fair share of hype as all Apple products do, but ultimately hasn't been nearly as successful as past new product lines such as the iPod and iPhone. And beyond the two heavyweights, there are of course specific-use products like alarms preventing assault and the bevy of fitness-centric wearables like the Fitbit and Jawbone.
With a variety of wearables available in the market, you'd think one would have taken off by now and become a norm just like the smartphone has since 2007. That hasn't happened, though, and that tipping point doesn't seem to be on its way soon. Why? Well, there are a few reasons, but the simplest might be that wearables are relatively ugly.
As Mona Bijoor, CEO of Joor who formerly worked at Ann Taylor, Chanel, and Elie Tahari writes for Fast Company, the fashion world hasn't gotten onboard with wearables yet and that's a big reason why they haven't caught on with the mainstream. That's not to say that the look of a piece of technology is everything — certainly its practicality and what it can do are super important — but more and more, people have come to expect a certain level of excellence in design with respect to technology. So it stands to reason that a piece of tech they literally attach to their bodies has to be up to par with the other apparel they wear.
"A lot of the greatest innovations in fashion are ones that you can't (or barely) see, from pockets to beautifully lined suit jackets," writes Bijoor. "Wearable makers should steal from fashion's playbook and make products that are less showy." As opposed to the clunky early versions of products like Google Glass that are the opposite of complementary, that is.
Although the Apple Watch isn't quite as clunky as a pair of almost-glasses on your face, it's also not the best at being a part of an ensemble instead of drawing attention to itself from a purely stylistic standpoint. Add that to the fact that it's still not proven to be an "essential" product you can never go back from like the iPhone was and you can see why the Watch still has work to do. If the device doesn't look great AND isn't even that practical, then what incentive do consumers have to shell out cash for it?
Moving forward, wearables will have to build upon their initial generation of products to better accommodate a fashion world that's very picky with what it considers stylish. Furthermore, if something like a smart watch or smart glasses is going to hit mass appeal, it'll need to take both male and female fashion sense into account. As Bijoor admits, "it's harder to reconcile the need for memory and software with traditional feminine designs, which come with smaller faces and nimble bands," but it's a problem developers will have to solve nonetheless.
Of course, there's always the wearable that just turns your wrist into a touchscreen for tips on how to provide interesting functionality with a low physical profile. But whatever the wearables and other tech devices of the future end up resembling, they'll have to work closely with the fashion world if they want to get early adopters that will push their products into the mainstream.
Cover image: Pixabay