Cool or Swag? The dilemma of abbreviations… – RAJIV AGARWAL

Cool or Swag? The dilemma of abbreviations…

Last week, I was talking to a student who just happened to mention that “swag” was an important attribute amongst students today. I made a mental note to look it up, too scared to ask what it meant and appear ignorant. But rushed to look this up on the ultimate Guru of all times, Google. I did not want to lose the opportunity to learn. (FOMO as my teenage daughter would say..Fear Of Missing Out)

Anyway, after a quick Google search which gave many options, (I know for sure it was not “Secretly We Are Gay” or “free promotional stuff given to attendees”) found Merriam-Webster dictionary defined it as  “stylish confidence” as made popular by a Jay-Z song.

This got me thinking about the peer pressure and the definition of “swag”. It was “cool” during my times in college, (ok, so this may have been some time ago) but this was always there. There were the nerds, focussed on topping the class, the sincere  (who were always copying every word the professor said) , the perpetual absentees who would meet during exams  the lost few, wondering what they were doing in college, and then the “cool” ones, who had their own circle of friends, inviting for parties, events, etc. and who used to hang out together in college and outside. People would do anything to belong to this group. Exclusion was rampant and huge insecurities of being excluded made some people insane.

And according to the Financial Times, this is a pretty big thing in the UK too! ( Link to FT article)

Which brings me to the basic fact being mentioned here, that wealth is used as a tool to establish membership to this elite club of swag. It is disturbing, that times have changed, from earlier times where wealth was hidden and understated. I remember that most wealthy expected their next-gen to underplay their wealth and live simple lives. Some where along the line, things have changed.

And this had implications for our next-gen kids. Firstly, as the FT article above mentions, that this does become an ostentatious display of wealth, with the possibility of each one trying to outdo the other.

Secondly in families of wealth, one often finds that the next generation kids display wealth, while the others are playing a very understated role. Why does this happen? what causes the difference in behaviour? Any thoughts?

I have a couple of thoughts on this based on the interviews that I have been doing for a research project, but would invite your comments on this. What do you think?

On a parting note, I asked a group of students for their possible explanations for the swag ?The answer?


I rushed to Google this again!!!

PS:  You Live Only Once….




  1. Hi. I believe the SWAG “movement” has hit each and every element of the society. Everytime I am part of a new group of friends(like joining SPJIMR) I have to display a minimum level of SWAG so as to make sure I am in the cool group. Some people have invincible talents, like rapping or playing the guitar per se, while others have to display SWAG through free flow of money. I belong to the latter group and SWAG has had terrible outcomes on my finances.

    This is my take.

  2. Couldn’t agree more sir! I believe that ‘swag’ should more be a function of what one is capable of as an individual and not the wealth that one inherits. Also, this parallelism between mindless splurging of money and one’s ‘swag’ quotient is sad as there can tens of other things that one can be confidently stylish with. Perhaps its just the sorry state of our current society and the pressure to conform to it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *