Black Friday: don’t even try and hide

As a torchbearer child of the so-called ‘Generation Z’, I find it hard to imagine a time where Black Friday wasn’t characterised by a news clip of crazed middle-aged folks pounding the glass doors of a store. Boasting the best deals and America’s most hectic shopping day of the year, it’s hardly surprising that Black Friday has such a reputation…and it’s a reputation that is unapologetically expanding into the digital age.

The term ‘Black Friday’ is of disputed origin. Like anything else that produces mass hysteria, the truth behind this particular retail holiday is quite commonly enshrouded in myths that fantasize, glamorize, and politicize. Just one quick internet search will provide you with an abundance of (largely incorrect) information on the namesake of Black Friday.

In the financial parts of the web, the date dedicated to buying your bargains harks its name from the term “in the black”, accounting jargon for when a business turns over a profit. This has become one of the most popular invented histories of Black Friday, one that retailers themselves like to claim as the (possibly too positive) truth. While it is true that Black Friday encourages a lot of shoppers, there is little evidence that this said day is the defining push which takes a company out of “the red” and places it “in the black”. If anything, with the discounted steals and door buster deals, it is a wonder that shops really make that much of an excess profit at all.

Another possible source for the term ‘Black Friday’ is one that older generations might be more acquainted with. In the past, ‘Black’ was used in addition to a particular day to mark a calamitous event. The Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929, triggering the Great Depression, was one such. Yet, the more acutely original use of the term probably derives from the Black Friday of 1869. On the 24th of September, Wall Street financiers Jay Gould and James Fisk destroyed the NYC gold market and left many, including the President’s brother-in-law, bankrupt.

But even still, the use of ‘Black Friday’ became specific to this day of sales not because of American financial distress, nor because of the claimed day of discounted slave trade. No, Black Friday was truly given its name by the Philadelphia Police Department of the 1950s. Originally coined as a negative term, ‘Black Friday’ was used to describe the chaos that ensued in the city of Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving. Due to a yearly Army-Navy football game and the official starting of the Christmas shopping period, hordes of people would flood the city. As a result, unsurprisingly disgruntled cops worked extra-long hours in order to maintain crowd control and keep crime at a minimum.

So yes, maybe the true story behind the name isn’t as glamorous as the materialistic nature of the holiday might have you believe, but the chaos remains. And it is a chaos that has become multinational, transcending beyond the Atlantic Ocean and finding its place in our own local stores. Research seems to suggest that the chaos surrounding Black Friday will never cease. Even with the growth of technology and online shopping, it is the phenomenon of hunting for your bargains that supposedly attracts the masses, not the bargains themselves.


As for myself, I don’t believe I’ll ever not be haunted by the animalistic human that Black Friday creates, and, as engulfed by consumerist culture as I am, I will always prefer to browse from the practical and efficient safety of the internet. After all, the holiday of savings has spread far beyond a single day and now encompasses an entire weekend. Online stores such as Amazon, Le Redoute, Urban Outfitters, and ALLSAINTS have already trail blazed their discounts across the internet and with Cyber Monday just around the corner, you’re sure to find a deal whether you face the crowds or not.

Photograph: Jane Barlow. Edinburgh, 2014.

To give all you Gen-Z internet sales scanners a head start, here’s a quick list of fashion finds that you might be interested in:

Monki 25% off all coats over the weekend, 20% off everything on Cyber Monday

The Outnet Up to 80% off (!!) selected items

Zara 20% off all outerwear, shirts, and knitwear starting Black Friday

Victoria’s Secret 50% off selected bras

ASOS 20% off everything with the code GOGOGO

La Redoute 40% off everything with the code BLACKFRIDAY

ALLSAINTS 30% off everything with the code CYBER

Topshop & Topman Up to 50% off on selected items and free shipping

Urban Outfitters Up to 50% off on selected items and £1 delivery

Whistles Up to 25% off on selected items

Uzma Bozai 50% off using code BLACKFRIDAYTREATS and free bomber personalisation using MYBOZAIBOMBER 30% off everything using the code BLACKPSC

Office 20% off and free delivery with the code WONDER

WEEKDAY Up to 50% off on selected items

J.Crew 20% off everything and an extra 30% off sale items with code GETSHOPPING


Happy Shopping!



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