Why Beats Are No Longer the Coolest Cans on the Block

AirPods Pro win the fashion battle

  • Beats Studio Buds+ will be available in a dorky clear-plastic finish. 
  • Apple invented cool earbuds with the iPod. 
  • AirPods are a very visible, easy-to-spot fashion statement.
Someone wearing Apple Airpods while outside with a blurred cityscape in the background.

South_agency / Getty Images

Beats' new wireless Studio Buds+ appeared briefly on Amazon, showing exactly why everybody prefers AirPods these days. 

Fashion is how we present ourselves to the world. What we wear reflects our own tastes, already shaped by outside elements, as well as how we think others see us. Brands are not just chosen for quality but as a marker to demonstrate a point of view or an allegiance. And today, technology is a huge part of identity. This makes it interesting that corporate behemoth computer company Apple is up there with the top brands, something especially obvious with its wearables. 

"I've seen all kinds of headphones and earbuds while teaching, and it's so intriguing how they've changed from just being accessories to turning into total fashion statements. I remember back in the day, students wearing those huge over-ear headphones just to look cool," Faisal Nasim, teacher and founder of Exam Papers Plus, told Lifewire via email. "Beats became known as a stylish brand when celebs started wearing them. The same thing happened with AirPods—they turned into a status symbol because they were part of the trendy Apple world."

iPod Effect

Today, black cables and white cables are just two cable color options. But when Apple shipped its white iPod with white earbuds in 2001, those white cables were brand new, and when the iPod took off, those white cables became iconic. Apple caught on to this, and its Silhouette iPod ad campaign featured just that—silhouetted people moving against bright color backgrounds, holding white iPods with white earbuds and cables. 

The Beats Studio Buds+ earbuds.


Wearing white earbuds became a statement, one which was very hard mistake for anything else. 

"Phones are often obscured by cases, and, let's be honest, a lot of models tend to look the same,"  Kyle MacDonald, VP at mobile device deployment company Mojio, told Lifewire via email. "Earphones strike that sweet spot of visibility and accessibility, making them useful fashion statements. As for these Beats earphones, they're certainly eye-catching and different from a lot of other options out there, but the average person who can remember when Beats were the hot brand in earphones is now in their mid-30s."

Beats were Dr. Dre's over-the-ear headphone line, which, for years, were the coolest cans you could wear, although sound-wise, they were known to be pretty unbalanced and bass-heavy. Apple bought Beats in 2014, and while it has kept the headphones ticking along, Apple was more interested in the Beats streaming service, which it turned into Apple Music.

AirPods and AirPods Pro: Stylish

Today, the cool headphones are AirPods. People still wear over-the-ear designs from Beats, Sony, and others, but a quick look around you in the street on the subway will show you that most people are wearing wireless earbuds. And many of those are Apple's AirPods Pro. 

AirPods Pro


AirPods Pro have a lot going for them. They are way more convenient than big over-ear headphones. They also sound better than most other headphones in their price range. And thanks to the H2 chip inside them (and also inside Beats models), they offer plenty of Apple-only features, like quick pairing, auto switching between devices, reading out your incoming messages, and more. 

But they also look great. And as we have seen, that's important. Compare the leaked image of the new Beats Studio Buds+, found on Amazon, to the AirPods Pro. One looks like the ultimate cross between high-tech and high style, and the other resembles a knockoff of a 1998 plastic iMac that you might have bought in a gas station store. 

Beats may not be going anywhere, but anecdotally, I hardly ever see them anymore. Wireless earbuds are the thing. And while there are plenty of wireless buds around, AirPods Pro seem to be the most popular with younger people. 

"So, to sum it up," says Nasim, "headphones are more than just a way to listen to audio—they're now an extension of our personal style and a way to show what we're all about."

Was this page helpful?