When Nobutoshi Kihara created the first Sony Walkman in 1978 he could have hardly imagined that 35 years later the descendants of his little cassette-playing wonder would be more or less standard kit for everyone between the age of 10 and 50.
But no-one likes to be standard. We like to express a little individuality. And given that the Walkman, MP3 player or smartphone is in our pockets, the only visible way to express our mobile music hardware style is through our headphones.
Here are the 8 key headphone styles, and what wearing them will say about you;
Generic free earbuds
You really don’t care do you? Budget EasyJet earphones suggest a record collection that consists solely of Now 81 and a couple of covermounts from half-forgotten 90s magazines.
They don’t sound brilliant. They don’t exactly look impressive. But then you’re only four quid out of pocket.
Plenty of money left to buy that Jamie Oliver ‘Music To Cook To’ compilation you’ve had your eye on.
Standard white Apple earbuds
There was a time, not so long ago, when having a pair of little white earphones was the height of cool. It said that you had an iPod or, even better, an iPhone.
Or, at least, had a couple of bits of sweetcorn stuck in your ears.
Either way, it made you one of a select group. Until the first quarter of 2012, when sales jumped from 17 million to 37 million.
Now it’s harder to find someone without an iPhone. So someone still rockin’ the white beads in 2014 is saying ‘I like music just fine, but I don’t like change.’
Beats by Dre
Possibly the most visible headphone brand on the high street, Dre’s Beats are bought by people who have never experienced the devastating kick-drum gut-punch of Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.
It’s a little like boy-band members wearing Ramones t-shirts or Cabinet ministers wearing off-the-peg suits. Beats buyers aren’t using just headphones. They’re buying a brand that sends the message ‘I am an urban badass.’
Unfortunately it also sends the message ‘I had the same idea as all these other guys.’ But still. A badass who fell for a well-conceived marketing campaign is still a badass, right?
These are the headphones for the person that likes to say ‘shut up, shut up, shut UP!” They’re also for the more organised headphone connoisseur.
Because with these bad boys you not only have to keep your MP3 player’s battery charged, you need to have a working battery for your headphones too. In fact, even more so.
Because while music is all very well, the ineffable near-silence that you experience when the noise-cancelling it switched on and nothing is playing is one of the most relaxing sounds that ever existed.
Just one earbud
You are almost certainly a bodyguard or Special Ops assassin.
ACS custom headphones
Once you’re through the slightly freaky experience of having gunk poured into your ear canal in order to create an ideal mould, the only unpleasant aspect of ACS ‘phones is the somewhat sobering expense.
The message of the ACS headphones is ‘I care about sound, I care about preserving my hearing, and I’m willing to spend a fair few bob on those things.’
Oh, and it also says ‘Dear God I hope I never lose these headphones. They cost a mint.’
Giant retro headphones
‘I am cool as all heck, I am listening to something that you have never heard of, and you’re just lucky I don’t have a vinyl turntable in my rucksack.’
The giant headphone is the choice of the hipster. Accessorise with some Michael Caine glasses and a pair of jeans that prevent any blood flow to the feet and you’re good to go.
Surgically-grafted integral headphones
You are the chief administrative aide to Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian on Cloud City over the planet Bespin.