On The Value Of Brands.

NOTE from 2021: When I noticed my blog was getting hacked in February of 2020 I did some quick fixes and somehow all of my draft posts from the previous 16 years ended up assigned to that month. This is one of those posts. It was written sometimes between 2004 and 2020 but I don’t know exactly when. I deleted most of the posts but obviously I thought this one was worth keeping so I wanted to add the note to clarify any publication date confusion for future Me.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t know brands at all.

When I was growing up I wore a uniform and so I only knew brands as it was connected to things that would either A) be used as uniform pieces…like I knew the polo logo because some kids wore uniform shirts with that on it or B) if it was SO popular that it showed up a lot at non-uniform functions like games or dances. So, like, obviously I knew what the Coke Rugby shirts were and I knew what Banana Republic t-shirts were and Vuarnet shirts…but it was just the REALLY popular things in my small white, middle-class, Catholic circle of exposure.

Then, in college I had entered the “alternative” phase of the social circles so the brands I knew were Doc Martens or Birkenstocks or Converse or Vans. I knew band shirts and I recognized clothes bought at head shops. (Which, don’t let anyone fool you, were just as expensive as clothes bought at the mall. We spent a lot of money to look like we didn’t care.)

But regular handbag brands, or clothing logos, or things like that…I didn’t recognize anything big until I was probably in my 30s and socializing more (remember, I didn’t go out much until after Wes was in preschool) and ending up in more middle-class social circles through the kid’s extracurriculars opened my eyes a bit, and then my own expensive hobbies of trail running and triathlons…I started finally recognizing brands.

And here’s the thing. I have spent a lot of money on something that I could have gotten cheaper with a different logo before and had no regrets. Especially when it comes to running gear. There is definitely quality in some of those prices. Not necessarily dollar-for-dollar increase in quality, but you’re definitely pay for something more than the logo.

But now that I have teenagers, I’m becoming more and more in tune to how brands speak certain things to certain people. They know brands. They request brands. And it has me remembering how much I wanted certain brands of things growing up and never got them and how it created this ache in me that I sometimes worry was the beginning of some of the credit card problems I had in my early 20s.

I just don’t know. We recently increased our clothing budget for the whole family to $100 a month because the kids are growing so fast the previous $50 a month was not cutting it. But even with that increase, when they want something with a specific brand…if they don’t sell it at TJMaxx, we really can’t do it because it will often wipe out the entire budget. Lululemon leggings cost more than the whole budget! And don’t even get me started on Jordans!

I have a friend who recently told me when her kids wants something specific…like something that would be cheaper at Target, they offer to pay half. That seems kinda like a reasonable solution but then there’s the part of me that says: WHY BUY IT AT ALL? IT IS SUCH A WASTE!

But then I spend $5 on a pen. FIVE DOLLARS ON A SINGLE PEN. Do you know how that adds up? And my notebooks cost $22…so it’s not like I don’t spend money on things people don’t understand. AND DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED ABOUT CRAFT BEER PRICES.

I mean, we all have the thing we spend money on that many people would not understand. I don’t want to shame anyone for that. But I also manage the money and the clothing purchases and want to get more bang for my buck if I can. BUT…I also know how important that key pieces are as a kid, if you can get them.

It’s just a tricky thing to navigate, especially as both of my kids are older now and definitely care more about what they wear. Maybe I need to start looking at Poshmark for them? But does that “feed the beast” so to speak? I mean…how do you teach your kids not to care too much about that kind of stuff when so many people around them care?

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