Style

Should You “Pay for the Label?”

Should you pay for the label?

You hear it all the time, “you're only paying for the label.”

Designer eye glasses, luxury cars, and logo heavy clothing all come with this very commentary attached.

Knowing that you're paying triple or quadruple the price for a small logo seems like a horrible choice, right?

Well, not necessarily.

I'm going to share my tips to help you know exactly when you SHOULD and when you definitely SHOULD NOT cough up the extra dough for a particular label.

When to avoid paying for the label

First things first, let's cover the reasons you should avoid paying for a label at all cost.

Status

There's a big difference between wanting to present the best possible version of yourself and dressing to impress people who don't matter.

If you need to wear certain labels in order to impress your friends, I think it's time to look for another group to hang out with.

Practicing regular and attentive grooming, building a timeless wardrobe, and dressing with care shows self-respect and can help earn greater respect from those around you.

But wearing a blatantly expensive and/or branded t-shirt solely to garner attention projects desperation.

Okay, so there are some people out there who do love the massive designer logos and in your face fashion, and for them, that's absolutely fine as long as it's genuine.

But many are only doing it to flaunt their wealth (or attempting to fool others into thinking they have wealth).

If this isn't your true self showing through, it'll only look cheap and thoughtless.

For example, a $250 Versace t-shirt screams style ignorance and “I'm trying way too hard” while a $1,000 custom suit means you take yourself, your work, and those around you seriously.

Perceived luxury

pay for the label mercedes wheel

Luxury isn't inherently bad, but faux luxury is.

A Mercedes C-Class is indeed a higher quality car than a Honda Civic, thus justifying the higher price tag.

But a designer t-shirt will almost never give you more than an appropriately priced option.

Marketing executives have gone to great lengths to make you feel extremely classy when shopping in high-end stores.

The sofa is nicer than the one in your living room, they offer you a beverage, and the salesman oozes the kind of refinement and charm that hints at royal blood.

Couple the purchasing environment with a few meticulously placed tags and labels and suddenly you feel like old money. “This is what it's like to be rich!”

But this feeling will surely be short lived.

Once you make it back to a familiar environment, remove the tags, and put on the clothes, you'll likely feel pretty underwhelmed.

Don't be fooled by the lure of a particular lifestyle and the belief that expensive automatically means better.

Just remember, using sunglasses as an example, some of the most expensive designer options are made of the same injection molded plastic as the ones at the gas station.

Which brings me to my next point…

Ignorance

Perhaps worst of all, is paying outrageous prices for clothing simply because you don't know any better.

If you're the son of an oil executive, maybe money doesn't mean anything to you.

But for most men, spending your cash wisely is going to help you have the best quality of life.

I'm not advocating extreme frugality, but rather that you maximize each dollar you spend.

It's an essential skill of manhood and will make you appear and feel foolish if ignored.

And this isn't a tax bracket discussion, nearly all self-made men I've ever met are very money conscious.

That's not to say that they're cheap or unable to enjoy their wealth, but they sure as hell know how to not get swindled out of their hard-earned fortunes.

Not doing your homework and walking into a store with your American Express in hand is a salesman's wet dream.

Sure they have kids to feed, but you also have people who depend on you. Don't let them down by getting cheated out of your money.

When it's okay to pay for the label

With all of the pretentious nonsense out of the way, consider these very good reasons to pay for the label.

Quality manufacturing

allen edmonds walnut wingtip

Not all expensive clothing is crap-in-a-shiny package.

Many workwear brands and menswear companies that have been around for decades and take the time to select better materials, employ skilled workers, and have higher standards for final inspection.

For example, when it comes to dress shoes, my pick for the best bang for your buck goes to Allen Edmonds.

These shoes use quality leather, Goodyear welt construction, and Allen Edmonds will provide you with excellent customer service.

Sure, they run $300 – $400 per pair, but this isn't just some cheap leather glued to a thin rubber sole with an astronomical price tag attached.

These shoes are beautiful, robust, and constructed in a way that they can be completely restored by the Allen Edmonds factory.

And they don't even affix any identifying marks to hint at the brand.

The same can't be said for many high fashion or “designer” shoes, which may be so up-to-the-minute they'll look completely outdated and ridiculous before you even have a chance to really break them in.

So before you spend major dough, do a little research into the company in question. It'll keep you from throwing away money and you'll have the peace of mind in know that your purchase was worthwhile.

Support an ethical company

red wing 877

Let's say you're in the market for a pair of work boots.

If you narrow the search down to your favorite two pairs, you'll need a tie breaker.

If one of those pairs is from Red Wing and is made in the U.S.A, that might be enough for them to triumph over a pair likely made under questionable conditions in the developing world.

Sure the Red Wings may cost a little more, but at least you can take pride in supporting manufacturing in your country (if you're American, in this example) rather than just complaining about jobs being outsourced.

Similarly, paying for the label makes sense when you want to support small, local businesses that are producing high quality, artisan products.

The older I get and the more connections I've made in the entrepreneurial community, the more inclined I've felt to support other small businesses owners because I realize just how much blood, sweat, and tears is poured into everything they produce.

You're familiar with the fit

Shopping for clothing by looking at labels can be a huge time saver.

When searching through racks and piles in thrift shops, I've learned firsthand just how valuable this can be.

I know for a fact that the classic fit Ralph Lauren shirts fit me like a circus tent.

So when I'm scanning through racks of shirts, I can pass them by without a second glance unless I feel the fabric is special enough to justify major tailoring.

On the other side of the coin, if there's a brand that you know fits like it was made just for you without fail, that's good reason to pay for that particular label.

Shopping for clothing based on the fit of a specific brand is just fine, especially if you're streamlining the process and building a personal uniform.

Innovative product

It costs a lot of money to be the first on the scene with a new product or idea.

While the unit cost may not be very high, companies have to recoup mad research and development costs.

Other companies will always follow the industry leaders, building on their foundation and eventually being able to offer products at a much lower price.

But if you want the newest thing on the scene the moment it comes out, you'll have to accept the higher price tag.

Check out this GQ slideshow detailing the new-to-the-scene waterproof casual clothing. Most of them are astronomically expensive right now ($875 for a sweater!).

Sure, the first item of it's kind is going to be expensive, but if this trend gains traction, expect more reasonably priced options in the near future.

Creative work

Paint and canvas may not be worth much alone, but some works of art are priceless.

If you're a big fan of a certain designer, it's perfectly reasonable to pay inflated prices for what is, essentially, a tangible representation of their vision.

Whether it's a limited production pair of sneakers or a collaboration between two of your favorite brands, this is the arena of the collector, not the casual wearer.

You're essentially paying for intellectual capital, rather than physical goods.

As long as you're aware of this fact and are still on board, make the purchase.

Go forth

So there, I've said my peace.

Much of this boils down to not being arrogant about your clothing.

Be informed about your options and selecting clothing items with thought and purpose, and don't buy cheap products with a high price tag just to flaunt (or inflate) your financial situation.

Over time, you'll learn to distinguish between “designer” labels and those that actually produce higher quality products.

All the best,

Nate

10 Timeless Wardrobe Essentials

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Cesar
    May 5, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Nicely written article, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Benjamin Strusnik
    May 6, 2016 at 2:51 am

    Couldn’t agree more, if you get the quality then it is definitely worth the price. Personally I’m in love with Ralph Lauren’s fit, the way the shirts feel and everything just feel so premium. Great article, keep it up. :)

  • Reply
    Eric
    May 6, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Once I find a shirt or pants I like and look good I usually try to buy as many colors as possible. There’s something to be said for not having to run to the dressing room every time you’re in need of something.

  • Reply
    Drunicusrex
    May 7, 2016 at 7:22 am

    A lot of designers will only fit very skinny guys. Burberry, Bananna, and newer JCrew stuff, besides being flimsy, usually is way too small in the chest, arms, and quads for me. “Slim fit” is terrible if your lats are big.

    I like Ralph Lauren because they fit me well. Brooks Brothers sizes run a little too big – my dad wore a lot from Brooks until he lost some weight.

    LL Bean and Woolrich make very solid casual wear, and if you live in the Northeast, you’ll appreciate the warmth..

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 7, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      I’m right there with you, Drunicusrex. Slim fit is for very skinny guys but the regular is too baggy in the waist. Have you tried the younger line of clothing by Brooks Brothers (Red Fleece)? I know it’s supposed to have a more contemporary fit but may just end up being skinny like most other brands.

      • Reply
        Casey
        December 3, 2016 at 8:20 am

        Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Suits are fantastic for what you pay for them (you can usually get one for sub $400). And they’re sold in separates which does help. The pants are a bit slim but not nearly as severe as most of the other brands mentioned, but if you’re like me (I don’t skip leg day very often) then you will need to go up a few sizes in the waist (but $20 at a tailor shop will get them looking right).

  • Reply
    Wes
    May 7, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Growing up I really wanted to own American Eagle clothes but they were too pricey for me at the time. Once I got a job and started shopping for clothes I went there and bought clothes just to have but was never really impressed with the way I looked (I’m extremely skinny, it’s very hard to find clothes that I don’t look like I’m drowning in, but then again also don’t look too small). Eventually I realized I was just shopping there for the brand and have moved on. Finding the right clothes it’s tough work and takes a lot of time I’ve learned. I have a lot more learning to do as I still haven’t yet found my ‘identity’.

    • Reply
      Nate
      May 7, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      You definitely aren’t alone, Wes. I remember trying to match the huge branded logo on my t-shirt with the colors of my sneakers. What I used to think of as stylish, haha. Keep at it and you’ll find a style that works perfectly for you!

  • Reply
    Karim
    May 8, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    “a $250 Versace t-shirt screams style ignorance and “I’m trying way too hard” while a $1,000 custom suit means you take yourself, your work, and those around you seriously.” You cannot believe how loudly this paragraph resonates with my own choice of wardrobe. A man’s attire should reflect his character and his class not his opulence. No better example of that than a fine tailored custom suit. Great write-up as always man, thank you.

  • Reply
    William Mize
    June 2, 2016 at 10:41 am

    When I’m looking to make a purchase, I often wander through the Buy It For Life subreddit – https://www.reddit.com/r/buyitforlife – and do a quick search, to see if anyone has anything positive or negative to say about it.

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      That’s a great resource. I’m a big window shopper (or screen shopper, these days) so I know the value of finding reviews.

  • Reply
    Why You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For
    June 13, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    […] the evidence in front of you, it will tell you that the more you spend, the more you’re just paying for a label. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. A good shopping spree doesn’t need to break the […]

  • Reply
    Arthur
    June 15, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I couldn’t agree more. As one of the local bespoke guy told me that gentlemen have tailors, not designers. Do you agree with that?

  • Reply
    Daniel Garcia
    July 7, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    HI. Just wanted to drop a line and say that I recently (today) came across your site and find it extremely entertaining and full of great info.
    Now do not get me wrong as far as dressing and having a personal style I feel I have accomplished that.
    I mean my Father was very strict on appearances. Matter of fact besides all his suits being tailor made ( he still to this day refuses off the rack suits…a bit arrogant but hey thats him) he instilled in me a sense of style. When to wear certain clothes for certain seasons/events/occasions. He is strict on this. Not to say that a person can not find a new way of utilizing a piece or find new inspiration in other places….I am definitely not above that.
    All that being said I will admit I read a few of your articles tonight, after I put my daughter to sleep, and you are definitely on your game. I find myself reading and nodding in agreement with some of your articles.
    One thing I like very much is that you come across as a person who actually cares. Not some pretentious jerk who sounds like they have it all and you should follow them or fail.
    Anyway I have a tendency to ramble….or babble depending on how you look at it.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I enjoy your site and will continue to follow and check in from time to time. Curious to see what you have in store next.

    • Reply
      Nate
      July 8, 2016 at 7:07 am

      Great to have you here, Daniel! It’s awesome that you had such a solid influence in menswear. I sometimes wonder how my style would’ve turned out had I had a similar upbringing, but these things aren’t worth dwelling on. Knowing my personality, I likely would’ve rebelled and ended up dressing like a complete slob, haha!

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