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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,