15 Responses to De-Branding

  1. Peggy gave me a “Swiss Army”-branded (well, “Victorinox”, really) sweater for Christmas. It’s a great-looking sweater, I really like it. But right on the middle of my bicep they sewed a small but glaring little Swiss Army logo.

    I absolutely despise branding on clothing. A few careful and skillful flicks of an X-Acto knife can, however, transform a garment marred by silly logos into an elegant article. My sweater now looks, I think, far better.

    I wonder: how many other people also do this? Or, similarly, how many people avoid buying a garment specifically because it has a garish logo on it? Is the brand-hater a demographic that marketers talk about or consider when designing products?

    There’s also a class dynamic here — with the arguable exception of Louis Vuitton, most high-end brands eschew overt branding, while lower-end brands plaster branding all over the place. Some stores, like Old Navy, offer both options: Pay $8 for a t-shirt with a big OLD NAVY printed across the chest, or $14 for the same t-shirt with no branding on it. Then again, more and more high-end brands are featuring prominent logos on their products (although generally this occurs when those brands attempt to mimic “street style”).

    Is there something about overt branding that bespeaks a desire to appear more wealthy or sophisticated (an aspiration not found among those who are already wealthy and/or sophisticated), or does the fact that even the most expensive products can these days be found with blatant logos on them tell us that we’ve universally come to accept the fact that we love brands?

    It’s worth the extra bucks, I think, to not sell oneself as a billboard.

  2. I’ve never read No Logo, for some reason, but I hear what you’re saying. I wonder what Naomi Klein would think of my speculation that many people willingly choose to be walking billboards because the clothes with logos cost less than those without them, and that this difference can be seen as a matter of class-based taste? Or is it simpler than that: are Amerca’s (and the world’s) legions of logo-wearing human billboards merely ignorant victims of corporate marketing, too stupid to realize that they’d look a lot better without a huge OLD NAVY or ABERCROMBIE logo emblazoned across their chests?

  3. I absolutely agree with you that most things look far better minus branding. Especially the Old Navy, Abercrombie type stuff.

    Ironically, one reason I kind of like Old Navy and The Gap is that I can get “plain” clothing there.

    But I’m not 100% against branded clothing, for me it depends on what it is. I’ve got an Adidas vest for example, that’s got an Adidas logo sewn into the front. That doesn’t bother me much at all. On the other hand, I also have a really nice Volcom fitted shirt with a Volcom logo on the breast that I can’t remove and it bugs the crap out of me.

    For me it’s partly about the brand itself (I like Adidas for example) and party about the actual garment, but in general I prefer unbanded clothing and have done my share of un-branding.

  4. I find it hard to understand why people wear the Bench brand. All their clothes seem to consist of generic cotton garments with “Bench” written across them in huge Helvetica Black, at designer prices.

    Generally I prefer to go without a big logo. But I’ll second what Keith says about Adidas. With a lot of their garments, such as the classic jacket with the three stripes and the logo on the back, the brand is the design — and it works. And I guess that goes too for Bench, I just have different taste. As you point out, many brands go sans-logo or with a minimal one, and these range from Prada down to Uniqclo.

    Branding is as Klein seems to notice, yet refuse to accept, inescapable these days, but that doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to become walking adverts. Whenever I am buying clothes I take a rucksack with me and eschew those large, unwieldy paper bags they offer you. They are designed around their advertising potential, rather than as a convenient way of carrying your purchase home. Almost as insulting as stickers that leave glue all over your CDs, DVDs, etc.

  5. Ironic that you specify the brand of knife you use to de-brand your clothing! Oh, the humanity.

    I’m in agreement with you about having pride in owning your own visual identity. Designers put deliberate effort into their personal brand, and who wants to be generic?

    “It’s not Alternative Music, it’s an alternative to Alternative!”

  6. “legions of logo-wearing human billboards merely ignorant victims of corporate marketing, too stupid to realize that they’d look a lot better without a huge OLD NAVY or ABERCROMBIE logo emblazoned across their chests?”

    This is nothing to do with stupidity, rather a pure value judgement. To the brand-averse, the lack of brand indicates our identity, just as the the brand-inclined are more than happy to have their identity (and status?) defined by the brand. Each to their own.

  7. Keith and Stephen: I’ll admit that I, too, am a sucker for Adidas for the same reasons Stephen says. Perhaps the usage of some brands can contribute elegantly (IMHO) to the garment’s core design. I was specifically going to bring up Adidas in my original post as a brand which escapes my blade.

    Adam: Just for the record: I meant my “ignorant” question as a rhetorical question aimed at Klein — I do not think people who wear lots of logos are stupid. I agree that some people honestly feel that looking like a billboard is a style choice they genuinely appreciate, and that this is a matter of taste. Klein might in turn argue that it’s sad that peoples’ tastes have evolved to accept doing exactly what the corporations want them to do, but again I would argue that she, and I, are arguing from an arrogant class-based position.

  8. I couldn’t agree with you more — I haven’t purchased a branded garment in years and years. To me, the designer/company hasn’t done their job if they cannot create a unique visual that can brand the piece without stitching on an obnoxious logo.

  9. The Brand culture is just that… Showing those around you that you can pay lots of money for a Louis Vitton, or Armani, or Chanel, or DKNY (ad absurdum) article. I find it rather silly (so sayeth the man wearing levi jeans, and a carhartt shirt with a logo *just a bit too prominent* for my liking), but what you pointed out with Old Navy is interesting. In the stores/brands I mentioned, you don’t get a discount (rather, pay a premium) to wear that brand.

    I always thought that if I was going to wear a giant logo, they’d have to sponsor me, ala NASCAR.

    I’d also postulate that it isn’t wealth that matters in this culture, it’s the illusion of it. If you look like a bag lady, but have billions in the bank, no one cares. If you’re wearing (logo), they’ll want to know all about you.

    80% how you look, 15% how you say it, 5% what you say.

    ::sigh::

  10. i think most people wear branded clothes because they don’t think about it. why do i? because as much as i hate shopping, i’d find shopping for non-branded clothing even more annoying.

    so chris, if you have a list of, uhm, non-branded brands(?) i could get, hit me up.

  11. Can you take off the abercrombie logo from their shirts. I like their shirts, but cannot stand that freaking logo.

  12. […] Arrow makes less than 1,000 bikes per year, and most of them are custom-ordered to some degree. As for the bikes themselves, I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing or riding one, but they look lovely. There are no logos to be seen, either, which is something I deeply appreciate. […]

  13. I’m a brand-hater and avoid overly-branded objects or remove brands (where possible). My exception is things I care deeply about and consciously advertise (e.g. my black & bright green fair-trade t-shirt)

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