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My sister’s pretty brilliant although she seems to express herself best via excellent grades and artwork or exorbitant melodrama. She’s been a theater kid for at least a decade, so her life has to be excessively dramatic or something. When I last saw her in person, she was between flights and nervous breakdowns. Hyperbole aside, she gave me this little gem: “You can always tell who’s American in Europe because they have labels all over them.” Perhaps her insight might come as no surprise considering that she’s not only a theater kid, but the costume kid within the theater department.

But for me, that was a hell of an insight. I thought about it and I realized that not only was she right, but I’ve recently been trying to wear stuff that doesn’t even have a label on it. It’s not just a style decision for the sake of not wearing labels, but it’s kind of because I can’t afford it on my own and because I don’t really give a shit.

Sure, brands like Ralph Lauren, Hermes or Brooks Brothers make some excellent products that will withstand the tests of time, but it doesn’t make any sense for me to buy their stuff right now–particularly while I’m still employed by a company that covers my clothes in dust, sweat, lotions, creams and glitter.  So I might have a cool label on that I can’t afford, but I wouldn’t really be proving anything to anyone besides the fact that my choice in clothes would indicate taste but not practicality. I would feel like a walking example of an idiot.

I see high school kids come into the store with Gucci bags, shoes and glasses–I’ve seen all of those things get ruined in the store, too. Besides the obvious, what status do high school kids really have to prove? The JanSport won’t hold books like a Gucci bag will?

I think it’s why boots are in right now: most boots don’t have labels on them, get the job done and can have literally any shape and accentuate the goods. Perhaps the only exception is Uggs, but those are named for the sound of disgust, so they don’t really count. The point is that I see boots in New York all the time and the women wearing them look great even though I can’t tell where they’re buying their boots. All I see is a woman who looks prepared for the weather and in control–sexy.

Consider this: most of my clothes are Old Navy. Their stuff is always on sale. My pea coat was $30 there. That thing has probably saved my life a couple of times and it cost $30. It doesn’t have a single visible label on it. And my jeans are like prostitutes: I don’t think a pair costing anything more than $35 has ever even touched my ass.1 The beanie I wear all the time in winter was $3 at Target. I’m not sure there’s a dress shirt in my wardrobe that wasn’t bought on sale. T-shirts never more than $20: I have a tee that cost the price of a box of Oreo Double Stuff plus Shipping and Handling.

And I look fucking great. I mean, I might be a little overweight but my clothes make me look good. Winter is far and away my favorite season because I get to layer everything from cardigans to jackets to sweater vests. I would be lying if I told you they were all non-brand name, but they are rarely bought without a sale tag on them. If I buy something, I buy it because I like how it looks, not because it has a label covering my chest.

For Thanksgiving 2009, my sister and I were in Amsterdam. We were walking around, trying to get out of the drizzle and heading toward better dinner and nightlife options. We were stopped by a couple walking the opposite direction. They asked us directions and, since we were traveling via map ourselves, we showed them where we were and how they should get to where they wanted to be. The woman looked at me and said, “You mean you’re not from here?” I laughed, explained we were simply tourists and let them go on their way. Without effort or brand names, I got mistaken for a European and I would much rather be associated with European fashion than some of the bullshit I see every day.

One of the problems with being a visual learner, when it comes to fashion, is being able to recognize the majority of the labels and patterns. I get it, you have a lot of money–but I’m not impressed. I frequently assume people who have to show of their labels are generally douche bags. Sometimes, though, there is the rare man who can pull of having a million obnoxious labels on–and that man is usually gay.

On everyone else, it looks like just another stupid fucking American who doesn’t know how to do anything but throw money away on flashy shit they doesn’t need.

1. Of course this is an exaggeration: I never let prostitutes touch my ass.

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One Comment

  1. Having lived in Europe I know that the ‘label’ mentality of fashion is just as prevalent. However, it is done very subtly. Unlike over here were everyone looks like cattle with huge branding on them. Europeans are also covered with ‘labels’, they just have them on the inside of their clothing. Which is where they belong.


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