Labels Aren’t Everything – How to Break the Brand Name Obsession

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Designer bags

The constant debate about designer knockoffs got me thinking about labels and what they mean to us in fashion. As someone who used to be brand-name obsessed, I’ve seen both sides of the label lust coin and have learned that a designer brand alone won’t give you style.

Here’s a confession: I used to think brands were everything. I was a label snob and only wore stuff by a few select brands. I also used to be really into “celebrity style” and thought that having the same pair of jeans as a famous person would somehow make me cooler. So lame, I know! Thankfully, those days are long gone. I know better now – instead of shopping for nothing but designers and labels, I shop for my own personal style.

These days, I see so many people wrapped up in wanting to own the latest hot fashion brand or logo-emblazoned handbag and can’t help but feel for them. Brand names, labels and logos are such a huge part of our culture, and the media reinforces this every day – dress like this celebrity today, buy these designer jeans or you’re nobody, and you’d better have that “it” handbag if you want to look good!

It’s not so much that brand name clothes can’t be nice or don’t stand for quality – they can and they often do! It’s just that brand names alone don’t mean anything when it comes to real style. You can wear an outfit that’s 100% high-end designer, but if you don’t have personal style or a knowledge of what clothes work on you, all the labels in the world aren’t going to make a difference!

Ending the Label Obsession

So how do you get past the label obsession and start dressing with real style? As someone who’s been there, here are my tips.

Shop vintage. One of the things that really helped me stop caring so much about brand names was shopping in vintage stores. When I shop second-hand, I pretty much never look at the labels. Instead, I look for fit, fabric quality, color, and potential for improvement via DIY projects. Who has time to check labels when there are so many other things to consider?

Take the time to understand what’s flattering on you. This is part of developing your own style. Ask yourself the following questions: when are you most happy with the way you look? Which colors make you feel best? What pieces in your wardrobe scream “you”? Everyone is different and no one thing works for everyone. For more on personal style and flattering clothes, see How to Find Your Perfect Colors, How to Develop Your Own Style, and Fashion for Your Body Shape: The Basics.

Shop with a look in mind. One of the easiest ways to see clothes for what they are instead of their label is to always know what you’re looking for when you shop. If you have a specific shopping list in mind, a cute piece with a designer label won’t sway you. Either it’s what you’re looking for or it isn’t – there’s no in between.

Let celebrities inspire you, but don’t worry about exact pieces. Let’s face it – most college students can’t afford to wear the same clothes as Nicole Richie or Mary-Kate Olsen on a daily basis. They have designers sending them free clothes every day – they doesn’t even buy half that stuff themselves, and they’re loaded! That’s why you shouldn’t worry too much about what celebs are wearing. Sure, take inspiration from celeb looks, but don’t try to copy their outfit piece for piece. No normal girl could ever keep up.

Read street style blogs. One of my favorite things about sites like is that they showcase style, not labels and designers. I’m always inspired by street style because it shows how REAL people dress. Celebrities for example might wear nothing but high-end stuff, but models on street style blogs mix high and low with reckless abandon! With street style, there’s less focus on brands and more focus on real-life fashion, which makes for a great source of inspiration.

Be honest with yourself. This is the most important step. If you really want to stop being label-obsessed, you really need to think about it – do you buy lots of things because you really like them, or because they’re made by so and so? Go through your closet and ask yourself: would I have bought this if it was a no-name brand? If the answer is no, that’s a clue that you don’t really buy for the right reasons. You might need to put more effort into being label-blind and style-conscious.

Ultimately, breaking the label obsession requires not only changing your habits but your mindset. Once you learn to look at clothes for what they really are instead of what branding wants them to be, you start to recognize real quality and style. Of course I’m not knocking designer clothes – I covet my fair share of couture! I just think there’s more to fashion than brand names.

Your Thoughts?

Admit it… do you have a label addiction, or do you buy based on style and design? Are you a recovered label-addict like me? What would you recommend for someone wanting to stop buying simply based on brands? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

27 thoughts on “Labels Aren’t Everything – How to Break the Brand Name Obsession”

  1. yes its a bit annoying how some people don’t really know how to put together an outfit based on what they like, but more whats on the model of hollister or abercrombie you know -_- and they look at someone whos wearing a creative outfit like GAWK at them.
    but then again! i just love H&M and i tend to buy …lots of clothes from them…….but i wonder if i would buy from other stores if they made the exact same thing.
    but my excuse is that h&m carry great sizes and if other stores made the exact same or similar piece, it wouldn’t fit as well!? i honestly don’t know if i’m obsessed w/h&m. i really think i buy from h&m based on their style. =)
    but i also thrift w/o looking at labels and shop at other stores…
    but i have a bias for h&m i would say….o_O i live in a small town and i have to go out of town for good stores

  2. I have to agree with the above posts on quality. There are certain things that I have to buy from certain brands because i know that its good quality and always fits me perfectly. such as I only buy american eagle jeans (I know, its not really a “couture brand” like we’re supposed to be talking about, but for my bank account its a brand 🙂 ) because they fit me right and come in extra long sizes in the styles that I like. Same with button down shirts, the slim cut ralph lauren ones always fit me perfectly, and VS underwear always feels the best. They are such high quality I know if I buy one piece it will last me for several years (except the underwear. that’s never going to happen).
    Of course, i’m not above getting these second hand, and everything else in my wardrobe… I don’t even know who made half of it!

  3. Great post! I couldn’t agree more! I always tell people wear what you love, can afford, flatters your body, and what represents who you are. That’s all that really matters. So many people think labels define who they are but its just a name. Once again great article and keep up the good work!

  4. Brands mean nothing to me. I do howerver tend to spend more on basics, thing i know i’ll wear for years. These are sometimes well known designers, however I nor the people I’m around tend to care. Most of my suits come from JC Penny’s and look just as good as ones i purchased from Dillards with the big labels (Ralph Lauren, Jones NYC, ETC…) I empoyee people who are brand addicted and they do think it makes them look more important or cooler. Howerver to me and some of thier peers it just makes them look dumb, we know how much you make and the 2k prada bag you just bough is a months+ salary, not a smart decision stop complainning about being in debt or having to eat ramen noodle for lunch everyday.

  5. Omg I wish I saw this article sooner. I used to be brand-obsessed in my early teens. It took a while for me to break the habit but I now buy items that look good on me regardless of its brand(or lack)

  6. The problem with vintage clothing is that you never know if someone washes the clothes or not and one time I went into a vintage store like Goodwill and it was smelly in there for some strange reason.

  7. Hi, im just thirteen years old and i realised i was always wearing brand names.
    I still wear them but dont uy anymore brands, because i pay to advertise, beside i live in france and it’s always cool to have brands but know im smarter then this… and im saving for a computer…=)

  8. i love designer clothes, but I’m not that rich, and I believe our clothes should also correspond to our social status. I hardly imagine myself driving a middle class car in designer shoes for $500. But the problem is that I care a lot about quality, and I hate synthetic materials, and I’m really into classic style (dress pants, pencil skirts, classic black dresses, shirts, high heels) and there aren’t that many stores that have clothes made of natural fabric and of moderate price (except cotton, i hate it. i hate it when my pants or sweater are stretched. i’m a horrible pedant and perfectionist also) i love Banana Republic the most. also Ralph Lauren and J-Crew (for more casual look). I would really appreciate it if you name any other stores that have good and classic(!) clothes. strictly classic. street style reminds me of my terrible years in high school and makes me feel like a slob.

  9. I agree. Never buy something or not because it is a certain brand. Buy what flatters you and makes you happy. When I was in high school it was like a red carpet every dress down day( I went to a private school). People would ask what brand you were wearing and where you got it at. Well as I grow up and currently in college, it does not matter anymore. It is great to mix low and high end things. I will never want to be a free ad for the brand, they didn’t pay me. Wear things because you want and never incorporate to much of something. I am from New York but go to school In NJ. I can tell you that “good brands” are different for women in both states. In nyc, women are more likely to have Chanel and brands like that. In NJ, it is all about Juicy, lol. Not hating on Jersey but fashion in NYC is the best in the world! My aunt use to make my cousins buy the clothe they want then make copies with her own take of the same piece. That too me is cool.

  10. This is so true. Yes you dont need name brands to be in style. I remember a long time ago going for an merchandising assistant position at Ralph Lauren Corporate offices in NYC.

    The culture of the office, the people that work there, are basically “human representations of the clothes” It was like they needed to loosen up. Yes you work there but they were so brand focused on RL, plus that is mainly what they wore. It would have been great to see them in some vintage clothes, and show some personality. Wear beautiful antique looking blouses…you know?

    While name brands can be kool (I spell cool w/ a K) they don’t always show creativity in style of dress. But when you are not brand focused and go outside the box, and use your creative mind to put things together, to look expensive, or stylish, you tend to get the most compliments. That is when you know someone really has style. I’ll take a beautiful vintage leather bag over a Hermes any day! Really I would!

  11. This is a terrific follow up to yesterday’s post 🙂

    I completely agree with this article, only too many times have I gone out shopping with my girlfriend and had to argue about why something was unflattering even if was ‘Marc Jacobs’ or whatever.

  12. I completely agree with Brittney. I think most clothes with writing does add a sense of immaturity to the outfit. Also, with plain tops there’s a greater variety of how to wear it and what to wear it with. Plain tops look chic and can become a completely different look with accessories.

    The only designer brand items I have to have are purses and perfume.

  13. x – Totally good point. It’s not about buying cheap things just to save money. Sometimes cheaper clothes are bad quality and therefore a waste of money! And of course, I do like designer stuff when it means higher quality & higher worth. I just don’t like the idea of buying things ONLY because of the label & not because of the style or quality.

  14. Great post. Labels aren’t everything. However, after reading the first two comments I have to say that while I’m not at all label obsessed, I am QUALITY obsessed. There’s a huge difference.


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