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. I’m not into brand names.
    But when I was a teenager I remember I had to have a FOX hoodie and a Carhart hoodie and I loved Silvers because they were width by length (now Maurice’s had that in a much cheaper brand!)
    I care about comfort now more than any tag. Seeing teens having to have Nike swish socks , makes me roll my eyes. There’s more important things in life.

  2. If I think it looks good, I will buy it. I don’t care if it costs 10.00 dollars or 100 dollars. If I like, it I will buy it. I have mine own unique style, I don’t wanna look like the other chicks.

  3. WOW, I was also a Brand Name IDIOT, thought that brands made me a better and more respected person. When I was in college I got a part time job at a well known big name retail establishment. It was then when I realized how stupid I was. I stopped on my shoes and have never bought into the brand name fettish again. I do own some luxury items like handbags because I love them, but if I can get same luxury goods as replicas you bettcha I will buy them LOL. I buy clothes now that look good on me, that flatter me and make me look younger. Who wants Ralph Lauren shirts that make you look like great granny? No, I would rather buy a blouse tht is low cut, no colar and sexy in nature that flatters me than a brand and a rider on the breast. I have strayed from big names brands and I intend to keep it so. Most of my matured friends are into this crap and we argue all the time. they think I can tell and otherc can tell that the jeans they wear are high dollar, really I cant tell unless they raise their blouse and show me the label. So stupid

  4. I used to have an intense label addiction. I admit that when it comes to sunglasses, purses, and jeans I’m still a little bit of a label addict, but I’ m getting so much better. Forever 21 and Target are two of my favorite places to shop now. I get affordable clothes that still look great. Marshalls can also carry some amazing finds for cheap.

  5. i so believe in you that labels aren’t everything. you can’t buy style, right? i grew and live in a place that only the richest can buy those designer pieces and where the there are so many malls but finding a really good place to shop is like a fortune. as my taste for clothes evolved, i realized that the best place to shop here without having to save so much are actually thrift shops. i love the character of the pieces i find interesting in thrift shops. not to mention you have a unique piece unlike others who have the same as everyone else.

  6. love your article! i agree with you. But in my country, it’s so hard to find high-quality clothes! I have no choice but to shop by brand that is distinguished for its comfortable wear and high quality (and still affordable).

  7. I used to have a brand addiction as well a few years a go, but I’m so glad I grew out out it. My bank account couldn’t take it either. I now prefer unique items that I pick up from second hand stores, and the quality of shops, such as H&M is just as good as any other major brand.

  8. I’ll admit that I am a bit of a recovering label addict. Now, I don’t mind buying designer stuff that is quality and will last (i.e. cashmere Juicy, J Brand’s that fit just right), but I refuse to be a label fiend about every single item I wear. I avoid stuff with the name brand sprawled over it, but don’t mind a small logo embroidered. Excellent article, Zephyr!

  9. Very nice article, I agree on 100%. I have never cared about labels or designers. The only two things I look when I buy something is how well it fits my style and the price. I came to USA from Eastern Europe an year ago. And there you can’t buy designer’s apparel, because first there isn’t many and second – it’s crazy expensive. So I buy clothes that are nothing special, but look nice. When I came here I was so surprised how many compliments I was getting all the time for my style and the clothes I wear, even people were stopping me on the street to ask me where did I buy this purse or these boots from. I even thought about opening a store here with clothes bought from there. So seriously – label is not important at all as long as you have your style and know how to match clothes, accessories and shoes.
    Another thing I feel sorry about are the kids at school – I heard stories how some kids are ignored because they don’t wear labels and how their parents are suffering as they can’t afford to pay $3000 for a dress for the next school party. That’s awful….I don’t think I want to grow my kids in America…

  10. Unless you have a logo on your item, how many people will even be able to tell you are wearing designer clothing? Chances are, most people have no idea (and, frankly, don’t care) about who designed the outfit you are wearing or how much it cost. It’s one thing if you genuinely like a designer’s clothing; however, if you just want designer clothes to be cool, I think you are wasting your money.

    I personally don’t wear any clothing with writing, and I almost entirely avoid shirts with tiny little logos on them. I personally feel that any sort of graphic or text cheapens the look/maturity of an outfit. The most important thing to me is that my clothes look good on me (fit being the most important thing). I also don’t want to spend a ton of money on something that will, at best, last me a couple years.

  11. I honestly pay no attention to labels whatsoever. In fact, I get complimented most when I am wearing something unique and not a brand name! I like having unique clothes and being open to shopping at different places. I do covet designer clothes, but it is so easy to find the same look for a fraction of the price! I have a red puffy jacket from Old Navy and I constantly get asked if it is Marc Jacobs! I also love shopping at Mervyn’s and whatnot to find actual designer clothes that are discounted! If you search you can find some really good deals! My mom and I got $15 dollar Steve Madden sandals at Mervyn’s that someone else paid $80 for at macy’s! And I have these $30 boots from target that look EXACTALY the same as my friend’s Steve Madden ones that she paid $100 for! Who cares where your clothes come from as long as you are comfortable and love what you are wearing! Labels don’t matter!!!


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