Walking with a friend the other day, I found myself admiring his shoes, laceless black slip-ons with a white rubber trim. Always on the lookout for interesting menswear pieces to tell you about, I asked my friend, a writer at a notoriously hip magazine in New York, where he’d gotten his kicks.
“I like your sneakers,” I said brightly. “Where are they from?”
“Urbrb rbrbrb” he mumbled in reply.
“Urban Outfitters,” he whispered – literally whispered – in the deserted street.
Seriously? I laughed, as he sheepishly cast his eyes downward.
I let the matter drop, after a totally necessary “You are ridiculous.”
It struck me as strange that my friend – that any guy – would harbor shame over the label on their shirt tag. Or in this case, shoe tag. Probably because when someone compliments something I’m wearing, my response is usually a proud detailing of the deal I snagged (“It was 75% off!”) and where I got it. And yes, the answer is often a mass retail store.
Here’s why fashion shaming is stupid:
If my friend was ashamed to be wearing shoes from the hipster McDonalds that is Urban Outfitters, he’d have been downright horrified by the humble mish mash of stores that made up the outfit I was wearing. A list that included the likes of Gap, Kohl’s, JC Penney and yes, Target.
In his defense, the whispered response was more like a stage whisper, so I’d like to think he was at least half-kidding. But the notion that he felt guilty about his apparel’s pedestrian origins at all…well, it worried me.
Why should anyone be ashamed to be “caught” shopping at a retailer found in most major cities with a major e-commerce presence online?
Sure, maybe Urban Outfitters is somewhat “over the hill” in its apex of cool, but just like sometimes a satisfying-if-unhealthy $4.99 extra value meal from McD’s golden arches hits the spot, so does a cool-but-cheap pair of sneakers that probably set him back less than ten dollars.
Of course, I love my unique “finds” – a handmade necklace from a craft fair, a dress purchased in France, a designer bag snapped up at a sample sale for a steal. But those are the exception, not the rule. I’m glad to have some items in my closet with a good story, but sometimes the story is the deal, or the revelation that the sweater I’m wearing is from none other than Abercrombie & Fitch.
Now I’m curious, is this label shame something you guys out there think about a lot? Or is my friend a snobbily paranoid party of one? And at the opposite end of the label-conscious spectrum, I wonder how many guys experience label envy? I know far too many women who go to bed dreaming of Chanel bags; how many guys lay their head down at night with visions of thousand-dollar double monk strap Ferragamos dancing in their heads?
Just tell me, do I need to rethink everything I’ve assumed about the male psyche when it comes to style? Because I’m much more concerned with what your clothes look like on the outside, rather than what label’s tucked inside. And I think I can confidently speak for most women on that.
So, no more whispered fashion brands, k? Great.