Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brand Loyalist?


Left: Mall Kiosk Aviators (also seen here and here)
Left Center: Ray-Ban 3362 Cockpit (via Zappos)
Right Center: Ray-Ban 3025 Aviators (via Zappos)
Right: Ray-Ban 2132 New Wayfarer (via Zappos)

I have a new admission to make: I'm a brand loyalist.  I didn't even realize it until last week, when I tortured Anne-Marie with a lengthy gmail-chat session about whether or not I should keep one of the pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses I had purchased via Zappos.

I've long admired the classic styling and fairly subtle branding of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and though I normally buy myself a cheap pair of sunnies every summer, I decided that this year I would take the plunge and buy a nice pair that would last me a long time and protect my eyes.  I ordered the pair that most closely resembled my mall sunnies, the classic Ray-Ban aviators, and the other classic style I like, the Wayfarers.  I had grown so attached to the look of the mall sunnies, though, that I couldn't decide.  Plus, I was hung up on how popular these styles are with celebrities and wanted to resist buying something simply because it's worn by the rich, famous, and (un)talented.

Anne-Marie patiently worked through my neuroses with me and helped me realize that Ray-Ban is actually quite similar to the other brands I'm normally drawn to, so it was unlikely that I wanted them just because celebrities sport them.  In general, I like to own high quality, timeless staple items that will last me for years, and I periodically purchase inexpensive, on-trend items to keep my style fresh.  Ray-Ban manufactures a high quality product with classic, timeless styling.  I would consider their price point in the "luxury" category, but not in the "exorbitantly overpriced" arena.  After discussing it with AM, modeling each pair several times for my husband, looking at these photographs, and taking a cue from the Don Henley song my husband cued up, I decided on the Wayfarers.  I've been buying plastic tortoise shell frames in different variations for about ten years and I think my interest in aviators might be a passing fad.

But all this talk about Ray-Ban made me realize just how loyal I am to my favorite brands and products.  I wanted to share my brand loyalties with you all (even though I'm self conscious about some of their price points and think my dedication to them borders on neurotic) in hopes that you'll share with us some of your favorite brands and/or your own reasons for buying some brands instead of others.  So here goes--
  • I've written before about my loyalty to the Express Editor trouser.  I own about 6 pairs that I've purchased both retail and via ebay, and I literally do not own or shop for any other style of trouser.
  • I used to wear Abercrombie jeans exclusively because I loved their fit, but eventually the ethics (or rather, lack thereof) of the company angered me so much that I stopped purchasing them.  It was harder for me to give them up than I'd like to admit, though.
  • I only run in the Nike Women's Pro Training Bra (worn inside out). The only running shorts I own are the Under Armour Escape model.  I replace my Asics Gel Kayano running shoes about twice a year.  These items are all overpriced, IMO, but the sporting goods store near my house puts the old models on clearance when the new designs come out, so if I shop one season behind, I can get great deals... but I wait for them.  I'm not interested in buying anything else.
  • Two years into my relationship with my beloved black Kate Spade bag, I purchased a similar style in cream to serve as my summer month bag.  Kate Spade must sell them at a discount somewhere because authentic ones can always be found at about 50% off retail on ebay.  I also wear Kate Spade eyeglasses, and I like them so much that I had new lenses put in the same frames this year when I needed a new prescription.
  • I buy from Zappos whenever possible.  I love their core values as much as I love their customer service.  I freaked out a little bit when the were essentially bought out by Amazon, but this article calmed my fears.
When Anne-Marie wrote about the way her personal style is currently evolving, Sally of Already Pretty commented that "If you decide how you want to look and never flex or grow, you'll end up looking stodgy and dated in a heartbeat."  I tend to agree with her suggestion here, but at the same time, I'm the type of person who knows what she likes and sticks with it.  It's just my personality.  While Katie would rather own several different pairs of inexpensive shoes than a single expensive pair, and I think the variety in her shoe collection is really fun, I'm happy to wear my LRL black wedge heels until they fall apart on my feet (though I anticipate this will never actually happen because they're so well made).

  • How do you go about choosing sunglasses?  Do you own luxury sunnies or cheap ones?
  • Are there any brands or items of apparel to which you are loyal?  What are they?  Why have they won your loyalty?
  • Or do you think I am a little out of my mind for stalking a single kind of sports bra until it goes on clearance?
  • Will someone please tell me if, a few months down the road, my style becomes woefully boring and static?  I really do believe that buying inexpensive "on-trend" pieces adds enough flavor to my classic pieces to keep my style from looking "stodgy and dated," but I could be wrong.  
(Scholar Style Guide is not sponsored by any of the companies I've mentioned in this post.)


Michelle said...

Liz, your questions prompt more than a short comment here allows! (We should have lunch to discuss!) I think we share some similar style aesthetics, and I too know what I like yet am sometimes worried I'm drifting into a static, dated dress sense.

What I'm curious to have you ladies ponder as you start to teach on campus is how you'll balance the style-comfort shoes paradox. One of the perks for me in finally teaching in the building that houses our department was being able to bring out my heels more often. For the past few years, Danskos w/trousers have been my go-to choice. Thoughts?

Iris said...

I don't think that there is anything wrong with sticking to what works for you but, you should definitely step outside of your comfort zone every once and a while and try somehting new. I think that experimenting with less expensive trendy items is a great way of doing that!

Nate C said...

I'm glad you chose the wayfarers...now, if need be, you and Ellwood can go on a mission from god.

I have some very strong allegiances to a few companies...but that doesn't mean I ever pay full price. I know what Nike shoes and gear will fit like, so I can shop anywhere online for it. Same goes for my Kangol hats or my Smith sunglasses.

Cheap sunglasses can be a fun way to play different characters. Expensive sunglasses are a commitment, and thus seem to represent my true personality a little more closely.

Personally I find great pleasure in "thrifting" my clothes and wearing great accessories. I know that I can pull off a $2 shirt and $7 pair of pants if I have a smooth hat and sunglasses. But I'm lucky, I have a good frame to build upon.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Finally! Photos of your frames! For the record, I did not feel tortured by our earlier conversation along these lines. On the contrary, it prompted me to work through my own brand loyalties. Or lack thereof, really. 'Twas fun to chat and fun to read this post, too!

I agree with Nate that certain brands and their respective price categories make them veritable aesthetic commitments. According to your post last week, you seem to have established yourself aesthetically, so it makes sense that you have also identified brands that align with your style. The existence of this blog, though, says to me that you're invested in (re)styling within your aesthetic, and such experimentation is the antithesis of, as you say, "stodgy and dated."

As for my own loyalties, I have few, and I attribute this to my own evolving style. I buy Nike sneakers because they fit my narrow feet best; I buy Gap jeans; I buy OPI and Essie nail polish; and I buy Victoria's Secret bras. Everything else I play by ear. I have not yet chosen a bag brand of choice. Working on it. :)

- Anne-Marie

Scholar Style Guide said...

What's so funny about my last post is that when I wrote that I'd rather own six pairs of inexpensive shoes than one great pair of investment shoes, I realized that I never, ever thought I would hear myself (see myself?) write that kind of statement. And yet, it's true.

The change in perspective occurred mostly because of the realities of my economic situation. With my income, even my "investment" pieces have to be bought on sale or come at the cost of a several months long shopping drought. I think if the portion of my income required to really invest in nice things wasn't so high, I would have a much easier time spending money on nicer items of greater quality (and higher price). Until then, though, I don't see enough return on investment to commit. Though I do love Liz's wedges and Kate Spade purse! Hmm...maybe I should reconsider...

Also, to address the prompts:
1) I lose/break sunglasses too often. Cheapo ones from Target or H&M for me.
2)I would be more loyal to Cynthia Rowley handbags if I could afford to - I have 3, and I love, love, love them.
3) Absolutely not. A good sports bra is hard to find.
4) You are not boring or static at all, and I can't really see you reaching that point at all. Plus, I think SSG makes us think enough about our looks that it won't happen.


Michelle said...

I didn't get into confessing my brand preferences above, so I've returned to answer the prompts like a good scholar. (In my case, I wouldn't call them loyalties so much as preferences; if I found they were no longer consistent in quality or sizing, I would seek out something else.)

1. You did set me thinking about brands I do return to time and again, which first brought the Danskos to mind. They score *very* low on the fashion meter, but when I realized I could go from teaching at 9:30 a.m., through an evening seminar, get home at 10:00 p.m. and still have happy feet, they won me over. (And I used my personal rule of thumb that if three people independently recommend a brand/type, I will have to give it a go.) Thus I will be eager to see what you gals do for teaching. I'm intrigued by the Fluevogs I see around on a number of other blogs and may investigate.

2. Sunglasses: Oakleys when I'm wearing contacts; Lulu Guiness frames that I had prescription lenses put in for days I want to wear my glasses.

3. I like handbags, totes, and messengers generally and have far too many, from durable nylon or canvas (Kipling, Crumpler, Manhattan Portage) to leather (most often Coach--but never a signature bag). I vary between buying a relatively expensive bag with a few cheaper trendier ones. In the latter category, however, I am disappointed when they wear too quickly. I bought a Rafe for Target purse a couple summers ago and when the piping wore out after only a couple uses, I regretted the purchase.

They say confession is good for the soul, but I'm not so sure when it comes to admitting the scope of my materialism. Back to the dissertation prospectus!