It seems everyone wears logos. It used to be that logos were discreet, or even hidden, and you could tell the quality of someone’s clothing by the fabric, styling and how well it was constructed. But then in the 1970s, Levi’s and other jeans companies realized that their small logo tags were prized by consumers. A popular or expensive brand name on a tag was shorthand for announcing your own good taste and your ‘coolness’. And from there, the popularity of logos grew until it exploded in the label-conscious 1980s. Nowadays, you can see giant logos on t-shirts, hoodies, even jackets and footwear.
People actually pay for clothing that advertises itself and the company that made it! Ironic, really. But brands love it. The people wearing the logos are walking advertisements, walking billboards for the brand. The only drawback is that the brand has little control over who wears their brand, and whether the wearer represents the brand in a positive way. I mean, if a well-known criminal publicly wears a certain brand, it may not be purchased by people who do not want to be associated with such activity. Aspirational brands, the ones who want to be seen as high end high quality, often price their garments at astronomical price points, just to limit who wears them (at least to some degree).
With people on the street wearing logos and affecting public perception of a brand, the brand can choose to rely less on advertising and focus more on product placement, such as getting their items worn in a movie, or giving out freebies to internet influencers in return for being featured in blogs or Instagram posts. There is less control of brand image, but the financial returns are potentially greater.
But why do people choose to wear a logo, which could be considered as wearing an identity that is not your own? Well, as mentioned above, the brand logo could be the way you announce that you are ‘cool’, or that you have good taste (just in case it isn’t obvious otherwise). Or you could be communicating that you are rich, although if you drive a POS car but wear thousand dollar shoes, you may just be revealing your financial priorities….
You could be using the logo to tell others that you are a fan of the ‘lifestyle’ promoted by the brand. The most obvious of these are the athletic brands like Nike or Under Armour. However, most fashion brands currently utilize a ‘lifestyle’ form of advertising, a not-so-subtle way of suggesting that if you wear their brand, you too will be as gorgeous and confident as the models in their ads, and have as much fun as those models appear to be having. Subconsciously, we all have a tough time not internalizing these messages. If we wear the logo, maybe we can convince ourselves we are those fictional characters in the ads….
There are still a few brands who keep their logos subtle or even invisible. For example, Manolo Blahnik, a super-expensive high end footwear brand, has a very plain logo, just block capitals, and it is usually located inside the shoe only, where no one will see it. Is this perhaps reverse logo-ism? The idea that only really rich people can afford clothes without logos? I don’t know. Maybe the exclusivity factor is operating; the idea that only those who are ‘in the know’ will recognize the workmanship, style and materials of truly superior quality items.
Maybe some designers and manufacturers are fans of understated elegance. It’s possible that some brands will eschew logos in an attempt to avoid cheap blatant copies of their designs. We are all familiar with cheap rip-offs that just use logos to fool unsuspecting buyers. Just think of all the fake Coach or Louis Vuitton handbags out there.
Unusually for his age group, my teenage son hated wearing logos. He wanted generic items that didn’t tell anyone anything about him (he thought). Some kids like school uniforms for this reason too.
It seems most teens want at least one garment or item that is the popular brand-of-the-moment. It helps them fit in and blend with their peer group, even as it ‘shouts’ the logo writ large across their chest or other body part. Perhaps having attention paid to the logo helps self-conscious teens avoid unwanted attention to their own physical selves. As parents of teens all know quite well, a teen’s perspective on what to wear can be very different from the perspective of other generations!
Logos appear to be more popular with people between the ages of ten and fifty. Is this because people over fifty grew up in a time when logos were less important than quality? (Some would like to think so.) Or is this because older people tend to spend less on clothing and look for items with a longer lifespan, and logos are usually only popular for a few years at a time? Is this because children and older adults tend to be less materialistic? (Nice thought, but personally I doubt it!)
Am I personally a fan of logos? Sometimes I am. There are a few logos I am willing to wear even when they are large and obvious. I can’t figure out if I am trying to be cool (I have a terminal lack of dignity, so I suspect I am doomed to be dismally uncool forever), or whether I have some other motive. I hope I am not sucked into the subconscious belief that I will somehow attain the lifestyle pictured in fashion ads. I know from my own past as a fashion model that the ‘lifestyle’ pictured is false, and I know that the attractive images are often produced from some pretty uncomfortable experiences. (More on that in another post, another time.) And I also hope that I am not trying to be like the celebrities who wear the brands I also wear. But I am not egotistical enough to think I am totally immune to ‘logo pressure’ either.
Maybe I’ll just go ahead and avoid self-analysis on this.