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Lessons in Branding at Twelve

How a spoiled twelve-year-old learned a lesson in popularity and branding.

Photography by Samuel Zeller

I grew up lower-middle class. I always had more than I needed but not as much as my peers. Going through middle school with the cutting-edge technology of Myspace and MSN Messenger was tough. For the first time, what others had was not only on display during school hours, but whenever one got home and logged on.

I remember the trends when I went through school: Hollister shirts, Abercrombie jeans, Sperry shoes, and Coach purses. Imagine a twelve-year-old carrying a $300 handbag. There was a trend with these popular items—a name. No, it did not matter how beautiful the piece of clothing was, its quality, or where it came from.

I have always been a bit of an outcast—known to dance to the beat of my own drum—but while wearing the same as everyone else. I remember one day in particular, I asked for a pair of Sperry shoes and a Coach handbag for Christmas. What I received was a pair of Aloha Island’s that looked identical to Sperry’s but cost $20 at the Shoe Show and a Coach bag that was clearly not authentic.

For about a week, I was furious with my mom. How was I going to go to school wearing knock-offs when everyone else had the real deal? At the time, I wasn’t concerned with the fact that my mother couldn’t afford the real items or the thought and the time that it took her to find the best she could afford.

However, before school went back into session, I found a philosophy that I carry with me to this day. Do my peers like the product or the name? If they truly liked what they were wearing, the price tag would not matter. Now that I have grown in my beliefs, I no longer look for names. In fact, I spend time finding items without branding on the piece. Instead, I look for quality and ethically made pieces that will last me through every trend and every season. Before indulging in the name brand piece, I ask myself: “would I buy this if it were an unknown brand?”

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