The other morning I walked in and saw Gabe got some new shoes. I liked them, so I said, “I like your new shoes.” He shuffled his feet and replied, “Yeah? I got them on sale.” I retorted back at him, “No! You just like them.” He was puzzled. I think puzzled is a fair way to feel after that retort.
Gabe was only telling a part of the story. He was telling the part that allowed him an out. It left him free of judgement. Purchasing a product on sale is practical. Selecting a shoe for comfort is sensible. But spending your money because you like the way it looks or (worse) you like the way it makes you feel is frivolous, irrational and even vain.
It’s not often one replies to a compliment of their new shirt with, “Thanks, I like it because it looked good on me and made shoulders look larger than they are in reality.” A compliment like, “I love your new purse,” rarely gets the reply, “Thanks, it makes me feel really good because the brand is respected in my inner circle.”
It’s less of a lie and more a story we’re telling ourselves. We think we’re making practical decisions based on value and comfort, but if we dig a little deeper it may have more to do with identity and belonging. This is branding.
We’re all walking, talking individual people brands. Let’s take my favorite subject to talk about and poke fun at — me. Goodness gracious, could I be a bigger cliché-human-man-brand? I am a graphic designer who wears skinny jeans, TOMS and cardigans. I drive an old 4Runner I wish was older. I enjoy craft beer with my locally-sourced al pastor tacos. The only thing I enjoy more than indie movies is indie rock. The sweet irony is that I believe I am making these decisions on sound reasoning.
If I dressed for comfort, convenience and affordability I’d probably dress like Adam Sandler. Man, that guy is 100% committed to function over form. But I don’t and you don’t and that’s a good thing. We’re proud of the little brand we’ve created for ourselves. We curate it a lot more carefully than we probably realize. Or, maybe it’s just me. And, if that’s the case, this is a really embarrassing and unintentional confession.
But I doubt it. Even that dad rocking the Champion kicks with one blue stripe chose it over the Avias with two blue stripes. And, if I am right, it’s because those Avias just didn’t quite capture his pleated jeans and Life is Good personal milieu.
I told Gabe I was writing this and he contends that he really does make purchases for comfort. Some of his apparel choices do confirm his stance. The next time I compliment his new watch he better not say he bought it for the elasticity of the band or lightweight of the face. Because that is not why he bought it — he knows it. I hope he sees the light.
But, because of and in spite of this post, he will most definitely retort with “comfort.”