Brand names are a tricky beast. In America, we live in a culture obsessed with them, so obsessed, in fact, that grown men and women now wilfully walk the streets in cheaply made t-shirts emblazoned with nothing more than a large brand name advertisement. It is, I suppose, easier to try and impress another person with a big bad logo, rather than the vagaries of quality and style. Why tell a person who you are and who you'd like to be in conversation when you can just cut to the chase and wear a t-shirt with the name of the beer you like?
In fairness, though, I'm just as label conscious as the next guy, in my way. In my various adventures in the world of other people's junk, I have my favorite things to look for. But the last thing I want is to have my brands written in large silkscreen on the outside of the clothes. No, I look for certain brands as a benchmark of quality and a guarantee of style. Take Brooks Brothers, for example. I know how an old suit from them will be cut, how well it will be made. I know that they're aesthetic is one I gravitate toward, and that the quality will be good, in an old piece. But brand name isn't everything, because I also know that they haven't turned out much of anything worth a damn in years. So what's in a name, really? The answer is everything, or nothing, or something in between. Like so many things in life, a healthy knowledge of brands and what they are can be a helpful guide, but a total unbending allegiance to them will be your death knell.
There are times when no brand at all will do just fine, as is the case with this pair of shoes. Plain toe pebble grain leather bluchers in what might be called English Tan...you know, that light orange tinted shade of brown. Always a favorite of mine, no matter how against the rules it may be, with a navy suit. If you happen to be a grown up, such a pair of shoes is hard to beat with jeans, too.
Big bad gunboats, with big bad leather double soles. As I was paying for some other things at a thrift shop the other day, I spied these behind the counter on the floor. Someone else had decided against them at the last minute, so I asked "those brown shoes, are you just going to put them back out? What size are they? How much?" My size,$7.99, less my 30% off coupon= $5.59. Sold, American.
These shoes have no discernible brand name. I suspect it has worn off the insole liner at the heel. However, my experience with trusted old brands like Florsheim's and Allen Edmond's has taught me to recognize the quality of these shoes. The leather is top quality, inside and out. The style is classic, and combined with the double thick soles, leads me to believe they are likely made in USA. Beyond this, it's clear that the previous owner cared for them well, probably kept them on shoe trees. In a case like this, a lack of any brand name was hardly an issue for me, nor should it be for you. Get to know quality. True, a brand name can help you skip forward a few steps, but it takes a back seat to real quality every time.
it's from the Gap? and it was made in England? How old is this thing, then? 1970s? When did the Gap ever have English made sweaters? I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I find the Gap repulsive, mostly. It's a crummy chain store in the mall, largely responsible for our current reliance on cheap sweatshop labor overseas, and largely responsible for our collective love of the big store logo sweatshirt. True, there may have been something very bad-ass about the first Gap in 1969 selling only Levi's and vinyl records, but that's long gone. What can I say, though, this is a nice sweater, and for a buck, I'm willing to ignore the brand and go with it. I wouldn't wear a Gap logo hoodie for a buck, not even for free, likely not even if you paid me, but this sweater...sure, why not? True, I have no idea what the phrase "100% authentic guaranteed fit" means on a size "Medium" store bought sweater, but who cares? No one has to know, and my dollar went to charity anyway.
In short, know your brand names, but don't let them fool you. At best, they will guide you towards quality, at worst they will lead you to sacrifice in exchange for an easy out. Often, the best stuff is unbranded or simply unknown. Let quality be your guide rather than mass appeal. Know the difference and tread lightly, and good luck.
p.s if shoes are your bag, a whole raft of them just went up for sale in the shop, along with other new items, of special note, some great beach-worthy vintage windbreakers. Have a look, and thanks for supporting my brand name.