At my fancy Boston preparatory (high) school, I was quite conscious of brands: brands of clothing, school supplies, food, even cars. My clueless parents picked brands for us and stuck loyally to them. We brushed with Aim toothpaste, wore Levi’s pants, and drove Ford cars. Although I knew other products existed, I thought our way was the only way even if I coveted what my classmates had.
I’m still aware of brands, even more so, but I no longer want branding. I have little loyalty left to corporate America (or rather, corporate China). I buy most foods in bulk – anonymous and undifferentiated – into bags I bring. It is “coffee” or “rice” or “pineapple” and not Folgers, Uncle Ben’s, or Dole. Even packaging annoys me. I fret over empty aluminum cans. Before cooking, food should look like a pile of produce and bagged foodstuffs.
I buy almost all my clothes from thrift stores. My mother jokes that I buy my clothes by the pound, which is true from some thrift stores, but I also shop at high-end consignment shops at which wealthy San Franciscans discard their unwanted or ill-fitting surplus. At a thrift store, there is little choice of brand or color. Does the garment fit me and do I want it? My closet fills with a motley collection of beautiful, but random clothes. I avoid logos to focus on fit, construction, and quality. If one item wears out, good!, as I return to the thrift stores to spin again the clothing roulette wheel.
I don’t have loyalty even for underwear. In a fit of drunkenness, I shopped on-line for twelve pairs of underwear. Software should block such 2-4 am purchases. I picked random brands of stuff that might look good.
Years ago, I paid my fancy optician $300 for eyeglasses. As I wear glasses almost everyday, I should own a nice pair, and $300 is about what nice eyeglasses cost. Yesterday, I went on-line to Zenni optical to buy new eyeglasses for $33, including shipping! I free myself from optical stores and their overpriced, designer brands.
I’m not entirely free of branding. I do buy alcohol by brand. However, alcohol may be one of the last meritocratic forums for brands. At a bar, I may not see the pouring bottle or keg label, so I can judge the drink on its contents: color, smell, taste, and alcohol. Some San Franciscans may even brand marijuana. Dispensaries offer a range of products, free from the street dealer that sells just one product called “marijuana”.