05 April 2007

Don't Label Me

A few days ago when I wrote about my failed shopping expedition, I mentioned that I like Ralph Lauren stuff as long as it doesn't have the polo player logo on it. The catch is that only a small portion of the product comes without that logo, which brings us to the corollary to my thoughts about boring clothes and my difficulties finding things I like: too damn many logos and labels.

Men's clothing (and, to a lesser extent, women's) is a wasteland of logos: horses, reptiles,
rhinoceri, birds in flight, various swooshes and stripes, numerous faux heraldic crests, sailboats, flags, mountains, trees, clovers, stars, moons (most of those are real). J. Crew started putting a guy with an oar on some of its outlet-store merchandise, in case it's unclear to anyone what "crew" they're referring to. Even the frickin' Gap, usually a refreshingly logo-less refuge (except for the sweatshirts with the giant GAP on them), has polo shirts this season with an embroidered gothic G on them. Swell. Thanks, Gap.

When I was a young lad back in the paleolithic (pre-cable TV) era, clothes didn't really have logos. The one place you would have found a label was the little leather patch on the back of my jeans: first Wrangler, later Levi's. When I was a teenager those Lacoste shirts with the little embroidered crocodile showed up (we called them "alligator shirts"), followed a little later by the Polo players on their horses. I had some of each (it's no accident my first job was at Jordan Marsh--I was a shopper even back then), mostly because I wanted to fit in at school, but by the time I was in college I was realizing that I didn't really care for clothes with logos on them, and that fitting in wasn't so important to me anymore (a crucial life lesson, courtesy of American commerce).

A while back I started removing all the external labels and tags from my clothes. Many brands of khakis come with some sort of label above the back pocket: gone. Some shirts have a tag sewn along the sid
e seam of the pocket: gone. Even the leather patches on the backs of my jeans: gone. I used to ask the Mrs. to do it, but I've gotten pretty good at doing it myself; you just have to go slowly, do it before you wash the garment for the first time, and use very small scissors. The Mrs. was an accomplished seamstress in a previous version of her life--at her college theater she made costumes for the likes of Debra Messing and Robin Weigert--so we have every size and shape of scissors known to man on the premises.

However, she has informed me that despite her abundant skills, she has no intention of wasting her valuable time removing embroidered logos from
any clothing I buy (assuming it's even possible to do so, which depends on the manufacturing process). I don't feel confident enough to take that step myself, so I haven't yet figured out how to overcome this obstacle, which has prevented me from buying some otherwise nice things, which, if I let myself think about it too much, gets a little depressing and annoying, and I end up seeming a little pathetic.

This is why I end up buying a good chunk of my clothing from places like L.L. Bean and Lands' End. Their stuff may not be exciting, but it's mercifully unadorned. Plus it tends to be made a little better than department-store stuff and has better customer service backing it up. It's sad that I've become such a boring old fud, but I have to be true to myself: my clothes should express who I am without needing the
assistance of a supposedly status-conferring logo, and I should be able to get dressed in the morning without having to be a walking billboard.

(By the way, I used the Macy's gift card on their web site, on a pair of sneakers they don't carry in the stores.)

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