Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Quality Debate

Disclaimer: I wrote this a while back and never published it. Now, the election season is nearing it's climactic end, and the country is in a financial crisis. I figured I'd still post it anyway, after having spent so much time writing it (please forgive my dated references).

The race for the presidency is under way. The future of our lives and the rest of the United States of America all depends on these next few months. As each candidate begins vying for our support, we're exposed to a barrage of advertisements on television, a wealth of interviews on popular news programs, a plethora of signs posted in neighbors' lawns, and quite a few televised debates -- all designed to help us make an educated decision on who to vote for.

But I'm not a political person by any means, and hopefully you haven't stopped reading. This isn't an article about who to vote for. But it's all the talk about these debates that reminds me of a debate I've been a part of one too many times. Cheap vs. Premium clothes/labels.

I am sure there has been a time in each of our lives when we shopped at a 'discount' store (K-mart, anyone?), buying a Mickey Mouse shirt or light-up Power Ranger shoes with velcro straps. Many of us grow and look back at those bargain stores with an expression of utter disgust. It seems, once you've grown out of the K-mart phase, you move onto bigger and better - Old Navy, the Gap, American Eagle, etc. You grow a bit more, and foray into the United Colors of Benetton, J Crew, and Armani Exchange, spending a little more money for a bit more style. Eventually, you find yourself at Neiman Marcus, trying on a pair of $350 Rock and Republic jeans, pushing yourself further into fashion-related-debt.

So here's the question: Should you continue purchasing cheaper, mass produced clothing from mainstream stores and labels, or should you spend much more for stylish, better made clothing from upscale stores and boutiques? Are upscale boutiques simply a status symbol?

Instinctively, I say to save your money and invest in quality high end pieces. Of course, there are rules. Don't splurge on anything particularly trendy. A floral suit from Balenciaga's Spring 2008 collection may be "the look," but in six months, when that suit looks dated, you will have wished you had spent that money on, say, a Burberry trench coat, which will surely last you for several years. Even I will agree that spending high amounts of money on trend items is wasteful. Stick to classic colors, lines, and fabrics, and you will not simply have made a purchase, you will have made an investment. A personal example: I purchased a pair of Rayban aviators three years ago -- a classic in every sense of the word. I still wear them on a regular basis. A little over a year ago, I purchased a pair of Dior sunglasses - white, with a large blue "Dior" splashed across the temples. I rarely ever take these sunglasses out of hiding because they call for too much attention. They may have looked amazing when I first got them, but they were too trendy. And what do you know? I paid much more for the Dior pair than the Raybans.

But back to the question. I do understand why people would be opposed to high end clothing. It seems like a frivolous expensive for a flashy lifestyle. I have met more than enough people in my life who completely oppose spending 'too much' money on clothes, regardless of how amazing the clothes in question may be. I completely understand that a starving college student doesn't always have the freedom to spend $700 on that new pair of Louboutins at Cusp, especially when they can barely afford a tank of gas. But I feel like if you can afford it, why not? In all honesty, I don't always spend much on the clothes that I wear, but people assume that I do simply because of the [classic] high-end pieces that I've saved up for. A pair of skinny Levis, a top from Forever 21, and accessories from H&M that all add up to about $60 dollars can look like they cost an arm and a leg when paired with a Marc Jacobs bag, or a Chanel slingback. Of course, you'll be saving up for a couple months to even consider affording these things, but it'll pay off in the end.

I still shop at "cheap" stores. Target is one of my favorite places to shop for basics, for example. And the last four pairs of jeans I've purchased have all been from Levis! You can't go wrong with those stores!! I know the majority of our readers aren't going to be able to go out to Saks to pick up the latest "it" piece. But I don't think that's any reason to criticize people who can.

I'd love to hear what our readers feel about designer vs. mass produced clothing. What's your stand?