Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No-Name vs. Designer: the Parents' Dilemma

When my son developed a desire for brand-name clothing, Tommy Hilfiger was very big at his city school. My husband mocked people who wore large brand-names on their shirts, often musing, "The company should pay HIM to advertise their product on his chest." So our kids had a steady diet of this sentiment. On the other hand, middle school peers are really mean, and woe to the kid who wears dopey clothes. As a parent, this was a complete clash of values. I did not want my child to be stigmatized because of my anti-consumerism hoity toity ideas. But on the other hand I didn't want to completely surrender to the Gods of Materialism.
One way to address the problem worked well. When he needed new clothes we would head to Marshalls, which carried a mix of no-name clothes and designer duds. Having established that he needed a whatever, we would compare the cost of a decent quality non-name brand with the designer version, which was usually about 30% more. If Zach opted for the designer version, he paid the difference. Looking back this seems a little mean, since he didn't have a lot of money, but then again - he didn't have a lot of expenses. If I were doing it again, I would give a clothing allowance which could be spend on the brandname differential or pocketed. That would make the choice even clearer.
In any event, for awhile he went with the Tommy Hilfigers and the Timberlands et al. Thankfully he finished the branded-clothes phase a couple years later and discovered the wonder of thrift stores: better clothes for less money.
This son, by the way, is now a financial educator. Brag! Brag!
What strategies do you employ to align your kids' consumption with your values?

Image from www.youregood.com.au


Sandra Hamlett said...

This is becoming a hard one for us. We have two girls in middle school and they are inundated with brand names from friends, from websites, movies, etc. We've always been quite keen on our individuality and it's a real struggle to see the girls wrestling with this desire to do what everyone else is doing. The girls have an allowance and they can buy clothing with this. My step-daughter (11) is much more into the whole "shopping" mentality. If she had the chance she would live in the mall. My daughter (11) is focused on value. She's realized that it's not worth blowing you're whole allowance brand-name. But my husband and I are uncomfortable with the amount of time they both spend surfing clothing websites. We keep reinforcing our values and they know they are not going to get whatever comes into their heads but it's a struggle when almost everyone kid they know gets "stuff" all the time. I sometimes want to shake these parents and ask them why they are doing this to their kids.

Sandra Hamlett

Anonymous said...

It can be so difficult. My kids haven't reached that age yet, but I remember being made fun off because my mom had bought be the designer knock-off shoes in middle school.

The solution? My oh so smart mom decided that if we couldn't beat them, we'd join them, for cheap.

She scoured second had stores and the like for used designer shoes and I ended up with a closet full and never was made fun of again. While other kids' parents spend 75 dollars for their shoes my mom paid 1 dollar.

Take care


L said...

That's a great idea you had. I say head to ebay for a kid to look for inexpensive items. Sure it may be a knockoff,if you buy from a reputable probably not, but kids won't know the difference. at least not until high school. By that time he can get a better paying job and can buy his own clothes.

Anonymous said...

I am new to you blog, and I already love it! I have 2 12 year old daughters who are the 'brainy' kids at school. 95% of their friends are fairly wealthy, and we are at the exact opposite end of the gap-barely making it. With high IQ's come lots of special clubs at school- all of which cost MONEY! I am willing to shell out $40.00 for their brain- powered activities! They recently signed up for intermural bowling once a week for $1.00 a game, $4.00 a week for 2 hours of after school activity they LOVE! Bowling at the regular lanes is $2.75 a game, CRAZY!!! They both play instruments- the flute and drum. Got the flute from a woman who used to volunteer at my library. $75.00 for an $800.00 flute-excellent! Found the drum on ebay-brand new, but a cheap no name brand. The teacher singled my daughter out and expressed that we should have tried to buy more quality intrument-THE NERVE! Wrote him a letter that I would kindly accept money donation from him to help buy a pricier drum. He never said another word. We live a 5 minute walking distance from a Good Will store. They get stuff from a Target store a county away all the time. The girls and I walk down quite often, and have gotten sooo many name brand new and like- new clothes, the kids at school think we are well-to-do also! JC Penney is 3 stores down, and with the $10.00 off coupons, early morning sales, and 70% off racks, we make out like bandits!!! ROSS Dress for Less and TJ Max are also good for their clearance racks on clothes that are already 30-50% off regular price. My dad owns a shoe repair business, and buys them trendy sneaker at whole-sale prices. We can get $85.00 sneakers for $25.00! We also talk frequently on how clothes will soon go out of style, but being a good person is timeless. My girls don't get allowance- can't afford it at the time, but try to give them movie money once a month to go out with their friends. They often have friends spend the night instead of going out with them...way more cost efficient! What does a box of Grocery store 3 pack of popcorn cost? $1.50. 2 cans of grocery store brand all fruit juice? $3.00. Grocery store brand cake mix? .85$ Carrots 2/$3.00 dip? $1.00 total price to feed 4 girls for a night of music, laughter, fun, and 'makeovers'? $6.35! I am considered the 'cool' mom by the girl's friends, although we do not live in a big house, or drive new cars (10 year old Chevey, and 17 year old 'camping van') or have XBox, movie channels, have pizza delivered, etc. It is all in the attitude, and living like money is the end all be all is the best way I can think to raise my kids!

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

This hasn't been a issue at our house -- yet. My 10-year-old daughter prefers sweatshirts with nothing on them. I plan to not allow any purchases with logos. I know that it may be insane, but it is one of the battles I am choosing to fight.

Anonymous said...

Hi there:

My kids have never cared about labels. We have an agreement: I buy it, you wear it. You don't like it, you get to go shopping with me next time. They're boys. They hate to shop even more than I do. So I pretty much buy their stuff and, since I have good taste, they're cool with it. The 20-year-old has, from time to time, done some shopping for himself. But the 16-year-old never has. Yet. :-)

Thanks for contributing this post to this week's edition of the Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Confessions of a Novice. The Carnival will be live on Monday, January 28, 2008, so be sure to stop by and check out all of this week's excellent submissions!