Lets start this one off with a short story and some questions – you’re walking down the street and you happen to notice someone, no one in particular, just a random person that has caught your eye; you look them up and down (all very subtly of course) and instantly you have made a judgement of what kind of a person they are. You haven’t formed your opinion entirely on the style of clothes they wear, although you will have taken this into account, you will also have noticed the brands they’re wearing. We are all guilty, although it isn’t really a bad thing; it’s just a part of our attitude towards fashion and style.

So, to be able to properly consider brand association and just how much of an effect it should have on our own fashion/style choices we need to ask ourselves; do we associate specific brands with particular types of people? Does this immediately affect our opinion of them? Can the clothing brand really make that much of a difference to an outfit and should we allow these ideas to influence whether we invest in such brands?

It would be fair to say that we all associate different brands with specific people. In general terms you may, for example, link sportswear brands (Adidas, Nike, Reebok) to the packs of polyester clad prats that sit around drinking special brew in the park, shouting at passers by. Unfortunately however, things are not always quite this clear cut. In many cases brand association differs between age group, geographical location and social class. Each generation grows up with a style of its own, with its own particular brands, which, unless you’re talking about established companies, will vary substantially.

Different places will also adopt different styles; if you were to go to the big cultural areas such as London, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester etc you are likely to find more people embracing diversity and variety to create their looks. In this situation brand association isn’t quite as important, you wear what you want because it suits your ideas and personality. In other cities or smaller towns you might well see association having more of an influence, as the desire to conform and fit in is much more powerful in places where diversity isn’t really as accepted.

Location Influence

It is worth remembering that the level of acceptance within fashion and clothes means brands will enjoy varying levels of influence depending on the place. In Brighton for example, Fred Perry is a brand that goes across the board, it’s worn by all types of people from all age groups and with different styles – I even overheard someone refer to one of their piques as a Fred. On the other hand, 40 minutes away in Reigate – according to one of my flatmates – Fred Perry is squarely in the “chavvy” domain and It tends to be worn more often than not within this group. So you could certainly argue that we will all have preconceived ideas of a person based on what brands they wear simply because we associate those particular brands with that type of person. But how does that affect us?

It’s a fairly safe bet that as you all read FashionBeans and any number of other fashion related websites (possibly even browse Mr Porter on the odd occasion – we can all dream) that your appearance is a very important part your life. You don’t want to look like the slovenly oaf that you saw earlier, dragging knuckles down to the shops for a bag of chips. No, you want to look good whenever you leave the house. Perhaps it is no wonder then that you might avoid like the plague the brands that you would normally associate with such a person, but need this be the case? I think one of the biggest issues with this problem is that you might well be depriving yourself of the best brands available to you. Of course a lot depends partly on the factors I mentioned earlier, but to miss out on Fred Perry, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Hugo Boss and the like means you miss out on some excellent pieces from companies with masses of heritage (in the case of Hugo Boss, a rather colourful history).

Reinventing a Brand

To help you along many brands have undergone major remodelling in recent times, notably French Connection who seem to have toned down the FCUK line and introduced a lot more classic and timeless items and the new Lacoste L!ve range has revitalised a somewhat maligned and little considered company.

The key with making the many brands that you might otherwise avoid is to look past the man on the street and focus more on the brand itself; the image of a skinny chap in tracksuit bottoms, hideous trainers and a brightly coloured polo is not a true representation of what these places can really produce. If you avoid the neon coloured, garish designs you can make use of the much more subtle and ultimately suitable offerings. A classic Fred Perry, Lacoste or Ralph Lauren pique is far superior to many of the alternatives on the high street and are well worth the investment.

Some Example Pieces

So below we have a roll call from the new season by some misaligned brands. Pieces from Fred Perry/Fred Perry Laurel, Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and French Connection are featured, and you should be able to see how all these pieces have a timeless appeal or can offer your wardrobe some much need vibrancy without being over the top:

  • Fred Perry Laurel Wreath Slim Fit Ltd Edition Japanese Polo
  • Fred Perry Long Sleeve Gingham Shirt
  • Fred Perry Laurel Men's Cardigan
  • FRED PERRY LAUREL K7133 Mahogany Knit
  • FRED PERRY LAUREL M7116 Feather White Shirt
  • Fred Perry Webbing And Leather Belt
  • Striped long-sleeved regular fit shirt
  • Classic fit trousers
  • Lacoste L!VE Ultraslim Fit Polo Shirt
  • V-neck cotton sweater
  • Slim-fit long-sleeved shirt with blue & white piping
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Camel Pima Cotton V Knit
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Sky Classic Custom Fit Mesh Polo
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Navy Logo Chino Shorts
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Plaid Linen Scarf
  • ralph lauren Stripe cotton shirt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Slim Straight Dark Rinse Jeans
  • BOSS Peric Blue & White Gingham Check Shirt
  • HUGO Lancelot Biker Jacket
  • Hugo Boss Black Indigo Logo Button Down Shirt
  • BOSS Janis 38 Green Stripe Pique Polo Shirt
  • Hugo Boss Single breasted herringbone linen jacket
  • BOSS Green Apache Mesh Trainers
  • Nautical Stripe T-Shirt
  • Aquarius Check Shirt
  • Golden Wales Shorts
  • French Connection Basic Polo Shirt
  • French Connection Aurderly Cardigan
  • French Connection Lightweight Shorts
Conclusion & Debate

Who you associate specific brands with shouldn’t necessarily affect whether you invest in them, unless you have a particular dislike of a company or companies (my personal hate is Abercrombie & Fitch and all the associated off shoots). It is in your best interests to give your wardrobe as much variety as possible; unfortunately mine suffers from an overload of Fred Perry but I really like the brand, its heritage and its products.

By avoiding the obvious no go areas and sticking to classic pieces (we are always talking about versatility and maintaining a transitional wardrobe) you can create some truly stylish outfits and show your in-depth understanding of brands and their history. Remember that the entire outfit will also affect the influence of the brand in general; a carefully considered timeless outfit will bring out the right side of the image. You could argue that this is more an issue of stereotyping but the principle still stands; ignore them and fully embrace everything… unless you really really don’t like it.

In the words of the great modern day philosopher Taio Cruz: “I’m wearin’ all my favourite brands brands brands brands.”

So now it’s time for your opinion:

  • Does brand association affect you? If so how?
  • How much difference does a particular brand make to an outfit?
  • Which brands would you usually associate with whom?
  • Are there any particular brands that you avoid simply because you don’t like them?
  • What are your favourite brands?

Let me know in the comments below.