Budget tips

Designer clothes

What merit is there in buying designer clothes?

I was first prompted to ask myself this question many years ago. I read an article about some pranksters who cut the labels from some illustrious designer clothes. They sewed those labels on to ordinary clothes of good quality. They then talked to people about their clothes to find out if anyone would realise that they were not actually designer clothes. Nobody could tell the difference.

I did a little experiment myself as I had some designer suits, including one with no visible insignia. I asked around to find out if anyone could tell whether or not my suit was a designer suit. I did get some strange looks but nobody could tell whether it was a designer suit.

Next I examined the quality of my designer suits by comparing them to my no-name suits. I compared the fabric, seams, buttons, pockets, zippers, the stitching and general quality of construction. In all cases the seams were straight, double stitched, no loose threads, straight sewing, no apparent needle holes, no loose ends and the cotton seemed strong. I always check the seams when buying clothes to ensure quality. I could find no difference in the fit and the comfort.  I simply could not tell the difference between good quality no-name suits and the designer suits. The price differences were significant.

I had also spent $250 on a beautiful pair of rolled gold cuff links, a considerable sum 30 years ago. I wore those cufflinks once, realised I didn’t actually need cufflinks. Now, 30 years later those cuff links remain in a box of odds and ends. Both the links and the box remain in pristine condition. So much for yielding to temptation.

I had been buying designer clothes under the impression I was getting quality and appearance. Equal quality and appearance were available at a significantly lower price. All I needed to do was shop around and check the quality myself. Two trouser suits are good value as the jacket normally lasts longer than both trousers. Another alternative if expensive suits are needed is a tailor. A tailor made suit with three pairs of trousers can work out cheaper than three good quality single trouser suits while yielding a superior fit and quality. It can compare favourably to two suits each with two trousers. Shop around.

I could no longer see the point of buying designer goods.

Two days ago I noticed a comment on Twitter which piqued my curiosity. That tweet asked “why do some women constantly mention the designers they wear”. I have noticed that sometimes people seem to make a point of mentioning their labels. I looked around the net to find some answers.

It seems research has been done confirming that designer labels do create perceptions that favourably alter the perceptions of others and tend to modify their behaviour towards the wearer. However that only works when it is known that the clothes are designer clothes. It seems that designer clothes do produce more favourable outcomes when meeting strangers for job applications, dating, collecting for charity and requesting favours. But only if the designer label is visible.

The findings are summarised in the following article from The economist


It seems designer clothing can confer certain actual, or at least perceived, benefits in the mating game. It seems that once again it needs to be known that the clothes have “labels”.


It seems the answer to our tweeters question has been answered. It seems the answer is that they must tell people otherwise they will remain unaware that the clothes have a label. The research clearly indicates that “labels” are of no value unless others actually know it is a designer item. And they won’t know unless they can see the label or are told.

It thus seems that designer clothes do have a use despite paying more with no increase in quality or fitting. The use seems to relate to the creation of surface impressions of ones self in the minds of others. However the research did not examine the perceptual effects of designer clothes over the long haul. Clothes are useful for a first impression. However over the course of any relationship the importance of “impressions” are dwarfed by the importance of character and personality.

Another matter not examined by the research is the potential negative effects that can be created by conspicuous consumption. Designer clothes are conspicuous consumption. As one gets to know another one may gain some glimmering as to whether they do indeed live beyond there means and may even conclude they are a wastrel. Should a person wearing designer gear turn out to be a lowly paid clerk one may reasonably conclude that he is likely to be spending beyond his means. And that is a unfavourable perception.

It thus seems that designer clothes can be useful for creating a first impression, if the label is visible. The potential downsides are that one might be seen as wasteful or somehow showy and flashy. Designer labels are a personal choice. if one does wish to buy labels it seems that decision should be formed by a rational calculus of the perceived costs and benefits given ones own personal situation and finances. That choice is yours.

It is clear that being well dressed does create a good impression of the wearer. So much so that even those on the tightest budgets must ask themselves if they can afford not to have at least one set of good quality clothes. Clothes, and appearance, definitely make a difference at crucial times such as a job interview. It is not clear just how much difference designer labels make. One can be well dressed without any “labels”.

I was recently asked who was the designer label for the shoes I was wearing. I happened to be wearing a $6 pair of shoes with uppers made from some unidentifiable material purchased from a discount chain store called Best & Less. That does make me wonder what people would believe if I stuck a “label” on them.

This research has further informed my decision on the clothes I wear. I have amended my decision. I will wear an accessory, a tie, with a designer monogram visible when I particularly wish to make a good impression. This has, for me, provoked a lot of thought on my clothing choices. I do look for good quality garments to wear to work however I tend to shop for clothes only when I really must. My wardrobe usually looks a little “tired”. I am now thinking I may need to spend more on clothing there being two questions to ask. The first being can one afford to buy top quality clothing? The second question is can one afford not to buy top quality clothing given the benefits of creating a favourable impression. Those benefits may include getting a job and perhaps a higher starting salary.

What are your thoughts on designer goods?

One thought on “Designer clothes

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