Avoiding the Brand Mania: As holiday season approaches, CHS students should keep in mind products associated with name brands are not necessarily of higher quality

Alanna Wu

Adhi Ramkumar

Last year, I discovered the phenomenon that is Supreme for the first time. I remember seeing the iconic red box with white lettering pop up on magazine covers, in my social media feeds and my daily life in general. At first, I was terribly confused as to why everyone had collectively decided to wear a simple white T-shirt decorated with nothing but a single word — imagine my surprise when I discovered people were paying upwards of $100 to be able to do so. According to the Old Navy website, a plain white T-shirt is around $5, and the price remains in the same range for other generic brands, which begs the question: is the logo — or any logo — really worth that much?

As time passed, I was introduced to other expensive brands: Stussy, Versace, Comme de Garcon and Lululemon, just to name a few. And as I discovered new brands, I also became exposed to a variety of wildly differing perspectives on said brands. Some say the satisfaction derived from wearing high quality products outweighs the price, while others scoff at the notion of what they see as ridiculously overpriced items. The generic-versus-name-brand debate extends outside of clothing, too; for example, brands such as Great Value sell reasonably priced variants of a variety of name brands, and yet I know many people who dismiss it as lower quality. Generic brands exist for all sorts of goods, but for the most part we seem to ignore them.

At times, I’ll admit I favor name brands as well, and in a variety of products. I consistently buy Oreos instead of the Trader Joe’s variant, insist on buying all of my jeans from American Eagle even though I don’t think they’re necessarily better quality, and, even for something as simple as laundry detergent, I can only ever purchase name brand. But lately I’ve been wondering if it’s worth it. These days, I keep seeing articles listing generic brands that are just as good as, if not better than, their more expensive counterparts. And even if the more expensive product is better quality, is the difference really worth the cost? I often find the answer to be a resounding no.

High quality products at a low price — to me, it seems a given that consumers would prefer those products. Yet these products get overlooked so consistently that in economics, they are defined as “inferior goods,” typically only purchased after one’s income declines. In other words, we prefer to purchase “superior goods,” name brand products, over inferior goods because the latter is associated with lower income and perhaps some level of poverty. However, I believe we should consider quality over arbitrary titles regardless of income. Extravagant purchases may be a great way to give off a sense of style or personal wealth, but there’s no shame in conserving money and making smart choices when shopping.

With the holiday season nearly upon us, many of us will do a considerable amount of shopping over these next few months. In this context, we should get rid of the stigma against generic brands and open our minds to products not associated with well-known trademarks.