I admit, I do look at labels when I buy second hand clothes. My main reason is so I don't pickup something that I know to be of low quality and becomes a waste of money from wearing out quickly.
When I do find a good quality item, I snatch it up right away and if the label is from a more expensive maker, it makes my search all the better. But I don't parade my logo around, making sure everyone knows - my main emphasis, if I do mention it, is that I can get quality items at the second hand store by taking the time to look carefully.
I bring this up because Consumerist recently brought up a study that was done that mentions how "'Elite' Shoppers Ignore Logos, Focus On Subtle Signals". The study is 15 pages long if you want to read it and I did find a few things that stood out to me.
First, some authors have argued that certain people may just avoid logos. Brooks (2001), for example, suggests that the educated elites engage in “one-downmanship,” rejecting traditional status symbols to avoid becoming materialists, and Davis (1992) argues that the rich dress modestly to differentiate themselves from the nouveau riche who are prone to opulent displays (also see Bourdieu’s  discussion of bourgeois discretion; and Weber 1904/2001). Subtle signals, however, are more than just the absence of logos. As we demonstrate, while some products may not use explicit brand identification, their design, shape, and other aspects may allow insiders to recognize the brand. Further, while desires for distinction may lead people to prefer versions of some products that do not contain logos, this does not mean that they dislike logos per se.They do seem to clarify why people may not want to have logos as part of their life - from the rejection of the appearance of materialism to not want to be a part of the "new money" and seem more upper crust, but the fact they still desire certain logos doesn't mean they don't ever look at them.
The next graph reminded me about a recent news item on sunglasses price and UV protection (vid) - ultimately, the price you pay is for the logo.
The best part about this article, from Consumerist, were the commentors opinions; I'll highlight a few:
"High Class men's clothing tend to follow these rules much more overtly then the women side. Good men's designers usually focus on fit and subtle details, like button material or stitching." -Dinhilion
"In my opinion, items that are plastered with logos are likely inferior in design. The consumer is paying for the logo, not the quality of the item. This is why I do not allow my children to wear logos or writing on their clothes, with two exceptions:
1. It's a cause (or local company) we support, or
2. They're getting paid by a sponsor to wear the logo" - 339point4
"We're not talking about Burberry or Louis Viuton - but rather names more mainstream brands, such as J Crew, LL Bean, Eddie Bauer and Timberland.
Many people here choose to wear those labels because they belong to a certain social group, many of whom also wear those labels and when they have a first-encounter, the J Crew label say to the other person , 'I'm just like you. I'm part of your group, and I see that you're part of my group - so we have an immediate point of connection and can relax and be comfortable with each other.'" - Straspey
An interesting part of the study was that when they were asked (study 3, pg9) about how the role of public consumption vs private consumption, or what you wear is determined by what others think.
When they are dressing up for the office, labels have a bigger impact than when they are just dressing for themselves. And this is more noticeable with those who have a "high fashion knowledge" as opposed to those who don't.
Do you figure that as we become more aware of labels, we become more aware of people's perception of us or maybe it is the opposite, becoming aware of what other's think makes us more aware of the labels? Which came first, the perception or the label?
It is interesting to note the different ways classes of people label themselves in the study. It appears people want to look richer than what they are and dress for a look that is a class above them. But according to the study, the higher class of people try to not have logos or signals that are obvious.
"Just as high-status individuals want to distinguish themselves from lower-status others (vertical differentiation) to facilitate desired recognition and interaction, people also want to distinguish themselves from outgroups of similar status (horizontal differentiation). The jocks may want to distinguish themselves from the geeks, but even within the jocks, football players want to distinguish themselves from swimmers and vice versa. Subtle signals should help provide differentiation from lower-status groups as well as those of similar status"
Consumerist commenter Warble wrote this example:
"A Coach bag is a great example of this, as a middle class woman who buys a Coach bag does so thinking it makes her appear to be more upper class because she's partaking in a more expensive brand. But upper class women don't carry Coach bags, because despite the price it's definitely a middle class bag. An upper class woman wouldn't be impressed by a middle class woman carrying a Coach bag.
But middle class women don't typically know upper class women, and don't need to impress them. Instead, they're actually trying to impress other middle class women who also buy into the myth. And so they're caught in an endless materialistic social treadmill, with the only benefactors being bullshit luxury brands."
After all is said and studied, what is the end result? I believe we have to look at this from a viewpoint of time. How is what we are buying impacting us for the current financial situation and the financial future?
What are your thoughts on brands and their labels?