My daughter definitely has a penchant for the plain when it comes to fashion. Her wardrobe choices alternate between swim shirts and plain t-shirts, with either mesh shorts or leggings. So on a trip to the store for a new pair of goggles, I pointed out some solid-colored Nike t-shirts on a clearance rack.
“Oh, but it doesn’t actually say Nike on it anywhere? Never mind. It has to say Nike.”
When did my daughter become aware of clothing labels? I admit I love the feel of a quality piece of clothing and a new Lululemon piece does make my heart flutter a bit, but I’m not really a shopper and I definitely don’t insist on a label showing when I wear it. Where did I go wrong?
Without trying to sound like I was lecturing, I told her it was a nice shirt at a great price, so it shouldn’t matter if someone else knew the brand. She shrugged her shoulders and walked back over to the goggles aisle.
She had just taken a three-hour standardized test, so her dad and I told her she could pick a spot for lunch after we got her goggles. She chose Golden Corral. I will say nothing further about this choice. (They do have a salad bar.)
Just inside the front door, the allure of bright lights and spiked rubber balls in the claw machine drew her in, but we steered her away and found a seat. As we sat, I overheard the girl behind us, probably not yet twenty, laying into the guy she was with. Many choice words were spoken, and the most oft-repeated began with “F”.
“Bleeping look at you in your bleeping Polo and ironed pants and nice shoes! I’m in bleeping no brand sweats and no name anything. How are you not bleeping ashamed of me?”
Elle kept looking at me, wide-eyed. For about ten minutes, the girl continued to hurl self-deprecating accusations at him, pause for a response we couldn’t hear, and then come at him from a different, but equally abrasive angle. We weren’t trying to listen, but you couldn’t help but hear. Profanity flew and several choice topics were raised. And I couldn’t get over the irony of hearing this girl assert that what was most lacking in her presentation was the absence of designer labels just a few minutes after I had the labels-don’t-matter conversation with Elle.
I wondered if her parents ever had that conversation with her. I wondered if her parents had ever told her our manner of speaking and the way we carry ourselves sends a much stronger message than any logo or brand we wear. I also reminded myself that I knew nothing of this girl’s story, that it was not my place to judge, and that I have many friends with a heart of gold and mouth of a sailor. But I was sad for her.
When the young couple left the restaurant, Elle made eyes at me again, and I asked her what she had noticed about them. She had noticed the young lady’s flagrant profanity, she had noticed the anger in her voice, and she had noticed that the young man hadn’t said much at all. I asked her if she had noticed what each of them was wearing.
“No. Why?” she asked, and then immediately asked her dad if he would try to win something for her from the claw machine.
I desperately wanted to resurrect the clothing-labels-aren’t-what-really-matters lecture. But I bit my tongue, happy that at least for now, regardless of wanting her Nike label to be visible, she wasn’t actually sizing people up by their outward appearance. And I’m grateful that at least for now, her dad winning her a spiked rubber ball from the claw machine still makes her happier than donning a designer label.