Do You Know Brand Names

by Grace costofcollege

In many business and social situations, there’s value in being savvy about brand names.  Like it or not, we are often judged by our clothes, cars, and other accouterments of life.  And knowing the same about others can help us be more astute in all types of relationships.

Here’s the hierarchy of luxury brands around the world

Do you know how to pronounce Hermes or other brand names?  To make it easy on myself, I only say “Stella” when ordering my favorite beer.

The Right Way To Say 15 Brand Names You’re Mispronouncing All The Time

Are you brand-savvy?  Can you tell the difference between a Cartier and a Timex? (Okay, that’s probably an easy one.)  How important is it for you to know brands?  Do you feel judged by the shoes you wear or the car you drive?

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216 thoughts on “Do You Know Brand Names

  1. I grew up very middle class and my parents place(d) zero value on this kind of stuff. And for the most part, it is something lawyers don’t value much even in biglaw. A lot of people where I live do, though. Many of the women have the Van Cleef cross-like necklace, etc. If you detail-oriented, you can’t help but pick this stuff up if you around it a little. I have never heard of Graff, but I have never purchased a diamond.

  2. My children’s french teacher (a frenchwoman) told me how to pronounce Hermes, but I’ve forgotten. ermez?

    The one that puzzles me is when people say Ralph Lauren with the accent on the second syllable of Lauren. On TV commercials (and on Friends) they say his name correctly, but I still hear people say it like they know it has a fancy pronunciation!

  3. “lawyers don’t value much even in biglaw” Hmm, I’m surprised to hear that. In my limited experience (IMLE), they do. And it seems it would be important for the type of work they do.

  4. Off-topic – but Fred, thanks so much for the email with the travel tips/advice on Spain and Italy!

  5. On-topic – super expensive brand names like Gucci and Hermes irritate me. The main point seems to be to show people that you have lots of money. Why not just pin $100 bills to your clothes?

    I’m happy to pay more if I think I’m getting something that’s higher quality and will last longer – but I don’t see the point of paying more money just to have a status brand. Seattle is not particularly fashion conscious – a fact for which I am grateful.

  6. yeah, believe it or not, I guess I’m pretty well aware of luxe brands. Don’t have any, but I’m more of an ‘experience’ guy than a ‘thing’ guy.

    And, I am also good with languages, so pronouncing these names is pretty easy for me. It’s always astonished me how frequently (other) Americans mash up foreign (sounding) names. I can understand French ones, where letters are often unspoken. But so many are phonetic.

    I have trouble with longer, and I mean really long, Indian, Sri Lankan, and other south Asian names. But I get it after 1-2 times.

  7. SSM – you’re welcome (and thanks to CoC for forwarding). I have lots more specifics if you want them after you’ve decided.

  8. CoC – in my experience at a few different Biglaw firms, lawyers weren’t sporting Chanel bags and Zegna made-to-measure. They dressed nicely, but more like Louis V and Cole Haan, not ultra-luxury stuff. I think there is a subtle undercurrent that you don’t want to throw it in your client’s face that they are paying $750/hr for you. Plus, most lawyers can’t afford Patek watch level spending except for special things. Certainly not a regular expense.

  9. I’m so not into this–there’s nothing more shallow. They don’t matter in my line of work or among our friends, and we would never fit in with people for whom they do matter.

  10. The only “luxury” items I own are handbags (ex: Coach, MK, Calvin Klein), affordable luxury. Like mentioned above, not worth paying money for something just as a status symbol.

  11. The one brand on the list that I see women wearing is David Yurman. The rest that I see are affordable luxury items with logos mainly on handbags. Earlier in my career I used to see a lot of Tiffany sterling silver bracelets.
    I am interested in design, so it is not the brand but the design I am attracted to. Growing up, I was exposed to beautiful traditional designs in jewelry, detailed hand embroidery, embellished garments which has made me pickier than I would be.

  12. I’m not a fan of David Yurman, I remember that being really big in college. And Cat, that Van Cleef cross necklace, yuck. I do know how to pronounce most of them.

    I’m more into the affordable luxury section and usually on sale. I buy nice bags, but keep them for a few years and then consign them to my sisters. Most women around here seem to have a lot of Tory Burch/DVF/Alice and Olivia type stuff, but splurge a bit more on a Burberry trench and then add in some trendier stuff from Target.

  13. We have a few local shops that sell cheap clothes with great designs. Our weather is such that many women wear these summer type dresses and tops. These stores really nail it in terms of value. It is like having a Lily Pulitzer for Target event but all year long.

  14. I really do not like wearing clothes/shoes/jewelry or carrying bags with a lot of labeling on it – cannot stand Tory Burch or Louis Vutton which are heavily labeled. I do like some nicer things if there is quality or style that I am paying for rather than someone’s name/logo slapped on it, but more in the “affordable luxury” type range (e.g., Cole Haan shoes and bags).

    I am somewhat aware of brands even if I don’t wear or buy them, and I think I need to be since I work in the Marketing/Advertising industry (even in a more back office type role).

  15. Sooo, NObody likes brands? (unless it’s college brands) Should we talk about car brands?

  16. This is one of those things that I used to sort of care about, but don’t anymore now that I’m middle-aged. It also helps that not caring about brands seems to be the norm up here. Not many people in our area drive luxury cars. Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, etc. would stick out like a sore thumb in our town. Other than engagement/wedding rings, most women seem to wear non-precious jewelry. I find it nice to live in a place where even if DH and I cared about keeping up with the Joneses, we could afford to do so.

  17. Where I am now has a species that doesn’t seem to exist in Boston so much. The old school helmet haired socialite. There is a restaurant near the hotel that is just full of them. It all seems so Downton Abbey – you get all dressed up even though you have nothing to do.

  18. The one thing I’ve noticed is that Amazon is moving towards carrying a lot of brands in clothes. They will be a very tough competitor to the stores.

  19. One area where I suspect brands matter is vitamins/supplements because they’re not FDA regulated and manufacturing can affect absorption/product consistency pretty dramatically. I like Coromega fish oil, for example, because it is supposed to have good absorption compared to gummies or capsules.

  20. Milo,
    The brands I like are MB (~25 years driving), Toyota (25+ years, 40 yrs if you go back to HS), Lexus, Nissan (new to us), Audi (new in the past year to us).

    Drive ’em till no longer economically feasible or the safety technology really needs updating. Buy used (“pre-enjoyed”) where possible.

  21. Yeah, not a big brand person. I do like nice quality things but hate when I’m doing the advertising for you like that HUGE Polo logo they had out recently. When I see someone covered in logos, I think about how insecure they must be. Don’t know if anyone else is watching Happyish on Showtime, but this 30 second clip sums it up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iLVQzvuT7g

  22. Rhett – are you in Texas? That lady looks like Lynn Wyatt.

    I do like luxury brands but prefer the kind that don’t have labels. It is actually extra snobby because only the people who “know” can recognize my purse or watch as being expensive.

  23. Looking at the pyramid, Patek Philippe is pretty high up. They constantly advertise on the same news radio station that the men’s low testosterone institute, and the name your own star folks, advertise on. So I always assumed they were a cheesy brand.

  24. I like things that feel like little luxuries, but don’t like labels to show. So I used to really love the buttery soft leather of older Coach bags, but don’t like the ones sporting the C logo all over them. The leather does not feel as soft now. There is a Coach outlet near us where I browse, so maybe it’s just the outlet stuff that doesn’t feel as nice. They did have a leather coat in there this past winter that was so soft I thought about it for days afterwards. But it was close to $700, and I just don’t wear a coat enough in Houston to warrant spending anywhere near that. I know of some brands if they are popular with college aged kids, because my daughter keeps me aware of things. But some I just don’t get – the LV stuff is not attractive to me. I think Tory Burch looks fine, but the quality doesn’t seem to match the prices. Even Coach shoes I’ve owned, the quality hasn’t been there. We don’t have the money for the items nearer the top of that pyramid, and I wouldn’t prioritize them enough to spend money on. Most I would not recognize if they were placed in front of me because that’s just not where we spend our money,

    There are a lot of nice cars in my neighborhood. My husband joked that we would have to buy a Corvette after we moved into this house so he could fit in with the other men on the street. But after getting t-boned on my way to work this morning, I am reminded that it’s just a car. If mine had been an $80K something or other, I’d probably be much more upset right now. (I am not hurt – just car damage).

    I’d rather spend any disposable income on 1) retirement savings so that day can come sooner, 2) doing things I want to do to the house, or 3) travel. We are kind of looking at new cars in anticipation of a potential 4th driver this summer, and with some I’m thinking – we could have this, or we could get another Miata and have $20K left over. So I know we won’t buy any of the nicer cars we’ve looked at.

  25. I always assumed that brands like Tiiffany and Gucci were kind of mass market ostentation, aimed at nouveau riche types. I guess I figured that the old money people would be buying some secret brand, or perhaps just getting LL Bean stuff, to show that they were not newly arrived. But since I don’t actually know any old money people, perhaps I am wrong?

  26. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a rich neighborhood–LV bags at 13 and BMWs at 16 were standard. I’m *so* glad that I live in a more balanced neighborhood now. I felt poor back then, but I feel “middle of the pack” now. This is exactly where I want to be.

    I am so very Totebaggy when it comes to material things. Our luxury purchases are vacations. I keep telling my kids that this level of travel is not normal and is very much a luxury–that I, myself, had never been on a cruise until I was 40 years old. Not sure the message is sinking in.

  27. Atlanta – I also hate David Yurman. Too chunky. But I kind of like the Van Cleef stuff (like the single cross/flower thing). But for $300, not $12,000 :). I was shocked when I found out how much they cost. Same thing with those love bracelets Cartier makes. They should be $200, not $6,000!

  28. One downside of carrying a nicer handbag is that people think it is fake. I had a lady ask me if my Kate Spade purse was real or a fake. What a weird question! And that is not even a true luxury brand like Louis Vuitton or Gucci.

  29. One thing that was not at all on my radar is tennis shoe brands. Apparently that matters to some at my son’s school, because he said they mock his New Balance. He doesn’t care at all about any clothes, so I just order him shoes online at Zappos when he tells me he’s outgrown his last ones. He cares so little he won’t even look, just specifies no clown-shoe colors. But apparently in his peer group, the $150 whatever are the must-have.

    One other area that I realized we do kind of care about brands is in electronics. Some members of our family are Apple devotees, and will turn up their nose at lesser laptops.

  30. Speaking of shoe brands, what athletic shoe brands are durable for the elementary school boy set? I had 4 pairs of Skechers die prematurely this fall/winter so I’m DONE with Skechers, plus we have transitioned to tie shoes. (The advantage of Skechers was velcro.) Shoe must not look weird and should tolerate being in mud regularly. The two Fila pairs I have (two boys in same size whose last shoes died together) are wearing differently, which is interesting.

  31. Cat S — Your explanation about lawyers makes sense. I guess when I think of NYC big law types I think they have to be savvy about luxury brands, and know when to wear them and when not to. But then they probably tend to be understated in business dress, but perhaps flaunt their wealth otherwise. Not all, but some.

  32. I live next to two very wealthy towns, one of which is part of our youth soccer league. I always used to notice the difference between the parents at the sidelines during games. The wealthy parents tended to be blonder, slimmer, and better dressed. In many cases the luxury brands ARE nicer, whether in subtle quality or fit or “feel”. Sometimes it’s noticeable to me, but many times not.

  33. I spent my school years dreaming of having my very own coach purse. I always thought the leather ones were particularly beautiful. I love the colors that use. When I got my first real job, I found all of the secretaries had coach purses, or wallets. My peers seemed to all be carrying Jansport backpacks.

    I have a mixed relationship with brands. As a child, I did not have a few of the very important brand items in school, and it always made me feel quite poor. When I am with one of my good adult friends who grew up in the same neighborhood as I did, we still talk about not having a Benetton shirt in junior high.

  34. This is completely off topic, but I don’t think it is enough to make a separate post (though I know CoC wants posts – I promise I will think of something!)

    Last night I went to the high school awards night. My 9th grade DS, who has never won a single school award, got an award for art. He was embarrassed because he saw that as not serious. But I was really proud of him. He is a wonderful artist, and maker of graphic novels too. He gets the ability from me, and my mother, and if my mother were around, she would have been really proud too.

    But that is also not my main topic. I was most fascinated by the graduating seniors, specifically the top 19 or 20 (lost count) in the class, who were lined up and introduced to the crowd, with a listing of their great accomplishments. One by one, the prinicipal read off their awards and experiences. And they were amazing. Virtually all had taken 10 or 12 AP courses. They all had won numerous awards, had participated in not one but several varsity sports, often as captain, had run service outreach and created their own volunteer organizations. Several had held summer research internships at major research institutions in fields like neuroscience, or had volunteered in Africa, or had artwork published. My head was hurting from all the accomplishments when the principal finished. My 9th grader is clearly NOT one of these kids. And yet, the colleges they were going to, with some exceptions, were nice solid choices but not what I would have imagined. The kid with the major summer research work is going to Amherst, which is of course very good. Two kids are heading to Cornell and one to Georgetown. But the rest are going to solid but not Ivy schools: several to NYU, two to CUNY, one to SUNY, one to Villanova, one to Loyola, and some other similar schools. I have mentioned before that our district tends to not send kids to the top name brand schools, but I would have thought in this group, there would have been a Yale or Chicago or Brown. The other thing that struck me is that these kids, by and large, are staying pretty close to home. I think almost half are staying in NY, with a big clump going to NYC for school. Interesting.

    So what happens to my 9th grader who only wins awards in art and who will never be volunteering in Swaziland?

    The other thing that ran through my mind last night is “why do HS girls come to an academic awards night wearing gold glitter or chiffon dresses that barely cover their rear ends?” They all looked like they were heading to a cocktail party. Meanwhile, the boys were all in wrinkled polos and khakis, shorts in several cases.

    OK, end of off topic musing.

  35. WCE – talking of brands, for kids shoes we buy Nike. Have tried other brands (Adidas, New Balance, Skechers, Target unbranded) but we circle back to the Swoosh. I try not to buy the mesh uppers which tend to let in water. Also, I must not buy the “too flat” shoes. They usually last till it is time to go buy the next half size up.
    I like buying soccer cleats – there the more colorful the better.
    Under Armour is gaining popularity….
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/under-armour-works-to-cash-in-on-stephen-curry-1432824977

  36. “As a child, I did not have a few of the very important brand items in school, and it always made me feel quite poor.”

    In hindsight, I think it may have been a mistake not to buy my kids more name brands when they were going through school. Especially for girls, it opens a kid up to shunning or disdain.

  37. WCE – I love Tsukihoshi shoes for my 7 yo. They have held up much better than other brands that we’ve tried & my kid is an active boy too. He loves them. They are on Zappos (full price usually), but I’ve bought them cheaper on Amazon and 6pm.com which is Zappos outlet for old styles. They run slightly big.

  38. When I was in HS, you just had to have an Aigner leather purse and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. My jeans came from Kmart, and I didn’t even have a purse, so I felt a little underprivileged. Oh well, it builds character.

  39. Benetton and Esprit were big when I was in late elementary/middle school. My parents had a bunch of kids and not a ton of money, but they both grew up very poor and indulged me a bit on things like cool clothes. I think it helped an otherwise slightly awkward/dorky daughter fit in. By high school I had a part time job and spent most of my money buying the clothes that I wanted. By that time, grunge was the cool style and not very expensive except for the Doc Martens.

  40. I had a similar experience to Ada and Cat – I still remember being in elementary school and wanting stirrup pants, a benetton shirt and guess jeans and my mother saying no. We were very middle class and she just would never have spent more money on certain brands that I wanted. My DD is now around the same age as I was when I became aware of what brands were cool, but does not have that on her radar at all, she’s happy with whatever I buy for her. It will be interesting to see if that changes in the next few years.

  41. I wrote a long, off topic post, and it didn’t show up. What happened???

  42. WCE: We have had good luck with Merrell shoes for younger DS. They are a little tougher than what you normally find at the mall. I order them from REI when they go on sale. Bonus for my DS: they run a little wider than a typical tennis shoe.

  43. Mooshi – I have never heard a Patek Philippe ad (a brand awareness piece – since they don’t have direct sales – they sell through jewelers and high end watch stores) on the radio. I would expect it possible that Tourneau (a national chain) might advertise on a news station, and it is a Patek retailer (although most of the stores carry only much cheaper merchandise). Or a local business that deals in estate jewelry.

    They are the most venerable watch brand in the world, overpriced for the level of innovation, but they hold up in value. (I only have one, a vintage piece that appeals to collectors not investors from the year I was born.) The pyramid got the hierarchy of watch brands pretty close, but of course didn’t include some of the big names with high end models that are more popular outside the US or any of the semi bespoke elite watchmakers. I don’t see lawyers flaunting six figure watch bling, but the hedgies sure do. The 7 figure purchases come from Middle East, Russia and East Asia.

    In New England, you are usually negatively judged for sporting new trendy conspicuously branded merchandise. However, if your Patek (formal occasions only – a Casio G Shock or Timex is fine for everyday) is your grandfather’s and you spend a thou every ten years to keep it in good repair, that is value. Or if your ever softer black Longchamps bag or classic Louis Vuitton briefcase has given you good service for twenty plus years.

  44. Nope, it is Phillipe Patek. The ad I hear the most is a guy musing about inheriting his dad’s Phillipe Patek watch.

  45. MM — For some unknown reason your two comments went to spam. I approved the first one, and I’ll also approve the second one if you’d like.

  46. MM — It’s mostly speculation, but those top kids are not going to tippy-top schools for one of two reasons: 1. money (too expensive) &/or 2. test scores (they didn’t get in)

  47. “It is actually extra snobby because only the people who “know” can recognize my purse or watch as being expensive.”

    Yeah, that’s me. After not carrying a purse for the first 25-30 years of my life, I now have quite the collection of Coach (and other cheaper/more unique stuff from places I visited). But I flat-out refuse to buy the ones with the big “Cs” plastered all over them — it just seems so déclassé. (She says about her purchase that rises only to “affordable luxury” level).

    It’s kind of like the advice to the rookie runningback: when you make it to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.

    I guess I am a little too Michelle Singletary: if it’s on your ass, it’s not an asset. DH adores Patek Philippe, and I absolutely fell in love with a Cartier watch in London about a decade ago. But mine was $13K, and his was a *lot* more than that, and we just have so many higher-priority uses for that $$ than an accessory — much less one that I would destroy because I forgot to take off before playing softball (you know that t-shirt “I am the reason we can’t have nice things”? Need one).

    So, yeah, there are some things much higher up on that pyramid that I would love, but they’re on my “maybe when I’m retired and have everything else covered” list (along with the Porsche/Maserati). For now, I keep my splurges in the “affordable luxury” — $100-250 — range (ok, my work bag from the Coach men’s store was $400, but it was a present and I use it every day).

  48. BTW, you can check admissions info on Naviance. It shows by year IIRC, admissions to different colleges.

  49. CoC, just the first is fine. As for reasons, I doubt it is money because most were going to expensive private schools (last I checked, NYU was pretty costly). The only publics were the two CUNY’s and one SUNY. Keep in mind, this is just the top students – I know there are lots of other schools that our HS students go to, and SUNY is probably well represented among the rest of the students. It seems like Fordham is a perennial favorite, for reasons I cannot fathom.

  50. MM- Maybe they got significant scholarships at those schools which they didn’t get at more prestigious institutions, like that kid going to Alabama that got into all of the Ivies.

  51. I didn’t know about that site. I know that lohud usually publishes them too, for each HS. I am geeky enough to read those lists

  52. “I guess I am a little too Michelle Singletary”

    Lol, I used to read her columns and chats. I loved her.

    Agree with CoC on the test scores thing. The easiest thing in the world for college resume padding is to start something, whether it’s a club or some do-gooder project. Hell, I did it. It’s easy. Then you get the local paper to write something about what you’re doing.

    There was a girl I was friends with, we ran together, we were in all the same classes. Her parents were very pushy Totebaggy types, which wasn’t common in our high school. Her Mom told her that she needed to get very passionate about diabetes, supposedly because her grandmother had developed diabetes. So this girl organized her own 5K charity run for diabetes, and we all went out to a park on a rainy Saturday morning to pay $20 to run it. They even invited the governor, and although he was very disappointed that he couldn’t make it, he sent a nice letter, which her Mom insisted on reading to everyone at the start of the race, congratulating her on her tireless dedication to such a worthy cause. It was so transparent it was pathetic.

    And it didn’t work. She ended up at Syracuse.

  53. WCE, I second Tsukihoshi and Merrell. I buy them on 6pm or Zulily, and occasionally our local shoe store has both.

    DS grows slowly and has been wearing the same pair of Tsukihoshi for about six months. I’ve tossed them in the washer once, I think.

    DD is in first grade and some of the other girls are already brand conscious about clothes. This may force me to buy fewer garanimals clothes at Walmart :(

  54. On Patek Philippe – hate, hate, hate them. Would rather a timex. DH has a hand me down from his father and never in my life have I paid so much money for so little. Every little problem has to be shipped to Switzerland where apparently well trained elves can only work 15 minutes a day on each watch, so exacting is their work. Thus, they will have your watch for 9-15 weeks and ask $1K for that. Initially all he needed was a new band, we agreed to get it serviced and 2 years and 3 trips abroad later, the damned thing still doesn’t work. You can’t talk to anyone at Patek – it is apparently 1987 there – there is no voicemail, so you have to deal with the local jeweler. I could go on and on, but IMHO, not worth it. Kid Rock did a whole bit on Howard Stern about how he does no luxury appliances because they are too expensive to fix and need fixing all the time – it is my new credo.

    Mooshi – congrats to your son. My daughter said the other day “You know what’s stupid? If you are bad at math people say you are stupid, but if you are bad at art that’s ok. People who are good at art are smart in ways that the math people aren’t.” She’s good at both art and math, but she is right. We only value that which brings the dollars. When you were talking about the kids and their accomplishments, I was picturing them getting to the last kid “And this is Ted Kimble. Ted got to the 9th level on World of War Craft, level 15 on GTA and will spend the summer primarily in the basement. Let’s hear it for Ted.” I hope your son can appreciate his talents and explore them throughout school. You never know how it will all play out. No sense in closing any doors.

  55. Villanova, Fordham, and Loyola (depending on which one) all give merit scholarships, some significant. NYU gives very little, and is notorious for giving more loans than grants for need-based aid, but somehow is a popular name brand school for which many families are willing to pay big bucks.

  56. “And this is Ted Kimble. Ted got to the 9th level on World of War Craft, level 15 on GTA and will spend the summer primarily in the basement. Let’s hear it for Ted.”

    Having been to those award presentations, Ted may have received the “best effort” award for section 1 of modified algebra class.

  57. My mother has been taking an interest in the college admissions process. Note, she mostly knows of people who came to the U.S. for graduate school. A few of them got into well recognized engineering colleges, so that is what she knows.
    I sent her the College Confidential link, so she can read up on the process of applying as a U.S. undergrad student.
    Next she’ll be quizzing kids on how many APs they plan to take ;-).

  58. Oh and who asked about the sneakers for boys? We get my son those super expensive shoes. Its the only thing he cares about and the only shoes he wears. He wears the same three pair of shorts all week. My daughter has at least 4-5 pair of shoes per season which I’m sure adds up to more than $150. He also loves those $20 socks – he gets those for birthday and Christmas.

  59. I would be interested in what Totebaggers think is a luxury expenditure in dollar terms. For example, I would expect a leather purse or work appropriate satchel designed to last to cost between $200 and 500 dollars. A pair of non-throwaway women’s shoes that fit properly $100-250. Men’s leather dress shoes $300 – but they should last more than ten years. None of these seem like luxuries to me. They are clearly not thrifty choices – not Camry level, if you will – but not Beemer either.

  60. Oh, WCE, I forgot Keen. I get the last season style on 6pm or zulily for those too. A pair of those sandals survive a summer of daily salt water immersion.

    Let’s all hope that DD’s friends aren’t able to identify past season styles until at least middle school….

    Luckily your boys will not care!

    I got a toy for my kids this morning that your twins might like: OOTS Woodmobiel. It has nuts, bolts, wrenches, predrilled pine posts, rope, and some predrilled boards you can assemble into a variety of different toys without an adult’s help. You can build a wagon, a wheelbarrow, a desk, a push bike, a seesaw, and some other designs I’ve forgotten. Picture a life sized wooden erector set.

    I got the starter set on zulily but it’s also on Amazon. (The summer looms ahead at my house with far too few hours of camp.)

  61. “Men’s leather dress shoes $300”

    Giving me heartburn. I’ve been paying about $140 for any leather shoe (dress casual to dress) from Johnston and Murphy, and that feels like more than enough luxury for me.

  62. Oh, I forgot – there was another public U in the group – UMass. Why? Why pay out of state for UMass? It is a perfectly nice school, but not much different from SUNY Buffalo or Stony Brook.

    We had one National Merit Finalist. Not bad for a really small school. I was the only one in my town, which sported 4 large high schools.

  63. My oldest boy has to get men’s shoes now, which annoys me no end because now we have to pay $70 for a pair of summer sandals that he will outgrow in a year instead of the $30 for the same brand that we had been paying. And the colors are much uglier.

  64. Meme, I think your dollar values are right on, but for me it comes down to frequency. So if I spend $250 on a pair of shoes, I’m gonna be wearing those for years as opposed to the season. Same thing with handbags and the like. That’s why the quality is worth it.

  65. I paid $80 for a purse once and felt really guilty. I will spend $100 or so for shoes because my feet are very narrow and hard to fit.

  66. Milo – DH is the same, it’s Cole Haan on sale and then he wears them until they are falling apart (I think he’s had some pairs for almost ten years and I really need to send him shopping this weekend).

  67. Meme, I agree, the dollar values seem about right to me, anything above that would be a splurge and have to last for a long time.

  68. “Why pay out of state for UMass?”

    I don’t know, but three of DW’s closest sorority friends (let’s say of four) at her non-flagship state school were from Long Island (out of state). Why? I don’t know. And they all married and settled here, too.

  69. Luxury at the Cat household (and thus not something I buy frequently and/or without spousal consent)

    $200 for regular articles of clothing (pants, shirt, sweaters)
    $500 for purse or jacket
    shoes that are higher end than Cole Haans (so, $150 for regular types, $300 for boots)
    $600 for a suit

    For men’s stuff- at least 50% higher (and for shoes, much higher). Men’s stuff is nicer, more expensive and worn much longer. And the volume is much lower. At least in our house.

  70. Agree with Milo on the Johnston & Murphys. I might go for Allen Edmonds the next time I need dress shoes. If I do, I expect them to last me the rest of my life.

  71. “If I do, I expect them to last me the rest of my life.”

    There are a lot of old quotes from this group that float around in the back of my head. One of these originated when kaleberg was carrying on about how no commercially produced clothing these days last like it used to, how you ought to be able to buy a certain type of sweater and get 40 years out of it. And then Allboys responded “Who the Hell wants to wear a sweater for 40 years?”

  72. Thanks for the shoe advice. I may end up taking my wide-footed son to REI (50 mi away) to try on Merrell shoes after this next pair. Shoe shopping is where living where you have to shop by mail is a pain.

    Mooshi, I know you hate Kohl’s, but we have these river sandals in boys sizes and they are lasting into their second summer and still look pass-downable. (Feet are still growing fast enough that sandals that last more than one summer are often a waste.) Their school requires closed back shoes with a top strap so these are some of the only summer shoes that fit local requirements. I ended up paying $15-$20 shipped with codes during sales, but they sell out around now in some sizes.
    http://www.kohls.com/product/prd-2078026/croft-barrow-mens-sandals.jsp

  73. I have bought a lot of shoes for kids from Sierra trading post. I especially love chacos- webbing sandals that my daughter wears year round. They are pricey, but with the discount, worth it.

  74. “When you were talking about the kids and their accomplishments, I was picturing them getting to the last kid “And this is Ted Kimble. Ted got to the 9th level on World of War Craft, level 15 on GTA and will spend the summer primarily in the basement. Let’s hear it for Ted.””

    I *totally* expected that ending too and was already preemptively feeling sorry for poor old Ted. Except that Ted is probably going to rule the universe some day, because he’s developing some specific skill or talent or insight that will invent the next big whatever.

    But doesn’t it also go back to the conversation (yesterday?) about why SAHMs/retired people have to be seen to be “doing” something, and the whole Protestant work ethic thing? I read that and I thought, man, when I retire, I am going to *own* it. If people ask me what I do, I am not going to say “manage my investments,” or “I volunteer at XYZ,” or whatever. I will say “not a damn thing.” Or maybe qualified with “. . . that I don’t want to.” I will have earned the right not to have to justify my busy-ness (or lack thereof) to anyone else, so I see no need to hide behind a socially-appropriate mask.

  75. I love Chaco’s too! They are so hippie. I have a pair that is leather, not the usual webbing, that I have worn constantly for 3 years now, including traipsing all around cobblestoned cities in Europe.

    But I don’t like Kohls, because everything I have ever bought there has fallen apart quickly. The last item purchased, a pair of pants that my DH spent $35 on, fell apart on the very first wearing. We both said “never again”. Also, my son, like me, has very narrow feet. Only certain brands fit him, and never the ultra cheapies from PayLess or Kmart.

  76. Hmm, my instinct was that Meme’s figures were a little high. Then again, most work-appropriate pants are now over $100, and I think my work-appropriate shoes tend to be in the $75-150 range, so I’m probably just anchored to the old prices.

    DH spends maybe $200-250 on his shoes, which I now accept as necessary, because he kills cheaper versions in less than a year. He also has to have his oxford-style shirts custom-made — we spent many years looking for a version that was wide enough in the shoulders and neck without hanging like a tent around the waist, and we finally gave up. That’s one of those “splurges that isn’t really” — he needs to wear a suit or sportcoat for work frequently, and he needs something that fits, so I just treat it as a condition for continuing to get the paycheck.

    I have to say, as a woman, I am used to needing clothes because I gained or lost weight or styles changed, but the idea of literally ripping holes in shirts/blazers or having shoes disintegrate after 6 months was completely foreign to me until I married DH. There are disadvantages to being built like a hockey player, I guess.

  77. Right now everything I am wearing was purchased at Walmart. I think my shoes were $8 :)

    My luxury is staying at home with the kids and going to the beach to hunt for shells instead of the office and day care. Who prefers Patek Phillippe?

  78. OK, I’m changing my mind. I want the watch. It’s the Ransom of Red Chief over here.

    Did anyone hear the story about the kidnapped kid who was let go after he sang three hours of gospel songs to his captor? My kids are trying that, but with Billy Joel.

  79. Meme – those prices are spot on for me. DH makes sure he uses shoe trees, polishes and buffs his shoes and has gotten them resoled. With such care, his work shoes last a very long time.
    The one splurge I had was work low heels from Salvatore Ferragamo. Very comfortable shoes with a classic look. They will be with me a long time.

  80. I think I paid $200+ for my Coach purse, but that was at the outlet (newly opened so some additional % off) and was over 10 years ago. So despite being outlet instead of the top quality, it’s held up. It’s leather, not the C fabric.

  81. “DH is the same, it’s Cole Haan on sale and then he wears them until they are falling apart (I think he’s had some pairs for almost ten years and I really need to send him shopping this weekend).”

    Ditto for us. DH is very loyal to Cole Haan for work shoes and wears them to death. 10 years would really be pushing it though, but he is a walking commuter, so that kills shoes more quickly. My shoes are in the same price range – $100-150 for work shoes (again being very partial to Cole Haan), more for leather boots, $100 or so for serious running and walk-commuting shoes (I change into dress shoes at the office), much less for trendy summer shoes.

    I guess I agree with Meme for the most part except men’s shoes, but we tend to spend on the lower end of her ranges. But DH is business casual, so he doesn’t need true dress shoes but once or twice a year. I think my last work bag was $250 two years ago, but I’ve certainly spent more. Less for casual weekend type bags though. Winter coats are $$, but I refuse to pay Canada Goose type prices. This is Chicago, not the Antarctica.

  82. One of the benefits of middle class upbringing combined with 9 years of grad school is no name-brand affiliation. I just didn’t have the money. And I still don’t. Or rather, I do, but can’t justify the expense.

    On the pyramid, though, I haven’t heard of many of the brands. I guess that goes to show you how out of touch I really am. My expensive things come as family heirlooms, so I never know their worth until I have to have them appraised. And even then I shock quite easily.

    In my head, I’ve been calculating the cost of my outfit… dress $25 at NY & Co sale, flyaway cardigan $11 JCP, costume jewelry $10, shoes $60-70 from Naturalizers. So there you have it – I will choose expensive shoes over clothes any day. But that makes sense for me – like MM, I have narrow feet. Naturalizers fit me, so when I find the types of shoes I need in colors/styles I like, I’ll buy them.

    Sometimes I wish I had the bandwidth to be brand conscious. I want to feel what it would be like to know/understand/want a certain brand for something. Right now I’m the corolla set – entry level on everything and I think I’m OK with that.

  83. North Face is a higher-end coat brand that seems to be “in”, especially for the college crowd. I doubt there is much difference in quality between North Face and the EMS store-brand equivalent, but I may be wrong.

  84. I think this conversation generally says more about the socioeconomic class of Totebaggers than anything else. We’re not rich enough to shop the glossy-magazine-ad luxury brands as our standard source of attire, jewelry, etc., but we are rich enough not to feel like we have to prove that we can afford a Polo shirt or a LV bag.

    But when you think about it, it’s all well and good for use to talk about how we prefer to put the money into travel, or retirement, or the house, because we can afford to travel, own a house, and have significant retirement savings. It’s not a fair comparison. I might compare the cost of a $500 designer item to the cost of some cool experience we have planned for a vacation, but that relies on our family having jobs with vacation time and being able to spring for the airfare, rental car, lodging, etc, such that we can be in the place where the cool activity is available in the first place. If you know you can’t afford to do any of that and your family vacation will once again be a long weekend camping at a nearby park, maybe the thrill of having and showing off the designer item seems better than having nothing special for the $500 you saved.

  85. For teens wanting cool brands, the Plato’s Closet consignment chain can be a good solution. Since mine are on a clothing allowance they’re happy to stretch their dollars.

  86. Good points, HM. I agree.

    “North Face is a higher-end coat brand that seems to be “in”, especially for the college crowd. I doubt there is much difference in quality between North Face and the EMS store-brand equivalent, but I may be wrong.”

    I think you are right. I really like the REI house brand for winter/rain/outdoor gear. It is not all that much cheaper than North Face though, really. Especially considering that North Face isn’t all that hard to find discounted at Nordstrom Rack or other outlet type stores.

  87. Sky, unfortunately they left Walmart off Grace’s video. For those of you who are unaware of Sky’s brand, it’s pronounced “WALL-mart”.

    Does anyone play 2048? I discovered it on a 4 hour plane ride holding Baby WCE and it’s too much fun. I let one of my twins play it and he’s as good as I am- his last score was 4716. I thought it would take longer for my children to pass me…

  88. I have noticed in Alaska, people wear a lot of Northface and Carhartt. I don’t think it is all brand consciousness – they don’t seem to be wearing other things that would indicate that.

  89. Above, somewhere, somebody indicated that someone else was lucky having teenage boys because they aren’t brand conscious.

    Not at my kid’s school. One of Junior’s classmates has 13 (the classmate says) pair of Nike’s. Every day he wears a different outrageous color with equally outrageous branded socks– you know the ones with the stripe going up from the heel. The boy is a bit of a fop, and his mother is one of the mothers who wears stilettos to the Mothers Club meetings at dawn, so he probably does have 13 Nike’s.

    Junior’s sneakers (one pair with older ones as backups), are Addias and he likes them a lot.

    The coin of the realm for Junior’s class, though, are G-shock watches. Much to my chagrin, Junior has 5 of them. One watch I got him for Christmas, the others he won (literally) in arcade games– he is amazingly good at that crap! We have found his life skill.

    I guess I was the same way in middle school. I had to have a pair of Chucks (black) and a blue Peters jacket. Jeans, of course, weren’t allowed in school, so those weren’t a problem. But I loved those clothes as much as Junior loves his G-shocks. I’m lucky he’s a gambler, though, and supports his own vices.

  90. We wear North Face and Carhartt. North Face and Cabelas make good rain coats, though I don’t know how they compare to REI.

  91. I bought a few North Face things when I was in college and soon thereafter, years before they had this recent resurgence among the young folks and fashion-forward. I still wear them, so I was ahead of my time.

  92. When I was a kid, I was happy to have any “store-bought” clothes. My mom sewed and grandmother knitted a LOT of my clothes, and the older I got, the more I hated it. (Little did I know that I was really getting “Bespoke” clothing, which is at the top of the luxury pyramid!) I did get some hand-me-down Guess jeans and Esprit sweaters from my cousin. And I bought a Benetton shirt and Swatch watch with my own money when I was in Italy and Switzerland. (I still can’t believe my parents sent me on that trip with my 7th grade social studies teacher!) So, of course, I have grown up to embrace the lack of brand consciousness that I so despised in my mom. I just want high-quality, classic-style items, and I usually don’t spend more than $100 on any one piece of clothing. Except shoes – I have had 2 foot surgeries and will spend good money on shoes that are both comfortable and attractive. My recent favorite is Alegria, and I was so excited to find a cute pair of sandals for $49.99 on Amazon, but the typical price is $130-150. I also have custom orthotics for my walking/running shoes.

  93. Meme’s prices are outrageous to me. I can’t imagine spending that much on a purse or shoes. But this is the blog of the upper class who think they are middle class. Middle class men don’t spend $300 on a pair of shoes, and a $300 purse is a major splurge for a middle class woman.

  94. I have a few North Face items and REI items, and they all hold up really well and work well for our climate. I see the popularity. I have spent $200-$400 for a nice purse or work bag, but I have only done that a few times (about every 5-7 years?) We don’t spend that on shoes because we just don’t take care of them that way.

    I have girls, but WCE, we also had good experiences with Keen, Nike, and Puma holding up. Sketchers fell apart. Adidas fell apart. The stride right stuff fell apart too.

  95. Oh, and we bought Keen hiking shoes (running shoe style) for the kids for the various camps last summer. They held up *way* better than any shoe we’ve ever bought and just about matched stride right for cost.

  96. When I was that age, it was Villager – this outfit appears to be a knockoff, but that is how I dressed at 13.

    and Weejuns penny loafers (no penny, please).

    Thank heavens the “60s” happened a couple of years later and I could chuck it all for this:

  97. On the Carhartt and similar brands – I’m sure some people wear them purely for the quality. If you’re working on a construction site all winter, you need something that is REALLY warm and sturdy. But then I wonder if there is a brand-consciousness in that social group similar to the luxury brands in other groups. There might be some wanna-be outdoorsy-hunter types who wear these brands to look the part just as much as a woman carrying the Chanel bag covered with Cs or a man with a giant Polo logo.

  98. “But this is the blog of the upper class who think they are middle class. Middle class men don’t spend $300 on a pair of shoes, and a $300 purse is a major splurge for a middle class woman.”

    Well, some lower-income folks do splurge on expensive designer items, but I agree with your general point. I know it’s more complicated than just income, but middle-class people don’t spend that kind of money on their clothes. This ties in with HM’s point at 2:03.

  99. Well, eventually one retires and reverts back to class of origin by buying slightly used shoes on Ebay. And I recently recalled that I arrived at Big Ivy at 16 with a suitcase full of completely inappropriate “nice clothes” that I had made myself from McCall’s patterns. My roommate hailed from Park Ave.

    As I often say about my late life prosperity, it seems like I dropped into someone else’s movie. But I sure enjoy it while I can.

  100. Anon at 2:33 – I agree with you. The most expensive piece of clothing in my closet is my husband’s suit. The most expensive handbag I have purchased is $55. I think the single most expensive piece of clothing in my wardrobe is an $80 dress.

    I’m far closer to middle class than most people on this blog (my total household income is less than half of the Totebag median). HM said it best – most people on this blog live in a financial realm that affords them the “experience over material” choice. Yet they don’t have the money to jump up to the next level of the pyramid without sacrificing something else – and their midwestern values won’t let them do it if they did. We can all sit here and think “we would totally jump up the brand pyramid if we had the money”, but how many people would actually do it? And not feel one iota of midwestern value guilt? (My guess is that more men than women would say they could do it without guilt.)

  101. But this is the blog of the upper class who think they are middle class.

    No, it’s a blog of the upper middle class. Harry Winston would go out of business if it had to rely on sales to the segment represented on this blog. And yet the luxury brands are thriving . . .

  102. My biggest splurge is $70-$100 shoes. My feet are small and hard to fit, so I get my shoes from Zappo’s. My clothes are not very expensive. Even my suits are under $200. I do lust for expensive purses, but I don’t buy them.

    My biggest non-clothing splurges are my iPhone and iPad.

  103. We can all sit here and think “we would totally jump up the brand pyramid if we had the money”, but how many people would actually do it? And not feel one iota of midwestern value guilt?

    Oh, if we actually had the money (i.e. spending same share of total income) I’m sure most of us would and would justify it the same way we do now, based on quality, durability, comfort, etc. I mean, it’s not like we’re all shopping at Salvation Army now, even though that would probably stretch our clothing dollars the farthest.

  104. Houston – it’s scary to think about the amount of money we carry around on our persons daily… most people’s smart phones are $300-600, laptops are anywhere from $200 to $5000 (I know my work one is about $1000). Hell, my sunglasses cost more than the most expensive piece of clothing in my wardrobe. But my sunglasses need replacing far less than my clothes.

    HM – “same way we do now, based on quality, durability, comfort, etc” is the quality, comfort, etc all that better? We all like to think it is, but is it really? I’m having a tough time believing that quality/comfort/etc increases linearly with price on the items we are focusing. Somewhere along the line, it’s got to asymptote and one is just paying for name.

  105. If we were wealthy, I would spend more on clothing. Especially for the kids. Some of the high end children’s stuff is so adorable. But I can’t afford to buy a $300 outfit for my baby to spit up all over.

  106. A lot of my male students collect those expensive athletic shoe with the fancy socks. They are very proud of their collections. I will often catch them in class browsing shoe sites on their laptops or phones. It seems to be a “thing” among certain kinds of guys – sort of an urban/jock style.

  107. @honolulumother on May 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm — Exactly. I always said exactly that when I was younger, and I have definitely gone up in brand with income. Not in everything (e.g., I still shop at Target/Kohl’s for disposable kid clothes), or even most things, but my threshold for what is a reasonable splurge has gone up significantly with my income. On the one hand, the process of “getting to rich” requires keeping everyday expenses significantly below income for a number of years; on the other hand, when your everyday expenses are significantly below your income, you have a lot more leeway to consume some of that delta periodically.

  108. Cat – ditto. Thankfully, my MIL also loves adorable children’s clothing, and she has no such reservations. And with little kids, I always laugh when people talk about the quality of Expensive Brand being so much higher than Target. I’m sure it is. But in either case, toddlers are going to outgrow it before they have a chance to wear it out.

  109. I’m having a tough time believing that quality/comfort/etc increases linearly with price on the items we are focusing.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that it does. But that wouldn’t prevent anyone from using it as a justification for spending more. It’s not acceptable to say “I only wear Givenchy because I can afford the best and I want to look rich,” but it is acceptable to say “I only wear Givenchy because I have such a difficult to fit figure and it’s the only thing that really works and feels comfortable for me, and really the quality is so good that it pays for itself over time.” (Even if you’re replacing it every season.)

  110. Rhode touches on a generational thing – clothes were not “disposable” until about 25 years ago. I connect that not with the growth of Walmart because that is not part of my regional universe, but with the Leslie Wexner empire – Limited, Express, Victoria’s secret and those sorts of stores. The clothes were intended to wear out after a season or two and be replaced. My babies were dressed from the Carter’s factory outlet – that stuff could be laundered/bleached hundreds of times and be passed around to a dozen kids. My sunglasses get all scratched and nasty and eventually get left somewhere – I need a new pair every year or two. And I like good sunglasses – Maui Jim’s or something similar. But I have to buy them at the drugstore. But clothes – I still have perfectly fine stuff, including shoes, from the 90s, that of course is rarely worn because the days of a formal office have long past. I haven’t bought a purse in 8 years if my count is right.

  111. Patagonia is really hot with my kids right now. I also have a 3/4 zip fleece and a sweater jacket that I wear all winter long. I spend about $150 on each pair of shoes, which means that I don’t buy a lot of shoes and they tend to last for several years of almost daily wear. The biggest waste of money is buying less expensive shoes that hurt after 3-4 hours and then I hardly ever wear them. I need comfortable shoes that I can wear for 12 hours a day. I splurge on good handbags (my current one is a Kate Spade) but that’s a purchase that’s made every 4 years or so, on sale and it’s usually a Mother’s Day or birthday gift. As for kids’ shoes, Merrill’s worked well for us.

  112. “I’m sure most of us would and would justify it the same way we do now, ”

    I’m going to respectfully disagree. I have the money. I could buy a stupid cross necklace for $6k without much thought, and it wouldn’t affect anything. We could have ceased all retirement savings a few years ago and still be set. I don’t think I’m abnormal among this group.

  113. “We could have ceased all retirement savings a few years ago and still be set.”

    Most Totebaggers are not here yet.

  114. Milo touches on the point that Anon did… and it’s something that’s been mentioned frequently on this blog… the “feel” of middle class. Middle class people (and I mean truly middle class people with ~$50-70K income) don’t buy the $6k necklace. But some folks on this board could without batting an eye (I’m guessing here), and yet still feel “middle class”.

  115. “In my head, I’ve been calculating the cost of my outfit… dress $25 at NY & Co sale, flyaway cardigan $11 JCP, costume jewelry $10, shoes $60-70 from Naturalizers. So there you have it – I will choose expensive shoes over clothes any day. But that makes sense for me – like MM, I have narrow feet. Naturalizers fit me, so when I find the types of shoes I need in colors/styles I like, I’ll buy them.”

    I agree with Rhode. I went shopping at JCP, had 20% off, got a new suit top and pants, another pair of pants, and 2 shirts all for about $100. I’ll spend about $100 on a pair of shoes, can’t do the cheap ones anymore without foot pain, I am wearing sandals from Target today though…

  116. I think everyone has an amount for a specific item that is “just too much”: I spend a lot on purses, but there is some number out there – $600??? – where I say to myself that I can’t imagine spending that amount on a purse.

    For some, that number is going to be $100, for others it is $2000. Prada is a brand with prices so high that they are laughable to me, but someone is buying their stuff!

    And you may be a $100 person for purses, but you will spend $250 on a pair of sneakers (a generic you).

    It is the same with cars, suits, pretty much everything!

  117. Milo – did you buy your wife a diamond engagement ring when you got engaged?

  118. Cat – yes. From Bluenile. I read a book on diamonds, and bought a 1.08 ct, VS1. I forget the other two specs–six-prong platinum setting. I remember that. I was 23, so it was a lot of money for me at the time.

  119. Cat S, I know Milo has previously mentioned that his wife doesn’t wear costume jewelry, only the real thing. But the price point for real gold/real diamond varies considerably from the Walmart jewelry section’s version to the stores where they don’t even have the jewelry out on display, just a chairs to sit and consult with the elegantly suited salesmen.

  120. Just seeing how anti-consumerism you were :) A carat for a 23 year old is quite a bit of money. Even a well-employed one.

  121. HM – she likes various sterling silver type bracelets and necklaces. Charleston has all this jewelry based on the wrought-iron gates and ironwork that she likes and wears a lot.

    My mom tells a funny story about getting engaged (at 21) and my dad said something like “your hands are so dainty that a big stone just doesn’t look right,” and being so enthralled at the time that she actually believed him.

    She later had that original diamond used as one of the side stones to a much larger one.

  122. “Just seeing how anti-consumerism you were :) ”

    An engagement ring is a separate category. You’re not planning to ever buy one again.

  123. I think of diamond engagement rings as one of the most consumer-driven purchases ever. A CZ or moissanite would work just fine. But almost no one does that.

  124. My engagement ring is an antique garnet ring, which cost far less than a diamond and is prettier too.

  125. “I think of diamond engagement rings as one of the most consumer-driven purchases ever”

    Being an ISTJ, and heavy on the “T,” I would say that the $6k? I spent on the engagement ring is a one-time purchase, and it’s less than the difference between what you and I will spend on a year of preschool, or a year of property taxes. And those are ongoing.

  126. Speaking of engagement rings, I want to get a different setting for my engagement ring and having only one ring instead of my engagement ring and wedding band. I got DH’s OK to move ahead. I felt I had to ask him….I actually went to a jewelry store that advertises all the time and found it closed on Sundays.
    If any of you have a setting you like, post pictures. The more I look at designs online the more I can’t make a decision and keep putting it off.

  127. “I’m having a tough time believing that quality/comfort/etc increases linearly with price on the items we are focusing.” — Oh, ITA. There’s no linearity, it’s all about finding the knee of the curve.

    But the first issue is that even being able to think in terms of value-for-money implies having sufficient funds to make that choice, which means you’re already gallivanting through the land of luxury vs. need. And then the second issue is that where that knee is changes for each thing — my kids are still outgrowing their clothes every 6 months, whereas I tend to wear the same thing for a long time; ergo, I am willing to spend more on my clothes than theirs. At our current income level, that’s WHBM for me and Target/Kohl’s for them; if we were in the very narrow part of that pyramid, the total expenditures would likely change, but the analysis would be the same.

    And then the last bit is how we redefine “value” based on financial circumstances, like HM says. When I was in school and needed a purse, I was happy to find one for $5 at Target and used it for years. Now we are much better off, so I can consider other things, like materials and feel and style and quality. Part of the reason I like Coach is that they give me the perception that their purses are well-crafted and will last a while, and that if it breaks, they will fix it. So I am willing to pay a significant upcharge, because I feel like I am getting more of what I value for the money (specifically, not having to deal with the mall and repairs and other hassles for a long time; but my last purse/wallet I bought just because I thought they were really beautiful). But in no way is it linear — heck, I got 10 years out of that Target purse.

    So I dunno. I’d like to say that as of now, I am at a point where I can afford to buy a sufficient level of quality and style and craftsmanship, etc., and that therefore I’d keep buying the same things even if my income/wealth increased dramatically. But you know, when I was 22, I was really happy with that Target purse and thought that was as much as I’d ever need or want. So history tells me that there are a lot of high-end stores I have never yet even set foot in, and that if I were to climb to the top of that pyramid, my perception of the kinds of things I valued and would be willing to pay up for would likely change with my circumstances.

  128. Milo – maybe. But our property taxes get my husband a great commute and thus more time with us. And the preschool gets my kids some fun things that I don’t have to do. Like crafting. The diamond ring gets you nothing. It is purely marketing materialism at its finest.

  129. There’s a brand I like, Laundry by Shelli Seagal, that I own only a couple of dresses from because they’re only at a price point I find acceptable even for a splurge when they’re on clearance. But if our household income increased by several hundred percent, I’d probably be buying more of it, and not worrying about finding deep discounts. And with my sense of what’s an appropriate price for a work dress reset to that level, I’d start to notice some other label that’s not even on my radar now as an aspirational/ occasional splurge-when-it’s-discounted brand.

    That, I think, is how you creep upmarket with your view of the shopping universe.

  130. Now having said that, I looked it up on 6 pm and actually the discount prices are not bad . . . I guess my price point has been creeping up, plus also I recall finding it only at $100 and up on the clearance rack. But I’ll stop looking because I don’t need any new dresses anyway.

  131. “I had to have a pair of Chucks (black)”

    DS is not very brand conscious, but this is the one case in which he really wants a certain brand. Among his friends, including the girls (but not the preppies), these are very popular.

    WCE, DS has used several pairs of these until he wore through the soles.

  132. “— It’s mostly speculation, but those top kids are not going to tippy-top schools for one of two reasons: 1. money (too expensive) &/or 2. test scores (they didn’t get in)”
    “We had one National Merit Finalist. Not bad for a really small school. I was the only one in my town, which sported 4 large high schools.”

    The single NMF suggests that test scores are one reason for not many kids bound fortippy-top schools. The ratio of 2 Ivy-bound to 1 NMF seems reasonable.

    How big was the senior class?

  133. “As I often say about my late life prosperity, it seems like I dropped into someone else’s movie. But I sure enjoy it while I can.”

    I love happy endings.

  134. “The diamond ring gets you nothing. It is purely marketing materialism at its finest.”

    This is so true, Cat, but I never thought about it until you mentioned it. To make matters worse, I don’t wear my diamond ring daily, as I find most jewelry, including my wedding and engagement rings, to be a bother.

    If I had more money, we have a long list of home improvements. Clothes and shoes are way, way down the list

  135. I’m glad that one of DD’s favorite brands is C9.

    All the girls on her team seem to have a lot of Nike and/or Under Armor stuff.

    She was really stoked when we got her a Demarini bat, and doubly so when she got a real autograph from Crystl Bustos on her Crystl Bustos model bat.

  136. I spent a lot more on clothes as a percentage of income when I was starting out. We had to be in a suit, preferably a skirt suit with heels and the guys had to wear a suit. Over time as business casual took over the suits made their appearance only at interview time. Workplace has become increasingly casual and it seems that other than the marketing folks who look very trendy the rest of us spend very little on our clothes and more on our shoes and bags.

  137. I have the money. I could buy a stupid cross necklace for $6k without much thought, and it wouldn’t affect anything

    You may not have your cash flow structured in a way that makes that kind of spending easy.

    As an example I have a friend who, along with 4 partners, owns a small business IIRC 200 employees. In his case he draws a modest salary and then at the end of the year the partners meet with the accountants and decide how much they are going to take out of the business.

    You might have someone in software sales with a $50k salary and $400k in commission paid out when deals close quarter end. You have people in finance that may have a $150k salary and a $300k bonus.

    I have a feeling having your income structured like that makes for different consumption patterns.

  138. Rhett, it looks (sadly) that we were right about the former Speaker. Somehow it just doesn’t surprise me for a wrestling coach. Or for that matter, a boy scout leader, or a priest, or a YMCA official, or a Duggar (there has to be one), or a you name it, I guess

  139. “You may not have your cash flow structured in a way that makes that kind of spending easy.”

    That seems like a totebaggy way to structure cash flow, to make it hard to make impulse purchases.

  140. That seems like a totebaggy way to structure cash flow, to make it hard to make impulse purchases.

    Except for that period where $400k is burning a whole in your pocket when it would be super easy.

  141. Fred,

    All things being equal I think having your income structured like that would result in fewer but more expensive purchases.

  142. PTM,

    Is it official? All I’ve seen is them hinting like crazy with the wrestling coach wink wink stories.

  143. The NY Times is reporting it. I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to post a link.

  144. The last few times I have needed a dress for myself or my daughters, I just went to Nordstrom’s. Apparently my price point has gone up. Once upon a time, I only went to Nordstrom’s during their half yearly sale.

  145. PTM,

    that he had been inappropriately touched by Mr. Hastert when Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach,

    $3.5 million for inappropriate touching?

  146. Yeah. Something’s not quite ringing true. On the other hand, if anybody has a $3.5M reputation to keep intact, it is the Ex-Speaker, and Dickstein Shapiro was paying him a ton of money as a lobbyist.

  147. Aw, man! Of all the days for me to miss. ;)

    I love brands as part of my love of fashion – so I follow them even if I can’t afford them. :) My current levels of spending are Theory suits and tops and Kate Spade bags – but I go to the outlet and never pay full price. I don’t care much for jewelry – everything I have is costume except my engagement, wedding/anniversary rings – so to all the ultraluxury brands on the list, I say meh.

    If we had ridiculous money I would probably spend more on clothes and get some custom shoes to accommodate my feet. DH would continue wearing his same t-shirts and jeans.

  148. Me, too, Milo. I could be played around with for far less. But it really wouldn’t be fair repayment if as a kid he messed you up for life. If he did. Maybe he didn’t. There just isn’t enough information out there right now.

  149. PTM,

    I find it stange that he fell into the Martha Stewart trap of talking to the authorities. Why on Earth did he do that? You have the right to remain silent – a wise man exercises that right.

  150. You are absolutely right, Rhett. I think that a lot of “successful” people think that they can out wit the investigators. Too many times, they can’t.

    Of course, it could be a matter of him being too embarrassed or too august to consider discussing this with a lawyer.

    And apparently there is another boy. Now wouldn’t you be pissed if your buddy was being paid $3.5M and you weren’t? There are probably more. As Barney Frank said on TV tonight, “Nobody who has ever had sex has only had sex one time.”

  151. Oh man, I love expensive things mostly. But I stick to the lower end of Meme ‘s numbers. Lower than that mostly. I love handbags and shoes and would be willing to spend 500 if I really really liked one. Otherwise I usually stick to 150 or less. I cannot imagine having only one handbag. I have many. Same for shoes.
    When I was young and in great shape, anything would look nice. Now nothing looks as good.

  152. DH loves to remind me every time I buy an article of clothing that I said when we first started dating “I will never want anything nicer than J.Crew and Ann Taylor”. Now I would argue that when we first got together the quality of those brands was significantly higher than it is today. I still have some items in my closet from before we got married (over 12 years ago) from those brands that have held up, but now when I buy items from stores like that it is always on sale because I know it won’t last more than two or three years (and sometimes less). If I’m buying something like a classic pair of work pants, a pencil skirt or a dress for work, I tend to gravitate to nicer brands because I know I’ll have them for a lot longer.

    This book sort of changed my thinking on buying clothes…
    http://www.amazon.com/Overdressed-Shockingly-High-Cheap-Fashion/dp/1591846544

  153. Atlanta – I just read about a new movie on that topic. This lady in the UK has a blog about fashion, but I couldn’t get the link to work, so here is her site: http://thatsnotmyage.com

    The film is probably getting some extra attention because one of the producers is married to Colin Firth, but I don’t know if it will have a wide distribution.

  154. Louise — Re. your engagement ring re-set: I recently bought a pair of earrings from an online company called Gemvara. I had a good experience with them. They make jewelry that you can customize — i.e. with any general style, you can choose the gemstones and the metal that will be used in your own piece. The company recently started advertising a “stone reset” service — apparently, the way it works is that you send them your current ring, and they will send you several proposals of different styles that could be used to re-set your stone. If you like one, you can customize it to your liking, and then instruct them to go ahead with the re-set; if not, they will send your ring back to you un-altered. If you feel paralyzed by all the choices out there, maybe this would be a way to get down to a manageable number of options?

  155. Thanks NoB. I will keep that in mind. I need for school and activities to be done with so I have a chunk of time to do ring shopping. This second time around is so different from the first time, when I spent time looking at magazines, going to jewelry stores….I chose my own ring and though I still like it and it still is not out of style, I am ready for a change.

  156. Louise – I’ll bet there are some pinterest pages or website devoted to just your situation! You could probably get some ideas/examples that appeal to you – then try North of Boston’s suggestion or even a local jeweler who can do that sort of thing.

  157. Louise – A family member is a trained precious metal jewelery craftsman/repairer – she used to work for a storefront jeweler, and now has her own in home studio making wedding bands, resetting old stones, etc. She made the companion band to my DH’s grandmother’s engagement ring before I was married. I am sure there are people just like her in your area, and I frankly would rather work face to face with someone to make a truly special piece, than a far away shop with back and forth drawings. As soon as wedding season passes, there is usually a lull in their workload so late summer early fall is a good time to go in. You might ask a well off arty (not brand flaunting) mom from your neighborhood or school, someone whose taste you admire, for a recommendation.

  158. “ A CZ or moissanite would work just fine. But almost no one does that.”

    I have a CZ wedding ring. I like a bit of bling but find no value in having a real diamond.

    In writing this post I was mainly interested in the EQ aspect of knowing name brands because it really can benefit a person socially and professionally. Although I now bemoan one of my kid’s lack of appreciation about these types of subtleties in the workplace, I only have myself to blame. Oh well, it’s not the worst thing.

  159. Rhett – On that first article, all I can say is “In other news, water is wet.”

    On the second, I don’t quite get the point of your comment, other than as an example of assortative mating. Most of our Totebag contributors have used this blog to explain how they want something else for their children. The Ivies are usually portrayed as excessively elitist, too wealthy, sources of bad religious or consumption values, not worth the money and a less than ideal fit. Our practitioners of law and medicine advise against following in their steps, especially on a high powered track like this couple.

  160. Most of our Totebag contributors have used this blog to explain how they want something else for their children.

    Yeh, sure they do….

    If it took chaining them to a piano while screaming at them that they aren’t worthy of love, or getting them so distraught they throw themselves in front of a train – then it’s obviously not worth it. But, if they had the ability and the desire to achieve it without too much effort? Who wouldn’t be delighted?

  161. If I had real money, I would get everything bespoke. I’d fly to Italy to have my simple, classic shoes custom-made. I’d have all my clothes made in Hong Kong to my exact measurements, especially my jeans. No labels anywhere.

    And my engagement ring is CZ, and my DIL’s is Moissonite.

  162. My ideal for my real and hypothetical children is to invent something once and then resell it forever and have an easy, easy life. One great video game, one excellent ERISA plan that can be easily customized, etc. I’ve seen that over the years and it is so clearly the way to go.

  163. Rocky – I love it! In the Nick Hornby book, About a Boy (also a TV show with that very handsome guy whose name I don’t know and Minnie Driver), the main character wrote one very famous song, and the royalties keep him living the good life.

  164. Sometimes fitting in at work can be most dependent on the college you attended or on being of a particular gender, so the battle can be mainly won based on that alone. So you can have that going for you even if you don’t know the difference between a $2,000 suit and a $200 one from Kohl’s.

    “Most of our Totebag contributors have used this blog to explain how they want something else for their children.”

    We don’t want prestige and wealth for our children? I think we mainly do, but we don’t want our kids to pay too high of a price for those things. So Rocky’s plan would work well.

  165. Hmmm. When I started out working at 22, I was buying items in the accessible core range. But it wasn’t related to trying to appear at a certain income level, it was because I was not happy with how I looked. Now that I am fitter, older, and happier with how I look, I feel just as confident in my $10 Costco white pima T-shirt.

  166. That isn’t to say I don’t spend money on things that others might consider to be luxuries – I prefer good wine to bad wine, and I chose to do laser hair removal vs. waxing.

  167. Joe Biden’s son’s death struck a chord. What also struck me was that they had lost another child in infancy. As my kids grow older, Totebaggy achievements aside I pray for their health and safety above all things.
    I know of some young people who were the most promising people in their families. Totally had their acts together, got scholarships, were doing well at school, others were doing great at work. Then serious health issues struck and they are now fighting their illnesses.

  168. I had no idea it would be this easy to get an NP job. I’d been procrastinating on lookiing because I didn’t want to deal with getting rejected for being a new grad, plus I wasn’t sure how far I’d get since I haven’t taken the certification exam yet. My last rotation in school was doing nursing home rounding, just because that’s where I could find a preceptor. It was decent work, and where my nursing experience was from working in a nursing. My preference would be to work in a specialty, but I figured I should probably play to my experience.

    I mailed my resume to one of the senior care practices in town where I know a few of the providers on Wednesday, just a cold mailing. Someone called me back at 4 p.m. Friday asking if I could meet with the owner/director on Saturday morning. Our baseball game wasn’t until the afternoon so it worked. We sat down and she started talking and it sounded like she was ready to offer me the job just from my resume. She didn’t aske me any of the standard interview questions, she spent a lot of time talking about the practice. I really liked her and I know it’s a very good practice. At the end she offered me the job and I accepted. I start in a few weeks.

    One of the things that’s really nice about it is that it’s one of the few patient care positions that has the “short-term flexibility.” She said the hours are flexible as long as I see enough patients. There are no appointments, so if something comes up you can leave a little early and make it up the next day, or leave for a couple of hours and come back later.

    I still can’t believe how quickly the whole thing happened. I have a job three days after I dropped my resume in the mail

  169. Congrats, Denver! Are you going to take any time off between jobs?

  170. Congrats Denver Dad – sounds like it was meant to be. I’m glad for you that you have the flexibility – it sounds like you really enjoy being involved with your kids, so it’s great that the job will make that possible. Great news!

  171. Thanks everyone!

    NOB, I’m off now. I’m technically still working PRN (as needed) at the nursing home, but they are actually overstaffed right now because census dropped, so I haven’t worked at all since I finished school. So I’ve had plenty of time off already. Although I do need to get in gear and start studying for the exam.

    MBT, yes, the flexibility will be wonderful. DD has had a lot of medical issues the last few months, and DS has had some as well, and I was worried that my wife was going to have to deal with it all once I started working, so it will be great that I’ll still be able to handle a lot of it.

  172. And to tie in to some recent discussions, I did not negotiate on the salary. She asked me what I was looking for, and I gave an honest answer of “I’m really not sure.” She then told me what they would give, with a $5k bump once after 2-3 months when I get my productivity up to a certain level. It was actually a little more than I was expecting. One thing I might do is ask about a little increase in pay if I don’t take the health insurance. My wife has very good coverage through her employer (and we’ve already reached our out of pocket max for the year so I definitely won’t be taking the insurance for this year) so if this coverage isn’t as good, I won’t take it. I’ll see once I get the info and look at the contract. I forgot to ask about an allowance for continuing education and conferences, and money for reference materials and such, so I’ll bring that up when we start discussing my contract.

    Later in the day, DS (he’s 13) was asking me about the job, and he asked if it paid more than the nursing home, and how much I’d be making. I probably should give him the actual number, but it just felt weird. So I just told him it’s about 50% more than I was making.

  173. Congrats Denver Dad. Good that you can use your degree right away and the work situation is flexible.

  174. Wow DD, that sounds great! Perfect payoff to your plans to upgrade your career. Yours and Ada’s observations on that career path have been very informative, and I look forward to hearing more about it. Do your kids seem to have an interest in pursuing a similar path?

  175. She didn’t aske me any of the standard interview questions, she spent a lot of time talking about the practice.

    That really is awesome when you go into the interview with them trying to sell you on the job vs. you trying to sell yourself. Congrats DD!

  176. Everything is amazing and no one is happy:

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/01/paradigm-shift-hailed-in-treatment-of-lung-cancer

    Terminally ill cancer patients could be “effectively cured” of the disease ….Prof Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Centre in the US, said the treatment, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells, could potentially replace chemotherapy as the standard cancer treatment within five years.

  177. @DD — Awesome! That’s really great — so glad it was that easy and the pay is such a nice bump. Hope your kids are doing better; that’s a whole other level of stress.

    On rings: I do love mine, even if it is smaller than Mrs. Milo’s. :-) But if I had it to do over again, I’d probably go with a sapphire in platinum. We couldn’t afford platinum at the time (well, ok, more like “I was too cheap to let him pay that much more for platinum given how much he was already spending”), but the white gold isn’t as pretty and hasn’t held up as well. And I have always loved sapphires (I got one on each side, but prefer them to the diamond).

    I do think about getting it re-set sometimes. But we chose it together (@Ris — in AA, believe it or not; found a local guy with cool designs while visiting for a wedding), I got to design it and pick out the stones, and it’s one of the last things he gave me with just “his” money before it became “ours,” which seems stupid but also seems to matter. So while I wish I’d been confident enough to make my favorite stone the star, I’m also kind of attached to its imperfections. And it sort of feels like after almost 20 years, you’re not supposed to be buffed and shiny and perfect any more.

  178. Congrats DD!
    I missed the discussion because we were on the cruise. I’ll write a long post at another time, but it was a fascinating study about brands.

    I live near the same towns as CoC and I see a lot of luxury brands all of the time. I see some women that are wearing 1000s due to handbag and shoes. I Think it’s crazy and it Is one reason we chose to live a few miles away. Our daughter is already aware of certain brands, but it is generally just the Ugg/ north face thing. She asked me for a very specific black converse and I noticed that most girls in the MS seem to be wearing the same Ugg boot or converse sneaker.

    I have to admit that I’m not fully comfortable with the BMW brand thing. I see the cars all over my town so that’s not the issue. I like driving the car and I don’t miss the Subaru. I just don’t feel like the brand fits me.

  179. Random legal question about the Hastert scandal.

    Let’s say I’m the CEO of a company and I have an affair with my new assistant. She gets upset and says, “Pay me $1 million or I tell your wife and the board what you’ve been up to.” That is blackmail and is illegal. If she hires an attorney and he comes to me and says, “Would you like to reach an out of court settlement with the woman?” That’s totally legal. So, it seems the only difference between blackmail and an out of court settlement is a lawyer gets a cut?

  180. Congrats Denver Dad!

    Quick hijack question: What’s an appropriate gift for a neighbor family returning to Kuwait after a year here? Their youngest daughter was in my DD’s class and ever since the weather got nice, DD has been playing & riding bikes almost every evening with the girl and her older sister. I took the girls to the pool for a few hours this weekend, but I though I might get them a small token to remember their time here. If they were Christian, I’d probably do a Christmas ornament representing something local (or the university where dad was a visiting prof) – what’s a non-religious equivalent to a Christmas ornament?

  181. SWVA Mom – a souvenir plate that they can display in their home. Small college mascot teddy bears. Refrigerator magnets.

  182. SWVA – I used to use nice handpainted small Boston scenes from the carts. Or “Scrimshaw” jewelry with a sailing ship. Or baseball cap for mascot dolly for the kids. I also used such gifts for my Asia or Africa business trips – I would bring them with me to give as a token to my colleagues if they invited me into their home or to the exec secretary who took me shopping. They often pressed gifts upon me which I could not refuse, so I learned not to come empty handed.

  183. Ooh, I know an artist who makes cards with his paintings of local scenery – that might work. The girls both already have pillow pets of the college mascot. A plate might be nice if I can find time to fill it with cookies for their travels. Thanks Louise & Mémé!

  184. @Rhett — The end result is the same. But the lawyer cannot make an express threat, or use the threat of publicity as a cudgel (or he is just as guilty of extortion/bribery). And the lawyer must have a sufficient factual or legal basis for filing the claim in the first place (e.g., if the woman says it was a consensual affair and now she wants $$, he can’t file; she needs to dress it up as sexual harassment or discrimination or whatever).

    But, yeah, it’s basically the same dance, just dressed up in more formal clothes.

  185. Rhett — This isn’t my area of the law at all, but I think that to pursue a legal lawsuit, you have to have a “cause of action.” Basically that means that the law has to recognize your grievance. So, if the assistant has a valid (or arguably valid) sexual-harassment claim, then she could pursue a lawsuit. Any settlement would be in lieu of a trial. But if there was no harassment, and she’s simply mad at the CEO, then she couldn’t pursue legal action; simply being mad at someone isn’t enough for you to be able to sue them.

    Theoretically, you don’t need a lawyer to file a lawsuit — you can appear pro se. But if you have a valid claim, presumably you want someone who knows what he or she is doing to pursue that claim on your behalf.

    (Anyone who knows more about this area than I do, feel free to correct anything I’ve said!)

  186. NoB – I think that a quid pro quo (gifts or some similar thing) might be enough for sexual harassment even if everything was (supposedly) consensual – at least enough for a settlement. I could be wrong though. :)

  187. “I think that a quid pro quo (gifts or some similar thing) might be enough for sexual harassment even if everything was (supposedly) consensual”

    That’s what they taught us at the mandatory sexual harassment training. IIRC, any sexual relationship between someone and his or her boss is potentially sexual harassment.

  188. Thanks everyone!

    CoC, as of now, neither kid is interested in anything medical. DS wants to be a cop and DD said she wants to be a statistician.

  189. “neither kid is interested in anything medical. DS wants to be a cop and DD said she wants to be a statistician.”

    A friend who majored in math ended up being a statistician…. for a pharmaceutical company. They need statisticians to help design and evaluate their trials.

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