Brand name clothes overrated

By Denis Perez, Editor-in-Chief

Growing up I always longed to wear top brand-named clothing to feel comfortable at school, until my late teens when I realized it was better to have been raised to not care for them.

Much of my adolescent life revolved around fitting in in a new land that my parents had immigrated to for a better life.

I didn’t wish to be popular, but I didn’t want to stand out.

Having some cool shoes and a nice sweater really didn’t get me friends, but it did allow me to shake off any insecurity my anxious brain would bring up about my appearance.

When I was going to elementary school, my mom and dad were both 31-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrants raising three children while living in a 16×10 foot room with four other families. We shared a three bedroom upper duplex on the corner of West and 33rd streets in West Oakland.

Since my school, Hoover Elementary, once had a white polo shirt and navy blue pant dress code, much of the self-expression my peers used were in the shoes and sweaters they wore.

Going to school during my first years in the U.S. had its rough periods.

At that time, I had no idea what fashion, style or personal expression had to do with a social life.

I was just happy.

I was finally living together with my parents as a whole family, even if it was in a small room.

I met many kids who I played with at recess and in the classroom, but I never felt comfortable living by my own choices or being by myself.

Unfortunately, I was a shy kid and I didn’t talk, so it was easy for kids to judge me by the way I spoke — with an accent.

I was also teased a lot because of my lack of style when it came to shoes, sweaters or even about the TV shows I watched.

I didn’t own a pair of Nikes or top brand name shoes until I was in seventh grade.

In elementary school I wore shoes sold at “la pulga” (flea market), Payless, Sketchers or Ross.

Eighty dollars for a pair of Nikes that I am going to rough up in a couple of months anyway wasn’t economically sane to us.

The savings transcended  more than fashion.

It was always just better to have OK clothes and save money, than have fine clothing and cut into the little budget we had.

My dad even had a saying.

Look for the three B’s. “Bueno, Bonito, Barato.” In English it is the three G’s — “Good-condition, good-looking and great price.”

I would always shop at second- hand stores and non-brand selling retail stores.

Cultural reality hit in second grade when the need for nice, brand name shoes came to a climax.

My mother told me she got me shoes “de marca” (brand name).

In reality they were Shrek designed Payless shoes.

I was 7 and wearing an ogre on my feet just wouldn’t meet the standard of coolness the kids at school had.

They couldn’t shake off the simplest joke that came directed toward me.

I understood, but I couldn’t complain.

My mom and dad faced bills and looking for sustainable employment in a world of exploiters.

It was me who would have to face the mean-ass kids at school.

It was definitely me who desired brand name shoes that the athletes wore in the commercials during WWE “Friday Night Smackdown.”

I didn’t realize it then, but two years in America, where all I did was go to school, watch TV and socialize with neighborhood kids, drove my need for fresh kicks to be able to assimilate properly.

The need for brand-named shoes and clothes traveled with me throughout high school as well.

When I got my first real job as a handyman’s assistant in sophomore year, I was excited to be able to afford nice shoes and nice clothes.

Then when I got a better job my junior year, I bought vans every month and made sure I had nice shirts and sweaters.

It wasn’t until my senior year when I entered Mr. Silva’s class at El Cerrito High that I learned a lot about everything. I remember one day we talked about the clothing industry in America.

We talked about the business of politics and the issue of exploited clothing manufacturing workers.

It hit me then and there. The low-paid women in the clothing factories in Bangladesh face the same industry pressure my parents and I faced.

That is what made it so memorable.

I began thinking back on all the times I did not have those brand name clothes and knowing I was still OK with myself but not OK with how people saw me.

It was all just a mentality brought on by the people around me, and not how I actually felt.

I remembered my mother and father really couldn’t afford nice shoes for themselves, not to mention three kids.

I’m thankful for the tough shell formed through experiences that a shy, out of style, immigrant kid had to go through.

Those experiences made me embrace my humility, humanity and, in the end, they made me better.