Debbie Millman recalls how her love of labels and logos began
I fell in love with brands when I was in the seventh grade. I looked around and noticed everyone in school was wearing really cool trousers with a little red tag on the back pocket. The chic fashion of the day also included polo shirts featuring crocodiles stitched onto the fabric, right above the heart.
Levi’s and Lacoste: the names that go along with these iconographies are intimately familiar to us now. In my junior high school years in the late ’70s, Levi’s and Lacoste clothing was more than my family could afford. Furthermore, my mother couldn’t comprehend why we would have to pay more for the red tag and the crocodile, when the clothing without them was the same quality but cheaper.
To make matters even worse, my mother was a seamstress. She also didn’t understand the appeal of buying something she could make herself. She compromised by offering to make the very same clothes from scratch. She’d stitch a red tag into the back pocket of the trousers; she’d glue a crocodile patch from the Leewards craft store onto a perfectly good polo shirt from Modell’s.
While that plan didn’t quite suit my aspirations of being a seventh grade trendsetter – or of being voted the bestdressed girl at Elwood Junior High – I eagerly pored through the racks of the local craft shop, desperately searching for a crocodile patch to stick on the front of my favourite pink polo shirt. Alas, there was nothing even close. The only remotely related substitute I found was a cute rendition of Tony the Tiger, but that really wasn’t the look I was striving for.
Dejected and mopey, I rode my bike home from the craft shop. When my mum found out that I hadn’t been successful, I could see she felt sorry for me. So she took the matter into her own hands. The Lacoste shirts were too expensive, but there were some Levi’s on sale at the Walt Whitman Mall, and she bought me a pair. But she didn’t get the denim variety that everyone else was wearing; she found a design that must have been from the triple markdown rack – a pair of lime green corduroy bell-bottom Levi’s.
It was with a mixture of horror and pride that I paraded in front of the full length mirror in my bedroom, ever so slightly sticking my bum out so that I could be sure the little red tag would show. So what if I was wearing lime green corduroy? They were Levi’s. I was cool. My reign of logo worship had begun.
Right: When she graduated high school in 1979, Debbie had finally saved enough money to purchase a real pair of Levi’s and a Lacoste polo shirt.