Like many confused and overwhelmed preteens, I stumbled through my middle school years trying to figure out just what and how much I needed to do to be viewed "acceptably cool." I knew that being the most popular girl in school was out of the question (these things are preordained, and once you realize that you haven't been chosen, you recognize there's no hope for rising above a certain point of popularity) but I figured that as long as I was just cool enough to not be picked on, and generally regarded as an okay person by the popular crowd, I could slide through my awkward, uncomfortable years relatively unscathed.
My parents were never the type to indulge me by buying the "must have" item of the month. Try as I might, I couldn't convince them that that pair of Old Navy sandals paled in comparison to the $100 pair of Birkenstock sandals, and that every single person in school would not just notice the difference, but would also see me as a social outcast, forcing me to transfer schools and taking away my every reason to live. A tad dramatic perhaps, but to a 13 year old, every action takes on such epic proportions.
As a middle schooler, the brand names that you advertised on your shirt, shoes, sunglasses and purse went a long way in determining your social status. Abercrombie, Nike, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Birkenstock, North Face (this was the late 90's, people)... the more you had on, the cooler you were. Bonus points were given if you had a more expensive brand name item, like a puffy vest instead of a basic t-shirt, or a backpack instead of a baseball cap. Even being able to wear a pair of socks with RL in little blue and red letters to gym class gave you an added boost, small as the gesture might be. This is what had me rummaging through the racks at my local department store, searching for the Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt with the largest logo imaginable that I could buy with the $20 my parents gave me.
It's been years since I've given this phenomenon (which thankfully became far less important in high school) much thought. That was until I was browsing through the mall a few weeks ago and I couldn't seem to get away from purses that screamed out their brand name from every possible surface.
My only theory as to the popularity of these logo bags is that the people who buy them follow the same logic I did as an 8th grader in an Abercrombie store: if I'm going to be paying a premium for a recognizable brand name, it better be obvious to everyone who sees me that I spent a lot of money on this item (which a humongous logo ensured). As with all logo clothing and accessories, it's not like these bags are any more attractive than ones from the same line that aren't plastered with the logo. So I'm guessing that if people are going to shell out $300, $800 or $1500 on a handbag, they want to squeeze out all the prestige they can out of that brand, which a bag with a small, nondescript logo just can't provide.
You'll also notice that a lot of brands charge less for their logo bags than other styles. This hooks people for whom an extra $100 makes a big difference. The consumer gets a luxury bag for less and the company gets free advertising. Everyone's happy.
I know that I'm going to get responses from people who insist that they bought logo bags simply because they like the look of one logo style or another, that it wasn't about the brand, etc. If this is the case, I'm just curious what it is that led you to purchase that bag over another, and what kind of responses you get from friends/family/strangers who recognize the bag (my guess is that people spend more time oohing and ahhing over the fact that it's that brand than the style and design of the bag itself, though I could be wrong).
And before people get angry, I want to say that I'm not here to look down on people; it's your money and you can spend it the way you like. But I do find this to be a curious phenomenon, and I know I'm not the only one who finds logo bags to be tacky (whether or not the purse beneath is attractive).