Brand Disloyalty

I recently went to buy new shoes and encountered something I didn't expect at all. I've worn the same shoes for years: Chuck Taylor All Stars from Converse. I love the look and feel of them and for that I've been willing to pay more than they're really worth with regards to quality and craftsmanship.

When I went out to replace my current pair with an identical set, I ran across some knockoffs for less than a third the price. They were identical in every way to the ones I was wearing right down to tread pattern but they were Airwalks instead of Cons and they didn't have the Logo on the ankle. They were so similar that I wouldn't be surprised if they were made in the same factory and just differently branded.

So I grabbed a pair… and it was physically difficult to do. I had unknowingly developed a loyalty to a brand so strong that my mind and body screamed against the betrayal that I was comitting. I sat and stared at a rack of shoes for a good ten minutes trying to understand how this had come to be.

I had thought of loyalty to be a choice, an aspect of higher order reasoning. I had believed that advertisers had to trick and bamboozle purchasers into preferring their product. What I felt, though, ran so much deeper. I couldn't just change my mind. I felt compelled to get the same brand of shoes. It felt as though some aspect of my being was defined by my choice of shoes.


I started wearing them because I liked the look, I don't owe Converse anything and they certainly haven't done anything to earn my partronage. I wondered how deeply ingraned the feeling of loyalty could be. How far back in our evolutionary history did that instinct to be part of a tribe, and to maintain the trappings of that tribe develellop? It didn't matter. I am a modern, rational, skeptical being. I can overcome this silly feeling.

Still, I struggled.

Until finally I realized that there were other tribes, besides the Converse brand, to which I actually was loyal. So I grabbed not one, but two pair of these cheaper shoes (it was still less than buying the Cons) and decided to rebrand one of them with a logo to which I do owe some fealty.

I grabbed some fabric fixative to mix with my acrylic paint. and printed off some logos to use as stencils.




I cut out the logos and traced them onto the fabric using a high tech system of pencil crayon, straight pins, and 2×4 pine offcuts.








 It took a few coats since the canvas is pretty absorbant. but it ended up looking pretty good.



And below is the final product after ironing to fuse the paint


I'm curous, though. Has anyone else ever had this experience? Have you ever realized that you were offering your loyalty for reasons you could neither understand nor easily combat?


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. DUDE. I want MAL-branded shoes!
    I waited until the last minute to find a new pharmacy when the one I've used since childhood ended its deal with my insurance provider, and the amount of resistance I was feeling didn't make sense.
    I've also had this experience with brands of food products–continuing to buy the same brands despite other factors because the labels are familiar and reaching for them doesn't require any thought about price or content or anything. I did break free of it when I moved to my current home and found mainly unfamiliar brands, higher prices (because everything is organic) and more options in certain areas (like yogurt) that necessitated extra consideration. 

  2. Whoa- WHAT?! I have to blip right over your important message and say these are so excellent! All of us Lab rats need MALverse high-tops.

  3. Yup, and to the exact same product: my Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
    I don't think it's so much brand loyalty as just a feeling about creative works. I don't want to support knock-offs. Copying a brilliant design is just cheap. I have a few pairs of shoes that aren't Converse. Two are my training shoes. The last is a pair of sneakers I spotted in a mall in Saõ Paulo and knew I had to have. They're yellow and black, like the ones The Bride wears in Kill Bill but the logo on the side is a black heraldic eagle. They're totally sweet. And they're totally different from my Chucks. 
    I think it's fine to be inspired by a design and create something derivative to do something new with it but outright copying just sucks. 

  4. I'm with you on plagarism being a bad thing and knock offs being troublesome. But I feel like this is more of a Tide vs. storm brand detergent. They are the same product, likely made by the same people, but with a different label.
    Knowing that, even being certain of that, wouldn't have changed the feeling. It ran deeper than having made a concious choice. It felt like I was trying to keep my hand in freezing water. I had to fight my instincts just to buy shoes. I felt like a crazy person.
    And to all my fellow bloggers, I put up instructions for a reason. 😛

  5. Loyalty is one of the five pillars of human morality described by Jonathan Haidt, along with Fairness, Avoiding Injury, Respect for Authority/Elders, and Sanctity/Purity. He also describes how and why we make moral decisions. The boiled down explanation is that we are emotional animals who use reason after the fact only to justify our decisions. That is, decided in the back, justified up front. Or to put it another way, we're not rational animals, but rationalizing animals.
    So don't feel bad that you had an emotinal response to your apparent betrayal, and especially don't feel bad that you're not a wholly rational being. 
    Some advice to make your betrayal easier next time: just pick up the item you're considering defecting to. Once you do, a whole other section of your brain will kick in and decide that you already own it, making you feel bad if you don't leave the store with it.  Dance, puppet, dance!

  6. Those shoes are so rad!
    I haven't really had a problem with that myself, but that's largly due to poverty. There are certain types I'd rather be buying, but I can't afford them. What's important to me is that what I buy does what it says it does (cleans my teeth, is comfortable, doesn't fall apart, whatever). When I find a brand I like that does the job I do stick with it, the only thing I can think of that I'm really attached to having is Tom's of Maine toothpaste (it really makes my teeth feel cleaner and it tastes good). I don't like it when I can't get that brand.

  7. Anne S, your pharmacy experience makes me think of one of my rules. This ingrained sense of loyalty is why, when I am faced with a choice of whom to do business with, I choose Nice People. I don't go by lowest price or other such things (to a reasonable extent, of course.)
    Nice People, imho, are usually a good bet.

  8. I'm a similarly loyal CT All-star wearer.  It goes back to my punk rock days running BreastFed Records, and an article in MRR (from Reverend Norb or Ben Weasel I think) about Black CT All-stars as the official punk rock shoe.  I remember a few years ago when they stopped making them in the US, and at that point the knock-offs got MUCH more similar to the real shoes… for the purpose of personalizing I think I could get over my loyalty if I could buy them for less than $15… I know of a new logo I'd like to try on a pair.

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