I want to talk about teens and brands and why I will spend $50 for a pair of shoes, as mentioned in my post about growing a backbone and turning a frugal failure into a victory.
My boys don't ask for very much. They don't follow current trends in their dress. They do both prefer Levi's jeans, but they don't have to be a specific style and they don't mind if they are used. In putting my boys in Levi's brand jeans exclusively for the past eight years I have had to buy brand new jeans on sale exactly twice, for a total of six pairs of new jeans. That was only when they would end up in hard to find sizes, such as 14S and mens 28x32. Mostly we find Levi's at the thrift store, even though until very recently my boys could only wear slim sizes (not just slim styles, but slim sizes).
(It may be that the cool kids today don't even wear Levi's - I wouldn't really know.)
They wear whatever shirts and hoodies we find; thrift stores really do have enough variety that they can find things they like and that represent their interest and style. They also get t-shirts from various biking events.
T prefers Nike shoes; Nikes fit his feet well and satisfy whatever level of need he has to be like other kids, or more likely, they fit the image in his mind of what athletes wear. He doesn't care if they come from a discounter such as Big 5. It was only a few years ago that I even knew that the Nikes at places like Big 5 and Sports Authority weren't the "Top Tier" Nike shoes; my SIL told me that her son would never wear Nikes from those stores because other kids know the models and would know that they weren't the "best" Nikes, and I silently thanked my boys for being so easy to please. J doesn't even stick to only Nike, and sometimes chooses less expensive shoes because he likes how they look. But lately they've been choosing Nike running specific shoes because they run sometimes, and this gives them a shoe that is good for running and comfortable for everyday wear.
If I was struggling to pay my bills and buy groceries we would buy the cheapest shoes we could and my boys would have to deal with it. But that isn't where we are, so I don't. There is no way I would shell out $200 for a pair of Air Jordans - they don't need Air Jordans.
My mom was very brand conscious and was always trying to make sure I had the brands that other kids were wearing; I would say that she probably cared more than I did, or at least she made me more aware of what other kids wore and what was cool. I didn't want to put that kind of pressure on my boys, and with home learning they don't have extreme peer pressure to fit in. In truth, I think they prefer Nikes and Levi's because Papa wears Nikes (or Vans) and Levi's, and he probably prefers them because they were the cool brands of his youth. I think it is rather sweet that my boys base their sense of style off their dad.
Papa does remember wearing the cheaper, uncool brands of clothing and shoes, and he hated it. I don't know that his family could have done it any differently when he was younger. Eventually he had Levi's in high school and he thinks it made things a little easier for him, even if it was just he himself who felt boosted by it.
Kids, and teens especially, don't want to be very different from their peers. It's hard enough to be an adolescent without feeling like there are things about you that make everyone point and stare. Since a teen has no control over things like acne, gangly limbs, and a cracking voice, I see zero harm in helping them fit in with clothing and shoes as long as it doesn't blow the budget or compromise the family values. I am glad to have been able to find a middle road with my boys and get them what they want without breaking the bank. Hopefully they understand that we have always made choices based on modesty (no drooping pants!) and quality/durability and price.