World of Warcraft didn't help either.
Fast forward to turning 18 and my first visit to a bar with a collar and leather shoe policy*. My existing insecurity combined with an unfamiliar environment, had me crying for branded clothes. I remember wearing a black Colorado polo shirt, jeans and a horrible pair of brown leather shoes. I did what I could to blend in as much as I could by wearing black. I was so self concious and focused on how I looked, I didn't take notice of what others were wearing. It felt like I was back at high school.
If time travel existed, I would use it to give Past-Loic an uppercut.
A couple of years later, I begrudgingly find myself at the same bar. Only this time I'm seeing everyone in button up shirts with surf brands written all over them. I couldn't help but see myself in them. They relied solely on the over-the-top branding on their shirts to validate their presence.
Now, this is wrong. By wearing overly branded clothes it shows that you are still highly dependant on the approval of others. Is fitting in a bad thing? Not necessarily. What is bad though, is wearing something horrible simply because it says G-Star on it.
Overly branded clothing can also be extremely tacky and tasteless. Let's take Ed Hardy for example. Why is Ed Hardy so horrible? Is it because of the mediocre design? No, it's because of the association Ed Hardy has with fake tan, steroids and industrial quantities of hair gel. Rather than wear what looks good, these generic meathead types would rather fit in to the expectations of others.
Ed Hardy: Not even once**
That isn't to say avoid popular brands. There are brands which are synonymous with quality, and boast wardrobe essentials. Tommy Hilfiger has knits. Converse has Chuck Taylor All Stars. Burberry has trench coats. Country Road has tote bags. Oakley has sunglasses. Play to the strengths of brands.
Instead of restricting yourself to common brands - try branching out. It's easy to be comfortable and wearing the same stuff all the time, but where's the fun in that? Don't just settle for brands that you know and that everyone else wears. Instead of advertising brands, advertise your ability to put together an outfit that looks good. It will leave a lasting impression, and mufti days won't be so scary anymore.
* The particular bar being The Mean Fiddler. A visit to this cesspool is a rite of passage for anyone turning 18 in western Sydney. The thing is, I'm not sure if it's always been terrible or if I've grown out of it. I look back on my first few visits there fondly, minus the self conciousness. Almost every Friday for a year or two was a high school reunion. Who wouldn't love seeing people you never spoke to at school, pretending to be your best mate, then asking 'what you do for work' every week?
**Image sourced from Cracked.com - http://www.cracked.com/funny-420-