This week I pulled the trigger on some new skate skis that actually fit me properly and I'll be picking them up at Finn Sisu today. The shop offered 30% off on a coupon in our race packet on Sunday and I decided it was time. My current skate skis are used, $50 end of the season REI rental skis, and their purchase was strongly suggested by No1 son, who skied for the Wisconsin Badger team at the time. "Give it a try dad, you'll really like it, you can really fly". And you can really fly if you're a wiry, 20 year old, physically fit college racer. My problem at 225#'s and 55 years old, is that I have a Coupe de Ville body with a 4 cylinder engine under the hood. Still its fun and at times you do feel like you're flying. When I divulged my purchase to BDahlieOfMahtomedi over some fine ales at Grumpy's on Tuesday night, he immediately quizzed me on what I had purchased. He has two daughters that ski so his VISA card is on permanent file at Finn Sisu and his ski gear knowledge is legendary (I actually asked them if I could use his VISA number and they said they liked the idea but didn't think so). I told him I had settled on some Atomics and he immediately quizzed me as to which one of the numerous models I had purchased. When I told him I had no idea whatsoever, he was stunned by my ignorance. When he next asked about the brand of boot I bought, I had to tell him, "the comfortable ones".
I'm kind of schizo when it comes to whether or not I care about brand names. My main goal is function and I really could care less what the name on the gear is as long as it works well. I'm not as logophobic as RangerMark, who dutifully removes the logo stickers from any gear that it can be removed from, but I really could not give a rat's scabby behind whose name is on my gear as long as it performs well. Once I do find a brand that performs well and offers good value though, I tend to stick to it and look there first when I'm in the market for new stuff. Ruger firearms, Filson wool gear, Smart Wool socks and undergarments, and Valley kayaks have served me well over the years and I'll tend to hang with them. In the old days, the car you drove, the cigarettes you smoked, and the beer you drank all tended to be based upon advertising and whether or not the companies were able to steer you toward their brand in the first place. Friends and family were a big influence in that initial steering as well. The Old Man liked Leinenkugels beer and General Motors cars and I'll have to admit that my American made vehicles have been Chevy's and GMC's and that numerous cases of Leinies have graced my fridge over the years.
I think consumers are a little more savvy these days and more interested in performance, especially the folks looking for outdoor gear. People that pay big bucks for a bag that has "Coach" on it, or a pair of impossibly cruel shoes that say "Jimmy Choo" are beyond redemption and always will be. Some tried and true outdoor brands have developed a following and good brand identity but with the internet its much easier for new companies to develop a buzz about their brand and debut new, innovative products that challenge the status quo. Who would have thought that with all the polypropylene, capilene, duratherm, gore-tex, et al, that good old fashioned wool would suddenly be the hot fabric? Yet Icebreaker, Smart Wool and others have mounted a relatively low key marketing effort that has reinvented this venerable, effective,and sustainable fabric and made it just that. Of course curmudgeonly dinosaurs like myself never really got away from wool and view its trendy new image with some bemusement. So go the consumer trends in the 21st century.
Buy new gear, fix up old gear, buy brand names, try the new stuff, heck, go backpacking in those functionally impossible Jimmy Choo shoes if you want to. Just get whats comfortable for you, fits you well, and makes you feel good when you use it. Value is a personal thing and if you feel your gear gives you good value that's whats important.