Our bodies come pre-wired to connect. They (we) are on high alert and are ready to respond and build connections. But with billions of people milling around us, how do we increase the odds that we can find real connections? 

We advertise. We tell our stories on our outsides, increasing the odds that others who share our interests (or faith, or heritage, or class, or musical taste, etc.) will find us – like radar. Across crowded rooms we notice – and migrate toward – or away. We tell our stories so effectively that a memorable impression is made instantly. Our style can be described in a million ways, such as street, biker, western, urban, trendy, chic, grunge, retro, sexy, classy, masculine/feminine, hip, slouchy, sporty, dapper, gothic – the list goes on. And for each impression, we get an immediate sense of the person wearing those clothes. Or at least an idea of what the person wants us to see and know. These styles express something about the social groups to which they belong – or want to belong.

But ‘branded’ can also carry a much darker meaning. Like cattle who are marked with a branding iron, sometimes it can be used to show ownership or control. History seems like one long story of dominance – of victors either branding those who ‘don’t belong’ – or victors demanding that any evidence of the defeated culture be totally eliminated. Destroying cultural heritage and traditions denies people the ‘brand’ that matters most to them.

So here’s to brands like Native American, Native Hawaiian, Muslim, Rasta, Jewish, Sikh, Amish, … or … French, Nigerian, Vietnamese, Korean … you get the picture. So many stories to tell.

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