Recently, I was browsing Zara’s website, absentmindedly scrolling past silky blouses and plaid skirts, when I spotted a white T-shirt as plain as Wonder Bread except for one detail: The brand’s logo was emblazoned across the chest.

Though we may be more accustomed to seeing “Zara” printed on the inside of our clothes, logomania has become big business. For proof, just pick a letter. G stands for Gucci, whose gold-G-buckle belt was the hottest product of 2018, according to fashion search engine Lyst. F is for Fendi — searches for its interlocking brown Fs increased by 70 percent this year. And let’s not forget Supreme, the most-wanted logo of 2018. No wonder Zara is offering us a lower-priced alternative. Logos aren’t new — who can forget the monogrammed Louis Vuitton Neverfulls and Abercrombie tees of the early and mid-aughts? But today’s takes are even bolder. Subtlety is as out of date as an iPhone 6.

There’s a social-connection aspect to logos, says NPD Group’s fashion industry analyst Tamara Szames. “It’s a connection to that brand and values, and in today’s world, values have become a status symbol,” she says. So if wearing Juicy Couture made you cool in high school, some Off-White branding is today’s short-hand for fashion-crowd in-ness.

But what does it mean to declare you wear Zara? The retailer is many things — fashion giant, closet-gap filler and quick fix for a case of the “shoppies” — but it’s not exactly a status symbol. One answer is fashion’s love of irony. We want our clothes to tell the world that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. After all, it’s why Marc Jacobs tapped photographer Ava Nirui on a line of sweatshirts, including one that riffs on margarine packaging. Plus, our thirst for all things throwback has allowed Levi’s and Club Monaco to tap into their respective heritages and produce logo-centric capsule collections that are just as bold as their higher-end counterparts.

And as for that Zara tee, it’s part of a bigger collection. There’s also a silky skirt-and-blouse set printed with interlocking Zs that bear a striking resemblance to a certain luxury brand’s Fs. It’s currently sitting in my shopping cart. Sure, it’s no luxury symbol, but the humour of it is irresistibly chic.

This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.