Unlike many of you fine people, I have no problem with personalized license plates. In fact, I like them as a matter of principle, and do not at all understand the irrational hatred they seem to engender. And that hatred strikes me as just that: irrational. When we buy cars, whether new or old, we choose among many competing models, and then choose the drivetrain configuration and color and interior that we prefer. Very often, after buying a car, we customize it even further to our liking, for reasons of performance, comfort, reliability, aesthetics, and so on. Nearly every aspect of our cars is individualized to reflect our personalities and preferences (and eventually, their condition betrays our habits, good and bad). And then the government slaps an identical serial number plate, prominently displayed, on the front and back, in colors and patterns and letters and numbers that we cannot choose. As long as you have the option to personalize that too, why not do so?

Compared to the other modifications one can make, it is among the cheapest, and it is among the most obviously and immediately personal. I cannot begin to fathom why the sort of people who enjoy debating the merits of various types of wheel lug nuts, and who daydream about the perfect vehicle configured and customized to their perfect specification, would object to others’ choosing to personalize the one prominent item on their car that is otherwise completely beyond their control. Plus, it’s easier and more enjoyable to remember the nickname you’ve chosen to display on your car than the random sequence of letters and numbers the state’s computer assigned you.

Seen around Pacific Grove, California a few weeks ago.

Of course, plenty of people choose idiotic or goofy or nonsensical things to put on those vanity plates, but what business is it of mine? I have opinions about colors and wheels and stance and so on that I will gladly share with anyone who will listen, and I’ll make fun of dumb vanity plates the same way, but at bottom, I’m 100% in favor of people customizing their cars however they please, as long as it doesn’t make them unsafe for others (lookin’ at you, terrible stancemobiles). It’s what makes car culture interesting. Vive la différence, I say.

ETA: yes, I have vanity plates on my daily driver.