Perhaps the brass button reactions are related to geography and location. In the urban centers of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, a blue blazer with brass buttons is about as ubiquitous as a windbreaker would be in Portland, Oregon. The brass buttons aren't considered "fancy" or "pretentious;" they're nearly invisible and implicitly understood to be part of a standard uniform. I have noticed in California, where I live, that there can be an element of snide condescension directed toward those who make an effort to dress well. I know that the generalized CA ideal is a seemingly unstudied, breezy, disheveled-but-luxurious style, as opposed to the starchier and more pressed styles you might find elsewhere. Based on what I've read above, I'd better set up an appointment with a yacht broker to find something to go with my brass-buttoned blazer.