Item level this and that, don't you just hear that everywhere? I must admit I do keep close track of my item levels as well, and I would like to take a moment to explain why that is.
Most of all, gear means access to me - in more ways than just one. Having good gear gives you a VIP pass past all sorts of queues. While it's been long since I bothered pugging anything at all (excluding LFR), I am now looking into the opportunity of achieving the impossible via OpenRaid.eu, and I do feel that my item level is going to make a difference on that path. And whilst, very much thanks to the looking for raid system, there are well-geared people, who are more or less hopeless when it comes to playing the game, it becomes very important to realise that good gear does not equal good performance. Just like bad gear doesn't equal bad performance. Yet gear does set limits. Gear is the canvas you paint with your skill. To me, this represents access, as I find soloing content a very enjoyable way to spend time on the game.
In addition to that, gear can also be a personal achievement. It tells others I've been there and done that - hopefully also earned those pieces somehow. I don't really raid with anyone else but guild mates, and I am usually the loot master. I'm not really too fussed about winning as much stuff as possible. If the item's stats are better for someone else that needs it, I have no problem giving it to them, as long as I can trust that they will continue to put their effort in raiding with the group. After all, the point is not to acquire as much for yourself as you can, but make decisions that benefit the group as a whole. How I feel about raiding and loot is similar to - and please do forgive me for this allegory, it just happens to be perfect - relationships and sex. I wouldn't get into a relationship for sex, but it's a nice extra that comes with it.
What does gear mean to you? How important do you consider it?