So, we all have gear. Even if it's not the latest and the greatest in the eyes of others, it hopefully gets the job done. The thing we have to be careful of is judging or criticizing people for what they do or don't use and why they make those choices. Now, it's normal for a teacher to make suggestions to growing students, including ones in higher education, especially if they see a need for a change or an exploration of different materials. This of course is a welcomed, constructive advisement and great studios and classmates will be conscious and mindful enough to make these suggestions or state opinions without seeming to be pushy or intimidating, etc. But, of course, some people like to be right. We all have probably had that experience where someone older or technically "better" than us tried to make a suggestion as if they had all the answers, not as a constructive opinion to help us. That's what I'm talking about.
As we develop our technique, our ability to express ourselves grows and we begin to have ideas and preferences about what equipment will allow us to do that the best. You don't have to use equipment just because the majority of people use a certain product. Personally, I base whatever I use on categories of overall weight, distribution of that weight, and rebound response. So if a $10 mallet from a toy store meets all of those criteria and I decide to use it, I and anyone else should not feel judged if it is accomplishing what we need it to. I had one experience where I made my own tam tam beater out of an old farmer's rubber hammer and a sponge, and that's exactly what it looked like too. No yarn wrapping, no paint job, just a sponge on top of a hammer. Of course I got strange looks, but as soon as they heard the sound it produced they all wanted one. Instead of saying, "That's janky" or "You should use the professional beater" they respected my decision, were open to discussion about how and why I came up with it and were non-judgmental about it.
As far as suggestions go, in college, the entire studio "suggested" that I buy a certain drumstick because it was the "standard stick" and I refused because I was used to playing with Cooperman sticks, as it was my previous teacher who gave them to me. Finally I gave in and bought the sticks and found that I really liked them and soon realized how limiting the old pair was to what I wanted to do. Yes, I could still use them, but when it came to certain tasks the new sticks were easier to work with. Later, a teacher would see that I was using a certain timpani mallet that I had to work hard to make work for me and taught me what to look for in mallets that would make it easier to decide what would work and gave me a list of options. With this method I obviously caught on quickly and thanked him for his advisement and soon bought new mallets that helped me rather than hurt me.
We shouldn't judge people period, but we all can help people if the need is there. If you know someone is struggling because the equipment is not made "for them" we can always let people try out things that we own that they may be interested in. The key is to not be invasive or argumentative abut it. Remember, we all have a reason for what we use so respect everyone's choices, don't neglect or disrespect them. And if someone is using something you personally don't like, you should still respect their decision regardless of your personal feelings about it. This goes double for your life outside of music. Maybe even ask yourself why you have those negative feelings. Is it because they don't work for you personally, do you not like the manufacturer, is the production quality bad or you might've gotten a bad set, does someone you dislike use those things? You might find you actually love the equipment. So let's not put anyone down for what they choose to use. If there's a clear need for help be kind enough to offer people your equipment to test the waters instead of acting "holier than thou" or "teacher-esque" and saying they should use what you use. And be open to trying new things, even if what you use is perfect it doesn't mean you have to stop searching for more. In short, respect people's decisions, be open to conversing about those decisions, and kindly share with one another to help everyone grow.