While I admit to having recieved the same advice (and following it to some extent) back when I was starting up, you have the wisdom to see the folly. Especially where your feet are concerned - if they are not happy, you will not be happy.
While there are many good sutlers out there, I prefer Robert Land (http://www.robertlandhistoricshoes.com/ ... StoreFront
) for brogans. Very little break in needed, pricing is reasonable and delivery time is right on the estimate.
For headgear, I'm partial to the Dirty Billy's Type 1 Forage Cap, although for my next one I intend to give Nick Sekkula (sp?) a try.
There are several points with buying better quality gear initially. The imediate ones are: it does tend to be more authentic (although you do have to do your research - a higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean better or more correct); you won't have to replace it all if you stay in the hobby; and if you don't stay in the hobby, better quality gear is easier to resell than cheap crap.
Just my thoughts, and welcome to the hobby!