Specifically, I can remember a time (back when the Bear Store was above a firehouse and not around the corner from the Lone Star) when the public markers of Bear identity were few and far between: the hat, the T-shirt, the bumper sticker. If you had the hat and T-shirt - I did (I wore the T-shirt to work a lot, and Mark usually had the hat at that time), you almost never got a reaction out of anyone, but when you did, it was exciting because it was such an obscure thing. For my tastes, at least, earlier PSB was more interesting because everything was subtext, and if you picked up on it, it made it more immediate, more personal. Now it's just all out there in the open so that everyone 'gets it'; it feels cheapened.
Now, of course, you can buy practically anything and everything that's purportedly Bearish - next thing you know, there'll even be a special Bear china pattern available at that one place you always see at factory outlet shopping centers (the name escapes me - is it Mikasa?). I also remember a time when identifying yourself as a Bear would generally shock and upset most gay men (at least in the San Francisco Bay Area) - they seemed horrified by the idea that you'd want to fuck someone who was bearded, furry, possibly even a little soft around the middle. Now, it's a well established marketing phenomenon / target demographic, so it's just... ordinary. Nothing special about it, anyone can buy one of the 100 available T-shirts or 20 available hats, and play at being a bear for the weekend.
Gone are the times when folks might have read Song of Myself and identified with uncle Walt's "bristling beard", or else they read Adam Mars-Jones' wonderful story, Bears in Mourning, and thought about Bears an a different light. Now, the talk is almost always only of sex and no longer of friendship or brotherhood, but I suppose that's okay too; I shouldn't be surprised that with a wider audience comes a broader topic.
The social mah jongg evenings upstairs at the Lone Star are no longer, and the space has been replaced by a Kwik-E-Mart of bear stuff. Still beats no Bears at all though! :)