Allowing players a choice is never bad, everybody have a different taste, so you are either left in the solution
A) have certain items with certain stats, players who wants the stats have to use the item even if they hate the way it looks
B) allow the player to chose any visual item for a certain stat.
it seems like you are going with A, while trying to sort of blur the fact that it works like that and the statements/ideas seems to contradict eachother constantly. i might just be too dumb to understand, but you seem to say ''we want a system that allows player freedom in look, however players will have to use certain looks for certain stats, but still, freedom!''
i still cant understand why anybody would be against allowing the player to use the look from any piece of gear he has found or encourage him to find a new one... its just... right, nevermind, this system still makes no sense to me.
''we want them to be unique, but we want to limit how unique they can be''
''Gear is tied to customization''
''you need to use certain types of gear for certain stats. limiting customization''
''we want others to know what stats you have by just looking at what you are wearing, once again. limiting customization''
''we want to allow you to choose an item for the look with little penalty to stats'' (remember the ''certain gear for certain stats thing?)
''it should become a system where you can choose how you look, but certain items have certain stats, but you cant fully choose how you want to look because we want people to easily identify your stats by looking at you''
this is how i read the entire discussion, do you see now why i find it contradicting?
I dont doubt that you have a great system in mind, i just doubt how it works and how much freedom it will actually allow players to have.