I've had a few guitars with GP hardware - the most notable being a Levinson Blade "Texas Deluxe" (one of the first 50 made by Gary that were sent out for "reviewing" by the various mags. No serial number, and now sold as I hated it and loved it in equal measure - which wasn't good enough). I've still got an Aria Mac-50 as a "beater".
Thing is, I always buy my guitars on "feel" (don't even put them through an amp in the shop), and these two (at the time of buying), felt just right, so looks etc. were always going to be a secondary consideration.
I'm into bikes too, and particularly into "RATS". That being the case, I'm about to RAT the Mac-50, and do the whole thing in BBQ paint and "newspaper clippings" with a couple of coats of clear poly to finish it off. Thing is, though I'm removing the strings, I'm not arsed enough to remove the gold hardware - so that's getting the f'kin treatment too.
I know what you mean. To some, gold hardware might seem "pretentious", but it's what and how you play that counts. Squier's are good guitars, and (to me) sound good irrespective of "upgrades" (by which time you might as well spent the extra money on a genuine Fender - from wherever). For me it's never been about the name on the headstock, coz buying a "name" won't make you a better player - lots of my guitars are strictly "budget".
At the end of the day, it's down to you mate. I wonder how many who've read this are asking themselves "why the f**k didn't he just say that as a first line and leave it at that ;-)