Hey there Johnny boy,
Given your location and the fact that you seemed to love kayaking right off the bat, I would say you might as well invest in some gear that will last, as well as LIKING your gear. It may sound dumb to say the color matters, but you will be wearing these pieces of gear ALL THE TIME. The color is certainly not the priority (well, it is safetywise...) but it's a solid consideration, regardless, IMO.
In retrospect, I wish that I had borrowed a few key items from a friend that had extra and bought gear pieces that I truly felt comfortable with and liked right off the bat, rather than simply buying the crappiest dry top out there simply because I could afford the non-gor-tex, slightly small, short sleaved (BRRRRRR!!!!), "splash top" that was hanging on the sale rack for $79. It's a key gear piece and one you will use for YEARS and YEARS (and it you buy kokatat add even more years onto that). I would say the same thing about the helmet you chose. 1) it's protecting your brain 2) it will last you a long ass time. Some people have a play boat helmet and a creeking helmet (usually full face to protect the money maker), but I would say screw the people that laugh at you, in your full face, in at the play park and just go big with a full face you like right away - SWEET makes a great helmet for ~350 and Shred reddy makes a very good, very safe, full face for ~120.
You really don't really need a dry suit (~1200ish) when you start kayaking...soon you'll want to run harder stuff that would make a dry suit really nice to have, and by that time you can just downgrade your dry top to a back up piece of gear.
Get some nose plugs. Get some ear plugs (more for the play park than river/creek running) for when the water is ice-cream headache cold.
You live in Asheville and like to kayak, so you should have ample folks that will help you gear up if you aren't in a position to throw down what it takes to get some quality gear at first, or maybe you are stinking rich and can afford both fashion and quality....if so, be sure to always have the hoppiest, micro-brewed, local beer possible at the take out and for added style points and to win friends, be sure to keep 'em cold.... and REMEMBER TO PUT THE TAKE OUT BEERS IN THE TAKE OUT VEHICLE, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE! Anyone will tell you this is a key collective piece of gear.
If you're play boating a lot (which Leif will probably chime in and say you should....) you can get away with pretty janky footwear...neoprene booties, old tennies, whateves will fit in the boat. You can upgrade when you've realize that value of the play park, yet can't seem to get allure of creek boating out of your head.......
"You know that old trees just grow stronger and old rivers grow wilder, everyday..."