Some of Scott's shirts have seen better days, so we went to the factory outlets in Gilroy, in search of replacements. Acres of asphalt and miles of buildings house some 145 stores, or so the sign boasts. I'd say roughly two out of three of these stores sell clothing of some description, while the other third offer a mix mostly of housewares, shoes, and luggage. A person might reasonably assume, then, that a tour of this place would yield a few shirts suitable for purchase.
One problem: Scott wants to replace the shirts he wore out. They are a few years old, and they are nice, rich, dark colors, or they were before so many washings. Navy blue, maroon and burgundy and hunter green are his staples.
The colors in these stores, by contrast, resembled nothing so much as the fake rock outcropping in the queue for the roller coaster at the local theme park. Park patrons persistently deposited their chewing gum there before departing on a wild ride, despite the park's efforts to discourage the practice*. Each store we entered greeted us with a pastel assault of pink, mint, lime green, aqua, light yellow, turquoise, salmon and the occasional baby blue or light sage, a fitting complement, I suppose, to the metallic mall music, the soft jazz echoing loudly through the stucco corridors just outside. Even Eddie Bauer, that bastion of sturdy, classic apparel, succumbed to this pasty palette. A few of the less dreadful variants of these tints interested me briefly in my young teen years. Still, I think the gum encompassed a broader range of color and served as a better expression of individuality, if not necessarily good taste, than the fashions in the stores today.
Eventually, we found a couple of dark red shirts and a darker sage color that didn't make Scott's fair skin look too washed out, but only after much wandering and pawing through discount racks of leftovers from last fall. We hope that these ones will not wear out until the colors have swung back around to some we can stomach.
How much time and money do we waste following the fashions, buying colors to keep in step with everyone else, or because last year's colors now look dated? Could a store offering sturdy basics (with pockets, please!) in a range of colors, regardless of the year, make a go of it serving people who prefer think for themselves? Or aren't there enough of us to support even one store, among 145?*When they ultimately resorted to placing a fence in front of that corner, visitors merely stuck their gum on the fence instead.