Each season when the new Patagonia catalog arrives I, like millions of other hard core uber groovy outdoor oriented upper income carefully targeted consumers, open the catalog to bask in the glory that is Patagonia. Oh, to be cool enough to get onto those glorious pages. What a goal. Of course, we can bask a little bit by shelling out several hundred dollars for a few ounces of carefully recycled plastic and thread. But we will never truly be worthy.
Maybe I'm getting jaded in my old age, but as the years have gone by I'm starting to view this whole process as highly suspect. I remember what it was like to be hard core - living in a VW camper bus and eating ramen. Oddly enough I don't remember Patagonia threads playing much of a role in my life. In fact, the notion of paying $400 for a down filled yuppie designed jacket would have seemed insane - when the same $400 would have bought a much needed new engine for the bus, or even better, another month of not having to work.
This season's catalog has some awesome photography featuring the likes of john Long and Lynne Hill - and copy that talks in noble terms about caring for the environment and the dangers of materialistic behavior. The cool dudes of the '70s weren't wearing designer organic jeans cut to flatter, they were wearing blown out khakis, cut to tatters.
I find it the height of hypocrisy to read the preachy copy promoting anti-materialism on the pages of the meticulously crafted catalog (optimized to generate maximum ROI per square inch of soy printed recycled pager) next to photos of overpriced garments sold in places like Newbury street.
While Chouinard iron works may have produced core gear at one time, today the vast majority of Patagonia clothing I see being bought by Newbury street shoppers is worn not by hard core dudes and dude'ettes but rather by people shopping for a jacket that matches the upholstery color of their range rover or using their daddy's black amex for lattes' and some snuggly fleece.
I still like Patagonia gear - but today I first look to other brands and outlets for my gear - going to Patagonia only when they have a technical feature set that i can't find elsewhere. To do anything else risks my becoming a caricature of the poser that Patagonia markets to today.