Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why So Plaid? A Case For Going Off The Grid

When evaluating any critique of bourgeois market goods, one must be wary of first world complaints made by shallow consumers born of privilege and harboring a deep seeded sense of entitlement. However, there are some serious and legitimate inquiries to be made regarding the manufacture, sale, and distribution of goods in a global economy of limited resources. Clearly the question of why – WHY – so many manufacturers of outdoor clothing choose to incorporate plaid patterns into almost any collared shirt when solid colors are obviously superior by any legitimate aesthetic merit; well, this question falls squarely in the latter category, I'm sure you'll agree. This matters, and you know it. Now, lest I tempt you to place me among those indulgent first-world hang-wringers, please note I purchase almost all of my clothing used from ebay or thrift stores. This is by virtue of the simple fact that I am a morally superior being. It has nothing to do with a limited bank account and a tendency towards fanatical frugality. But, let’s get back to the matter at hand, this plaid and its unrelenting ubiquity.

Don’t misunderstand me; I like plaid. I also like lime sherbet, but I don’t want every dessert to be lime sherbet or even lime flavor. I don’t want seventy to eighty percent of the desserts made in the world to be lime sherbet. Sometimes, I just want some simple-ass chocolate or vanilla. And, maybe, just maybe, I want it on a brownie, too, because dessert ingredients fall within a larger meal and sometimes simplicity blends better within that larger context. Plaid shirts also exist in a larger context - one's chosen ensemble for the day (isn’t that what you call your daily clothing choice, an ensemble?) With its incessant need for eye-catching attention and its greedy overuse of multiple hues and rectangular intersections, plaid is a pathetic glory hog demanding the spotlight and refusing to cooperate with other wardrobe members who might care to express even the tiniest bit of flair themselves. Plaid is unwilling to share the stage with anyone but a drab cast of supporting extras.

As if this prima donna attitude were not annoying enough in and of itself, plaid frequently uses the attention it demands to demean its host body. Have you ever seen the way a golf putting green looks on a video game? Often the undulations of the surface - the curves, dips, and rises - are rendered within a grid. And, what is plaid but a grid, showcasing every undulating love handle, beer belly, or man-tit protrusion in all of its soft, lazy, and unyielding apathy. Perhaps this is the genius philosophy of the outdoor gear manufacturer, seeking to produce clothes that will force only the fittest and most svelte of consumers to self-select around these brands. Well, nice try Patagonia. Better luck next time, Marmot. This author is still rocking his love handles all up under your garments of checkered shame. Wait. Maybe that’s it… Perhaps shame has something to do with this overuse of plaid.

After all, what occupation or endeavor is most associated with the plaid shirt in America besides the lumberjack? Sure, I think lumberjacks are as cool as the next American male hoping to embody an icon  of masculinity that involves abundant facial hair, brawny muscles, sharp tools of destruction, and the decimating of beautiful living things, but c'mon... I’m just a guy, not an outdoor gear manufacturer. Don’t they, the outdoor brands,  have a vested interest in nature remaining unspoiled, wild, and ripe for adventure; free from the lumberjack's axe, developer's paver, or driller's well? Don't they typically choose to associate their brands with images of pristine wilderness splashed all over their websites, catalogs, and magazine ads? Well, maybe just maybe, they are ashamed that they relate a little too much to Paul Bunyan, chopping away at the larger forest one trunk at a time. Maybe they want to project that lumberjack's guilt onto us, the lowly consumer. Maybe they are buying countless fabrics from the primary funders of climate change denial, Koch Industries. Maybe they are adopting energy-intensive global supply chains to reduce labor costs, and maybe they are churning out enough paper marketing material to fuel a few small villages for eternity. Honestly, though, I don’t care. I just want to find the occasional button-up, collared shirt that doesn’t look like it was woven from a Scotsman’s skirt. How about a nice charcoal grey or another classic, subdued, monochromatic tone? Let's get serious about some real issues facing this changing world… Let's stand for something. I call for a moratorium on plaid. When is enough truly enough after all?

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