“When you have children, everything that’s yours is theirs, but nothing that’s theirs is yours.”
— Michael “Nick” Nichols, National Geographic photographer
We all have it. A favorite piece of gear. A favorite piece of clothing. If you are person who spends a lot of time outdoors, that piece of clothing probably shows some wear and tear. But each abrasion, each scuff, each rip also tells a story. A story that triggers something only inside of you … or a story that has to be poured out to others, “There was this one time that …”
Patagonia is latching onto this idea like Proust latched onto his madeleine. In a new video online, the company is telling the stories of customers and a piece of clothing that means a lot to them. Not because it has the classic Patagonia label on it, but rather because it has been through so much with them. It kept them warm, dry, comfortable. It may have already been passed down to the next generation. What matters is the function. What matters is that it is made to last.
I have several things from Patagonia, but my favorite, and oldest, is a Snap-T Synchilla jacket that I bought in high school. It has survived college, frosty mornings hiking, cold evenings around a campfire and more than one friend who tried to make off with it. It has served as a pillow, a seat, a camera wrap, a towel. It is still the most comfortable thing I own — physically and psychologically.
One of the best quotes from the Patagonia film is from National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols: “When you have children, everything that’s yours is theirs, but nothing that’s theirs is yours.” He is describing how his son likes to borrow his old gear, thus making it new again.
I plan to hold onto my jacket until my son is old enough to have it. I’m sure it will keep him warm just as it did me. I hope it triggers as many good memories for him down the road as it has for me.
I think Patagonia is onto something during the annual startup of the “want-itis” around the holidays. Do you need that new jacket? Do you need those new shoes? Or, do you have something that works just as well, even if it is a little older, a little dustier? I recognize that it is a pretty smart marketing idea to sell your customers on the idea that they shouldn’t buy another item from your company. At Thanksgiving in 2011, the company placed a full-age ad in the New York Times saying, “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” Since then annual sales for the company have grown almost 40 percent. Watching the video reminds you how much you’ve enjoyed that thing from Patagonia and maybe you should just check and see what new things they are selling. But still, the message that we are consuming the Earth just because we want something new, even when it is not needed, is a good one. And makes for a wonderful video.