He speaks of the wisdom of keeping old clothes, and not buying new ones, and gets the quote almost perfectly. To be precise, [from chapter one in Walden] the quote reads:
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.
The irony is a little on the nose, but the film that profiles a number of Patagonia users, and their aged garments do support Thoreau's larger point, that clothes should serve the wearer, and not the other way around. The surfers, riders, hikers, farmers, climbers, skiers seen in the well-made little film proudly display ancient garments, often purchased at yard sales, and focus on the patches, rips, duct tape -- enjoying the stories that go with the scars in their habadashery.
They don't need new clothes to become new people, as Thoreau said.
This month's Backpacker magazine [not yet on-line] tells a similar story with a survey of users, asking which manufacturer made the best outdoor apparel -- Patagonia came in at 23%, far ahead of any other maker. By holding seminars at Patagonia shops this "Black Friday" and encouraging people to bring worn gear in and learn how to repair it, as well as making really durable apparel, one has to say the company is walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
I bring this up to introduce a really startling example of Patagonia's willingness to go the distance -- an essay by one of their climbing ambassadors, Kelly Cordes, about an awful night he and a climbing buddy spent on a horrifyingly steep slope in Patagonia itself, called The Dark Hours.
Fog swirls up from below, signaling the incoming storm. Hail taps the ultralight tarp we’ve rigged to our anchor, and we huddle closer. We rearrange the sleeping bag in a futile fight against wind that nips at us through tiny, ever-shifting openings. Our ropes snake down to the edge of the snowfield where I dangled on our last rappel, swinging across snow, ice and rock, searching for cracks, searching for anchors, as the beam of my headlamp disappeared into a terrifying darkness broken only by gentle wisps of clouds rising upward.
Cannot help but admire a climbing "ambassador" who admits his own stupidity and mistakes, and a clothing company that tries to encourage buyers not to buy new clothes.
Here's Kelly Cordes, on that terrifyingly steep slope.
Oddly moving to find such an example of fear and regret in a clothes catalogue.