Saturday, July 10, 2010


525 Alma St
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 329-8556

Reviewed 1/4/2008

Cozy as a den, much like someone's open house, Patagonia is homey and inviting--the kind of place where you might expect to find a retriever nestled on a rug by the capilene. Imagine clothing instead of hors d'oeuvre, and sales staff instead of hosts, and you'll have a picture of the shop. Its recent arrival to Palo Alto has made The North Face look as frigid as the North Pole (especially behind those prison bars after hours!), and women's fitness shops seem far more preoccupied with beauty than in keeping the bod warm and dry during a workout. Patagucci you say? True, the gear is not cheap, but it is top of the line without pretense, and the stuff is technically ingenious. More practically, you are paying for a lifetime of wear. Guaranteed.

No, this is not a paid endorsement. Much as I'd love to, I receive no and expect no perks from this write-up. So this is about pure love.

For those who care about company philosophy and operative practices, as I do, Patagonia walks the walk. Only figuratively speaking of course. The company designs gear intended for thrill-seeking pursuits of the most intense kinds (skiing, rock climbing, surfing, etc.). Not that I am brave enough to do any of these things, but it doesn't matter. Their clothing is also fantastic for slacking around, yoga, and checking e-mail. Besides, Patagonia doesn't discriminate against people who are outdoor warriors only in appearance.

They make clothing out of our trash, and they ask for our underwear so that they can weave something beautiful and technically marvelous of it. There's a hamper for undies in the store. (Made from recycled material, naturally.)

A runner, I find the clothing is technically superior to anything I have tried. Jackets keep you dry in the rain, shirts don't roll up on your belly, hats maintain shape after dozens of machine washings. And because the stuff is so comfortable without looking frumpy, I can be caught wearing it anytime outside of work. The result is that I constantly look like I am going to or coming from a yoga class, even when going out to dinner and it is in my interests to look like I am trying, even just a little, to attract the opposite sex. By the way, their yoga line is terrific. Tights stay on, even during tree pose, and tanks keep you covered, even when you're bending forward.

Not to say that Patagonia is all about looking sporty or outdoorsy or yoga bound. For instance, on the rare occasions when I feel like getting "dressed up" --relatively speaking--I wear a trendy looking jacket I got last year that is fitted at the waist and has a stylish shawl collar. I have gotten quite a few compliments on this jacket. (It is possible that people are just surprised to see me in it because IT is hip, but they do dig the jacket.) Patagonia has some super cute stuff that is tailored and girly cum sporty and ultra feminine, including some strappy dresses that flatter surfer types with glowing tans. I am sure the stuff isn't merely athletically sexy, but functional--stretchy, cooling, silky-soft, etc.

In case you are still reading, the difference between Patagonia clothing and other fitness/outdoor brands is quality, practically and charm. Look closely at the details--they think of everything. Those feather-weight running shorts have pockets galore--amazing for women's shorts--and their rain gear slicks sweat, holds everything including the kitchen sink, AND manages to drape flatteringly so that you don't look like a big, wet garbage bag. I am sure men's gear is similarly amazing. The company also has a sense of humor as you'll see if you become a fan.

Obviously, this review is more about Patagonia-the-company than Patagonia-Palo-Alto, so any shop would probably win my praise. (I would expect salesclerks at the NYC shop to be similarly friendly.)

As a rule, I don't like the display of brands on my clothes, purses or my bumper (car or otherwise). But I have considered wearing a shirt that says "Patagonia" on it. Not just for looks, but because the company offers much more than just clothing on my back. Plus it's my first true five-star. Awwww. :-)

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