Sunday, March 12, 2006

Skort Central

I am easily seduced by the Title 9 catalog that shows up in my mailbox for no apparent reason every couple of months. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from them—I learned my lesson long ago about buying clothes from catalogs. Nothing ever fits. Nothing. Never. Still, that Title 9 catalog really tempts me. I like to think that I am not susceptible to marketing techniques, but Title 9 is just about able to reel me in. They don’t use models to model their clothing they use real women—of all ages and ethnicities—who are incredibly fit and active—doing yoga, playing soccer, surfing, snowshoeing—and who have enviable lives brimming with intriguing accomplishments. Title 9 makes sure we know just how enviable their lives are by including little biographical squibs next to their photos. Rea; bring- home-the-bacon-and-fry-it-up-in-the-pan types. To wit:

Occupation: Oceanographer
Specialty: Algae and its commercial uses
Former Life: Figure skater
Magazine: Organic Style
Traveled to: 13 countries

Holy shit! Do you want to be Andrea or what? Maybe if you were to buy the Stealth 3/4 Tee, the Arroyo Skirt, and the Protector sandals that Andrea is wearing as she ambles along a pier with a backpack full of scuba gear, you will become Andrea. Yeah, I know how that works. It’s a tried and true advertising/marketing technique. I forget what it’s called, but the whole thing is very carefully calculated to make you lose sight of the fact that unless you are a long-legged blonde gamine like Andrea you will likely look like rubbish in those clothes. And is this Andrea person even for real? Maybe not.

The other way they get at you is to give the impression that they are one of these businesses that isn’t really focused so much on making a profit. I've always vaguely assumed that maybe they give a portion of their profits to various progressive causes. After all, they took their name from the landmark legislation of the ‘70s that mandated that public schools provide girls the same opportunity as boys to participate in sports. But I find no evidence that they have any sort of laudable mission. The "About Us" page on their Web site contains a bulleted list with items such as: “We’re Quirky!” and “Mission statements make us nervous.” and, “We value Title 9’s profitability because it allows us to do the fun stuff.” So, clearly, there’s no altruism there at all, and I’m sure they make quite a hefty profit, too—a pair of socks sells for $39.

Because of that kind of manipulation and self-absorbed attitude, I rather dislike Title 9 and had gotten into the habit of recycling their catalogs as soon as they came through the mail slot. But yesterday, I paged through one and, dang it, I do like their clothes. They are casual yet stylish and they look really comfortable. I noticed, however, as I leafed though the catalog that they have this strange mania for skorts. There seems to be at least one on every page! There’s even something called a “skoartie,” which is a skirt, a skort, and a (surf)board short all in one. Normally, I would not take anything called a “skort” (and certainly not a "skoartie") seriously. It’s like a spork (a half spoon, half fork thing)—a horrible hybrid name invented by some dunderhead who has no respect for the English language. Nevertheless, to my horror, I found myself thinking about buying myself a couple of skorts. I have never been able to find shorts that look good on me, but short skirts are one of the very few items of clothing that I look halfway decent in.

Could the dreaded skort be the answer to the shorts problem? A skirt that I could actually hike, bike, and garden in? I am very curious to know just exactly what the “ort” part of the skort looks like. Is it a lightweight pair of shorts or maybe a pair of color-coordinated panties like cheerleaders wear? How bulky is it? Is it going to bunch up? Is it going to look just like underpants, and if so, then it’s really just a skirt, so what is the point? Neither the catalog nor the Web site sheds any light on the “ort.” I guess in that Title 9 alternate universe, where everyone spends her day buying pain au chocolat, surfing, making oodles of money at a "fun" and but nonetheless prestigious job, and raising her four children, it simply isn’t necessary to show us what’s under (in?) the skort because everyone has a closet full of skorts anyway.

I’ve just discovered that there is an actual bricks-and-mortar Title 9 store here in Portland, and I might just have to check it out even though it is the Pearl District—a bailiwick of the heavy-wallet brigade—where I’m sure Title 9 has little trouble selling their $39 socks. Will I do it? Just how strong is the allure of the skort? Do I want to deal with haughty shop assistants? Will I be able to drag my ass all the way over to the Pearl where I don't know where anything is? Will I be able to find a skort in my size? How will I even know what size skort I should try on? Will I have to make more than one trip into the dressing room? Will I become disgusted five minutes after entering the store and have to leave and get myself a gelato to console myself? Am I trying to talk myself out of a skort-buying adventure? Am I getting really tired and punchy? Will I ever be able to find a way to end this blog entry? Yes.


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