My hometown drew quite the crowd on Saturdays. Known for two things, Greenfield had a reputation for being the place to be on the weekend. Folks from miles away would stop at Allison's Restaurant for the pie -- before and, if they were smart, after as well -- a visit to The Factory Outlet.
Please note that this was in the day before outlet stores scored metal, color-coordinated roofs and determined that "outlet" had to in no way mean less expensive. No, The Factory Outlet truly was. Discards from the factory made their way to the crowded, soon to be disheveled aisles and into the hands of bargain hunters like my mom. A widow with four kids and a salary that barely made it out of the teens when I was still in mine, Mom had a way with a markdown. I truly believe that she can walk into that store even today (with its wider aisles and more attentive, or at least neater staff) and the exact two pieces that go together but are housed in separate sections of the store will leap off the racks and into her hands in her very size which she will trust without trying it on because, really, she can always return it. The woman always looked like she'd walked out of Goldsmiths (Tennessee's version of Foleys for all you Texans) but we who were in the know knew that the $200 outfit really only cost her $20.
The Factory Outlet celebrated its "outlet-ness." The pieces weren't quite good enough and instead of hiding the fact -- insuring that you'd have to win at hide and seek to discover that the material in the trouser legs were from two different bolts of cloth -- this store shouted its frailty at you. Colored tape on the flaw established exactly what the issue was. If you determined that the light would never be sooooo right as to highlight the color difference, then those pants could be yours at a fraction of what they'd cost you in perfection.
The labels had to be removed but you could always tell if you were getting a L--nd's E-- jacket. Logos are graphics for a reason, and no amount of creative cutting was going to remove the telltale signs.
Since everyone in town knew that everyone else shopped there, we had no sense of shame for walking around with our flaws showing.
I'm fairly sure this shaped me. I'm much more inclined to celebrate the flaws than pursue perfection. Recently, I encountered an individual who must have always purchased off the department store rack . . . and not on sales days. He just didn't seem to have a lot of time or patience for those who might have been slightly "less than" in his book. Education, money, position, power were all very much a part of his vocabulary.
That's when I remembered The Factory Outlet and longed for my favorite pair of corduroys with the indentation on the "tread." They fit me so much better than he did.