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Guest Writer

Fashion envy is what's in store
Devotion to gear
by Laurie Harquail

t all started with the unattainable white mesh Nike all-terrain shoes.

My friend's husband has them. Two pieces of sewn-together techno-fabric some industrial design whiz converted into a running shoe. They're just plain cool.

How did my friend's husband get them? He's got a hotshot job working on the Nike account, that's how.

And that means access to "The Store" – the Nike Store, that is. Apparently, the Nike Store is Portland's Emerald City for those who want the hippest cutting-edge workout togs at the best price. Not everybody makes it to The Store.

You've got to have connections.

Well, I've got connections. But since I'm on week five as houseguest while job and apartment hunting, I decide asking my friends for access to The Store is probably pushing it. I restrain my urge.

The next day my friend asks if I want to go for a run. "Sure," I reply. She bounds down the stairs in a pair of sleek, boot-cut flares that look nightclub-ready.

"Where'd you get those?" I ask.

"Oh, these?" she nonchalantly replies, "At the Nike Store. They're the latest in exercise pants."

"They're cute," I say with great difficulty, desperately trying to mask my fashion envy.

Suddenly, my shorts, picked up on sale at Big 5 Sporting Goods, just aren't cutting it. In fact, they depress me. I don't feel like running anymore. Even worse, I feel silly and wonder why I care ... Didn't I leave this sort of thing behind in junior high?

But as I jog along in my floppy shorts, I realize my "exercise wear" fixation stems from a self-imposed shopping moratorium due to my unemployed status. As a result, I am being denied an important aspect of Portland – indulging in "fashion gear." This place may seem low-key, but its devotion to gear is anything but. I can tell at a glance who has "The Look," and the Nike Store seems to be The Look's wholesale headquarters.

Time marches on. I score a nifty one bedroom in Northwest. I meet my neighbors – a charming young couple. I immediately notice the wife's shoes – yet another pair of hip, futuristic, casual things designed to handle river rafting and a chic barbecue.

"I love your shoes," I tell her.

"Thanks," she replies. "My husband works on the Nike account, and I got them at The Store."

I'm surrounded, I think. Or, at very least, I've stumbled onto some sort of conspiracy.

Later that evening, my bachelor friend visits. He plants himself on my balcony that overlooks Washington Park, cracks a beer and gleefully proclaims, "Oh, good. I'm just in time for the show."

The show he's referring to is the Northwest Portland Nike Goddess Fashion Show.

It takes place daily from late afternoon until nightfall, and my balcony is the front row. From here, one can see the ultimate in "fashion gear in action" – an endless stream of swoosh-embossed shorts, racer-back tops, cutting-edge shoes and lots of tan, taut skin – running, biking and power-walking its way onto the park's forested trails.

The guys look good – take my word. But honestly, it's the women who've truly nailed The Look.

In the meantime, I decide I can't take it anymore. I want some cute new gear, and I want it now. But alas, desire alone won't gain me access to The Store. And the full-retail-price Nike Town is out of the question until I get a job.

So I head over to Fred Meyer, the commoner's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mecca of commerce. I look for cutting-edge cross-trainers, but nothing compares to the unattainable white mesh booties that set this whole dysfunctional shopping trip into motion. Instead, I select a pair of sturdy brown clogs – on sale – and tell myself: these'll be good in the rain.

I approach the cash register and the nice Fred Meyer sales lady steps into view. I check out her shoes – a happening pair of futuristic, waterproofed sling-back walkers. Now I'm excited.

"Those are great!" I say. "Do you have them in a Size 8?"

"Oh, we don't sell these here," she says. "My husband works for Nike – I got these at The Store."

On my way out, I pick up a batch of fresh salmon, on sale for $4.99 a pound.

You can't get that at the Nike Store.

See more from Laurie in our archives.

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