Embracing Patina: Appreciating All That Old Stuff

It’s August 1965. My mom and her two sisters are loading into the family car, a Chevy Station Wagon with that super cool/death trap back-facing rear seat, for a trip to The Bootery, the finest shoe store in town.

Today, for the first time since last year, they will have BRAND NEW SHOES.

They try each pair on with the help of the shoe salesman who knows the precise way to squeeze the shoe to gauge for width and thumb the toe to check for length. He nods to their mother if it’s a good fit—if he thinks this shoe can handle a full year of growth. 

The Bootery Abilene TX 1960s

The salesman has them walk to the front of the store and the back of the store. They need a good fit for their narrow feet.

When everyone has found a winner, they head to the checkout so their mother can use the cash she’s saved up these last several months for this annual expense.

Sixty years later it’s hard to imagine buying one pair of shoes a year for my kids. 

If my mother’s shoe had gotten a hole in it, her mom would have taken it to the shoe repair shop across town and paid a few dollars to get it fixed.

But me? I throw them into the pile of “giveaways” (or the trash for the especially tragic) and find a new pair on Amazon or WalMart or Target that will arrive in a couple days without ever having to leave the house, much less measure a foot.

I’m a SUCKER for convenience. And an even bigger sucker for a deal. I admit it. I’m part of the problem. I’m not quite a TLC couponer (because that ain’t convenient), but a sale isn’t a sale unless it’s at least 50% off and splurging looks like buying a bed on Wayfair instead of Facebook Marketplace. 

When it comes to stuff, we have more options than we’ve ever had, more readily available to us than they’ve ever been. We have access to products that are increasingly less expensive (think TEMU) and increasingly disposable. 

If we don’t like them? If they don’t wear well? If they fit awkwardly? If the trend isn’t trending anymore? No big deal. Toss it after a couple wears and get something new. What’s ten bucks?

This is a conversation our team has had many times as we’ve thought about what Oakstreet will be offering: high quality, well-made products that will last for years. Will people buy it if it’s not cheap? 

Are people willing to spend more up front if it means they will spend less in the long run?

It’s something I’ve had to reckon with myself: my flippant consumerism.

At some point, we are all going to have to question our obsession with “new” that is tightly interwoven with our other obsession: “perfect.” If a piece of furniture is scratched, dinged, stained, ripped, cracked, or dirty? Well, if it was $50 at Target, it would cost more to repair it than to just toss it and start over.

But how long can we live in a disposable society before society itself starts to feel like rubbish?

There’s another word for all those others—scratched, dinged, stained, ripped, cracked, and dirty—are all just ... patina. 

When you wander the streets of Italy or Spain, with its towering structures of stone and marble, hundreds of years old, full of cracks and stains, each one is a nod to the hundreds of years it’s been touched, used, and appreciated. They give life to the area. They stand strong and probably will for many more decades.

But they show age. 

And if there’s one thing we Americans don’t like, it’s showing age. 

But imperfections and marks of change are what make those places worth staring at. Contrast that to the sterility of modern commercial construction, with its concrete and metal, its straight lines that cost much less to produce than the artistry of classical architecture you find on those European cobblestone roads. 

Those imperfections are character and love and charm and life and growth and isn’t that something to appreciate? To celebrate? To honor and cherish? Just like our bodies, these pieces of God’s precious earth that we get to use to create beauty are both strong and fragile, maturing and settling in, aging and redefining beauty. 

Quality pieces patina as they age rather than fall apart.

So did you spill something on your marble countertop? Don’t stress. Patina. 

Did you nick the edge of your wood dining table? It’s fine. Patina.

Is your leather chair showing age and use? Patina.

Did your child draw a naked picture of you on your walls? You should probably paint over it in a couple weeks, but for now. Patina.

And like us, quality materials aren’t disposable just because of an imperfection, a crack, a stain. They are made more interesting with every single wrinkle—each one tells a story, serves up a memory of this beautiful life we get to live.

This Oakstreet Conversations series is written by Jordan Harrell, Design Coordinator at Rebecca Gibbs Interior Design and Oakstreet Shoppe (this is the website!), a brick-and-mortar home decor shoppe in downtown Abilene, TX. You can read more about why she's writing about this and other topics here

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