During lunch time, I walk outside to bask in the sun. It’s a glorious late fall day, the last few slivers of warmth before a long winter. On a concrete bench outside my office building, I sit cross-legged in my all gray, flannel outfit, an older model Pår. The fabric is slightly stiff with glistening silver threads running through it, giving it a lenticular quality. The top is baggy, the pants have an elastic waistband and are tapered at the ankles. I’ve been wearing this particular set for a few days now, and the fabric is starting to pill around my armpits. In the noontime heat, I break into a sweat.

Fridays always have a slightly more relaxed air, even in a place as tense as downtown Palo Alto. Two women walk by, intensely debating the merits of certain stocks. A teenager cruises by on a skateboard. He glances at me and whistles admiringly. I feel a little embarrassed. I can’t begin to imagine what outfit my Pår has rendered for him—who can know the mind of a teenager—but I surmise it is low-cut, maybe revealing, maybe tight and slinky. A short red dress, maybe?

A woman to my right, yelling loudly at someone on a call, paces back and forth. She is wearing a floral dress, a boatneck collar with billowing sleeves and an elaborate skirt of embroidered flowers. The dress looks like a modern interpretation of Balkan folk dresses—maybe the result of me staying up too late last night reading a mediocre but entertaining Bulgarian novel. She glances over at me several times. I wonder what I look like to her. I rub the pilling fabric on my top. The specific model of the Pår I have on is not great at dealing with resolution issues. When the fabric starts to pill, the resolution gets blurry and the image is ruined. To her, whatever I am wearing looks awkwardly pixelated right around my armpits, the actual gray flannel flashing through her image of my outfit—a visual pit stain.

When the early models of the Pår came out, it was a fun game to play with strangers you were flirting with. “Well, what am I wearing, to you?” one person would ask, and the other would describe what they saw, revealing their likes, preferences and last bits of culture consumed. A Pår was fun, but most of all it was useful, convenient. You could walk around in your comfortable gray flannel everyday, and yet others would see an outfit tailored to their imaginings. That was the magic of the Pår’s silver threads, throwing light and illusion. It was a way to live in the world of your choice, where people around you were wearing what you wanted them to. Want to live in a world where everyone is wearing 1950s clothing? Go for it—Pår’s parent company has already scanned in all the historical vintage outfits of the world. Plug that into your Pår preferences, or allow the latest Pår algorithm to pick that up from your search history.

A Pår is not without its drawbacks. Meeting a stranger and describing what you saw them wearing chips away at any attempts at intimacy. On the other hand, some people in long-term relationships have described a point at which the Pår simply stopped working, and both people stood, feeling almost naked in their gray flannel. With the Pår, wearing clothes is a game of illusion either way—you are simply a projection of another’s desires, no matter what you have on.

Xiaowei Wang

Xiaowei Wang is a writer, artist and coder. They are the author of Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech In China’s Countryside, published by FSG Originals x Logic. The creative director at Logic, a quarterly print publication on tech and culture, their work encompasses community-based art projects, data visualization, technology, ecology, and education. Their projects have been finalists for the Index Design Awards and featured by the New York Times, the BBC, CNN, VICE, and elsewhere.

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