To praise shopping is to breach the last taboo of academic culture. It’s fine to admit to a taste for absinthe, a minor drug habit, or a proclivity for S&M. Such things can qualify as chic in rarified intellectual circles. But a willingness to spend an afternoon at the mall? Forget about it.

The snobbism that scorns shopping is, like all snobbism, hypocritical and selective. It makes exceptions for high-end kitchenware, first editions, sushi-grade tuna, and Rosewood pottery. Trips to Tuscany for leather goods and Paris for Louboutin shoes are permissible. But trolling for a tank top in The Limited or rifling through the racks of Ross Dress for Less are as verboten as reading a Jackie Collins novel or eating iceberg lettuce.

My intention is to blow the cover on this sort of thinking. Shopping is shopping. There are cut-rate treasures to be found in the strip malls of… More…