August 15, 2003

One word is all fashion-conscious students need for fall

By Talia Buford
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

WASHINGTON – Cargo.

For fashion-conscious students, it’s the only word they’ll need as they shop for back-to-school clothes. At least that’s what retailers are hoping.

“Our big message this season is cargo, cargo, cargo,” said Alexandra Cohan, spokeswoman for Old Navy. “We’re seeing it on everything. Not just on pants, but on miniskirts, skirts to the knee and even on sweat pants.”

Cohan said retailers are jumping on the cargo caboose because it has proved to be a reliable addition to any wardrobe, providing both form and fashion.

“It’s comfortable and functional, but it’s also trendy,” Cohan said. “It’s been seen on the runways, and now it’s translating into retail for mass appeal.”

Although retailers will continue to push cargo this season, not all students will be able to wear the multi-pocketed bottoms to class. Uniform policies at schools across the nation sometimes force students like Marlynn Charity, 12, to forgo the latest trends in favor of a more classic approach to style.

Charity, an eighth-grade student at Ronald H. Brown Middle School in Washington, said sometimes her school’s uniform policy cuts into her sense of style.

“Sometimes I get cute pants and I want to wear them, but I can’t,” she said.

To help those with constraints on their fashion freedom, Old Navy is unveiling a new Uniform Zone featuring basics such as khaki bottoms and button-up shirts to help make shopping for uniforms effortless, Cohan said.

“It’s basic, but it will make it easy for parents to find what they need for kids,” she said.

Another of fall’s biggest trends, athletically inspired clothing, will be just as easy to find, said Sharon Blount, junior and missy active wear merchandise manager for Wal-Mart.

“In any closet, there’s some piece,” Blount said. “Whether it’s the active pants or a zip-front jacket, it’s become a wardrobe essential.”

Alexis Brown, a ninth-grader at Friendship Edison Collegiate Academy in Washington, especially likes the screen print shirts reminiscent of sports jerseys.

“I think they are cute, the shirts with the numbers on the sides,” Brown, 14, said.

But some students, including Ebone Payne, a ninth-grader at Washington’s Archbishop Carroll High School, said they’d rather leave the athletic look to their classmates.

“It’s good for them if that’s what they like, but I’m not into all of that,” Payne, 14, said.

What Payne is into, however, is style. That’s why when she goes school shopping, she’ll be picking up some of the hottest footwear of the season: the boxing boot.

“They’re in fashion,” Payne said. “And you want to be cool.”

The boots, modeled after the shoes prizefighters wear, are becoming popular because they incorporate all of the season’s trends into one accessory, said Diane Daly, a spokeswoman for Hecht’s department store.

“These have everything,” Daly said. “The bright colors, stripes, they’ve got lacing. The whole athletic thing is so strong it’s just crossing all zones.”

And students don’t have to sacrifice technology for the sake of fashion – the newest electronic accessories are small enough to fit into any cargo pocket.

MP3 players, palm-sized devices that play digital music files, are quickly carving a niche for themselves as the choice way to have music on the go, said Mollie Juelich, public relations account manager for Best Buy.

“They’re easy to carry around, regardless of how many books you have to carry,” she said.

The players range in price from $69.99 to $399 depending on song capacity.

Photography capabilities on everything from handheld digital organizers to cellular phones will also be big sellers among the school-age crowd, Juelich said.

“The cameras let you store a handful of your favorite photos and e-mail the pictures you take,” she said.

Juelich said that the cell phones with cameras cost between $49.99 and $199, while the PDA’s range from $99 to $499.

“It’s fun for students,” she said. “You’ll always have a camera on hand to snap those moments at games and school plays.”

While the cameras will keep students on the cutting edge during their free time, portable PC’s will help keep them organized when it’s time to get to work, Juelich said.

Laptops outfitted with a word processing program, a CD recording drive and wireless capabilities, which can range from $949 to $2,300, are popping up in high school classrooms across the nation, Juelich said.

“It allows you to take notes quicker, stay more organized, save papers and projects in one location and access them at the touch of a finger,” she said.

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