Haute Copture

For the average supermodel or teenage girl, "accessories" is a magic word. The right handbag, a certain scarf, a new pair of earrings, a tasteful choker or maybe a bangle or two (or three or four!) is all it takes to turn a "ho-hum" outfit into a look that says, "Hello there!"

Of course, staying in touch with the fads and fancies that fashion demands is an important part of the process for any girl who cares about looking like she cares. And it's no easy feat to keep abreast of fragrances, moisturizers, shampoos and blemish creams that come along faster than you can say, "Oh, that's nice."

Things are no different in the world of law enforcement.
Whether you call yourself a cop, flatfoot, gumshoe or dick, it's more important than ever to pay attention to the latest crime-fighting accouterment the industry has to offer.

While the traditional badge and nightstick will never go out of style, officers this season have a wide array of wonderful new restraint and protection devices from which to choose. Oh--and weren't we talking about accessories? From Velcro tear-gas caddies to smart, epaulet mike straps to tasteful breakaway neckties ("comes apart easily in a struggle"; available in brown, navy blue and, of course, black), extras this year are fun, exciting and designed for the cop whose beat is always one step ahead of the rest.

As the fashion elite flock to Paris and Milan to view the latest offerings each year, so did thousands of America's top law enforcement officials journey to the Valley of the Sun for the 103rd Annual Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Believe me, when the chiefs throw a conference, they throw a conference! The program book alone was more than 200 pages long, listing a sensational array of "special entertainment," workshops, banquets, ceremonies and activities for the chiefs and their spouses. The order for this shindig was clear: "Have fun--in the name of the law!"

But this conference was about more than entertainment and education. It was also about style--as proven by a Civic Plaza Exhibit Hall filled with one of the most extensive displays of police paraphernalia this maven has ever had the pleasure to see.

Today's savvy designers of police wear know better than anyone that the crimes, they are a changin'--and it's superimportant that happening cop products change along with them. A wonderful example of the evolution of police accessorization is an item that caught my eye right away, the Spit Net by Eagle Gear. A rather exotic-looking piece of headwear meant for the criminal with a tendency to spray it, not say it, the Spit Net is a hood with a "biochemical barrier" that keeps HIV, hepatitis and other highly dangerous disease pathogens (I haven't a clue which ones, but they sound downright nasty!) in the crook where they belong, and away from the arresting officer.

Although body armor is a must for deflecting oncoming bullets, it also presents an absolute fashion nightmare in regard to staying fresh. During lengthy stakeouts on cool, fall evenings, it's a safe bet that a protective halter will leave you with a clammy tee shirt (ugh!). And those sultry summer nights don't do an armor-clad officer any favors, either.

Thank goodness, then, for the people at Ultra Cool, who've come up with a fabulous new ribbed ventilating undergarment that makes sure "blunt trauma" stays on the outside of the armor. In fact, the folks at the Ultra Cool booth claim their revolutionary unisex tops and bottoms, when worn under body armor "increase air circulation and moisture evaporation" even as they "reduce chafing."

Chafing is unfortunate, but nothing like being struck repeatedly in the groin region with a plastic pipe. That's what I saw when I turned a corner and was confronted by a man dressed like a bright red umpire. This was actually a "demo" of Redman protective simulation training gear by Macho, which provides a curious maxi-look that throws subtlety to the wind.

To say the least.
Not only was this stylishly thick crimson body padding effective at protecting the body's most intimate areas, but the two men really seemed to be enjoying testing the equipment's capabilities. Especially the guy who was getting beaten. He assumed different submissive positions, exposing various places on his anatomy where, were he not adorned in Redman gear by Macho, beating would have caused rather a lot of pain.

As conference attendees passed, the Redman-protected guy kept saying things like, "How 'bout this? Ever get hit in the head with a gun butt?" Then his pipe-wielding pal would strike him in the head. In addition to the training gear's stunning look, the fine designers at Macho house insist it can be "disinfected and sterilized, which is important in today's world."

You don't see this sort of flexibility on the runways of Europe, I can tell you that!

When is it time to accessorize? It's always time to accessorize, so let's dig in! I made my way over to the Hamburger Woolen Company booth, and what a delicious display of really special stuff it had. Don't let that name deceive you; the craftsmen at Hamburger offer plenty of creations that you simply cannot make out of sheep.

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