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.

Like the LAPD wood nightstick, the very essence of simplicity and a purist's dream is 26 inches of streamlined hardwood that won't take no for an answer. Those looking for something a tad fancier might want to opt for the Cocobolo stick, made from a fine grain wood that comes all the way from South America. Lawbreakers will be surprised to find this different taste of South American "coco."

Hamburger also presents a fine array of bracelets and chains; I was especially impressed by the Big Guy handcuff series. A 15 percent bigger shackle than standard cuffs, these "guys" will "fit larger wrists without allowing smaller hands to slip through." Add reinforced swivels, floating ratchet bars, slotted shackles and satin-finished steel, and you've got day-or-night wrist wear that's certain to make an arresting impression!

Near the Hamburger displays, I noticed a booth with a number of training weapons, all in a racy, demanding shade of baize green. Not only were these faux "tools of the trade" visually attractive, they were made of lightweight and manageable polymer. I noticed the fine Italian lines of one handgun, and, sure enough, it was a Baretta 92F model.

"In the old days, they'd take the firing pin out of a real gun and use it for training, but sometimes they'd fly out of the holsters and hit somebody in the head," a salesman told me. "I'd much rather get hit in the head with one of these."

Who would not!
None of this compelling law enforcement outerwear, not one of these enticing "extras" would have a point if it weren't for the men and women who actually use them. Of course, I'm talking about the nation's police forces, and you'd be "up against the wall" trying to find a better-looking force than our very own, right here in Phoenix.

Which is why I was so elated to find Phoenix Police Department trading cards, the perfect showcase for our persons in blue.

There's a card with natty Sergeant Robert Ortiz astride his chopper, outfitted in classic navy-blue roadwear. According to his "stats" on the back of the card, "Bob has always had an interest in traffic enforcement." Look out, Mr. Estrada!

The very picture of suave is the top cop himself, Chief of Police Dennis A. Garrett. The card showing this smiling silver fox seems to say, "Hold the Grecian, he's man enough to show the gray." It worked for Cary Grant! Chief Dennis' "Personal Message" on the back of his card is addressed to the citizens of tomorrow: "As young people, you are our future. Stay in school, strive to reach your potential." I couldn't have said it better myself.

So many of our favorites are here--bike patrol Officer Spence Preston, Officer Fred Spitler, Lieutenant Sherry Kiyler. ("Every choice has a consequence," Sherry tells us. And that certainly applies to clothing!) But perhaps my fave police trading card of all shows the entire Phoenix Police Air Support Unit. I love the way the officers' rugged olive jumpers highlight the leggy lady's daring display of above-the-knee. As the Air Support personal message goes, "Crime can't hide from the police in the sky." And that, as any of thousands of American Chiefs of Police can tell you, includes fashion crime.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Gilstrap
Contact: Peter Gilstrap