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Baseball Caps Go Brimless . . . Dry-Cleaner-Proof Buttons . . . Giving an Old Sole New Life : CAPS : One Less Bill to Worry About

August 27, 1993|William Kissel, Special to The Times

Dodger fans may not approve. But those of us who go to baseball games only to eat foot-long hot dogs and watch the fashion parade in the cheap seats have noticed a disproportionate number of grandstanders either wearing their caps backward--a holdout from the ebbing hip-hop clothing movement--or cutting the bills off altogether.

The latter idea may have come from Marty Karabees, Tom Johnson and Barbara Meyer, three non-fans of baseball who started a business and a fashion trend earlier this year by making and marketing a funky, multicolored brimless baseball cap under the Plain Geometry label.

Karabees said the backward baseball cap "is to fashion in the '90s what the athletic shoe was in the '80s." What's more, it's a look that transcends ballplayers to include rockers, athletes, yuppies and rappers. "Even my mom wears a backward baseball cap. No lie!" he said.

Meyer, who designs the caps without bills, said actor Robin Williams liked the concept so much he bought three in San Francisco recently. The costumers for "Beverly Hills, 90210" picked up four for their collections. And Meyer said the trio is negotiating to get the caps on Michael Jackson's dancers.

We couldn't find a single brimless cap at Dodger Stadium souvenir shops. But we did find the $16 to $18 cotton caps (solids and alternating colors) at the Red Wheel Barrel in the Beverly Connection, All-American Boy on Santa Monica Boulevard, Romp on Melrose Avenue and several Nordstrom stores. This fall the caps will also be available in wool and corduroy.

Coincidentally, several other cap makers have simultaneously picked up on the trend. Sidney Richlin, a student at USC, markets a $24 cap at Fred Segal Santa Monica and Rudnick's under the Original Brimless Cap label, while Casey Robinson of San Jose came out with a $20 Mechanical Cap in which the bill rotates from front to back. Robinson's caps are expected to be in Los Angeles stores sometime this fall.

Karabees and Meyer, who met while working on the Barbie doll collection at Mattel, say their friends are surprised there isn't a pink hat in the bunch. Never fear, it's just around the corner, we're told.

TIES: Not Like What Dad Used to Wear

Modern abstracts? Optical geometrics? Signature florals? In the past few years you've practically needed a master's degree in art history to understand what's hip in men's necktie patterns.

But things might be changing. Jerry Andersen, executive director of the Neckwear Assn. of America, expects many wilder tie designs to give way to subtle stripes and textured silks by year's end.

Andersen said that more than 95 million ties are expected to sell this year for an average retail price of less than $12.50. "Mass discounters, such as Target and Kmart stores, sell a lot of ties in this country," he said, adding that "those $65 ties account for less than 5% of the total tie business."

Mervyn Mandelbaum, chief executive of L.A.-based Superba Neckwear, which manufactures Claude Montana, Bugatti, Halston and many other tie labels, says he's already begun to notice this shift toward more traditional patterned neckwear, judging by sales of the company's Tommy Hilfiger tie collection.

"Tommy Hilfiger is what I would call traditional with a twist," says Mandelbaum, pointing out that this is not conservative neckwear like Dad used to wear. "It's very Americana. They feature heraldic and nautical emblems, and a lot of washed silk fabrics that can be worn with chambray shirts."

We found the more conservative tie Andersen described as the next fashion wave in Hermes' new paper-doll-inspired catalogue. It comes with eight paper shirts, a tie cutout and 65 pages of patterns, so we could mix and match our own looks at home. The catalogue was free but we could get nine average-priced ties for the $110 cost of one Hermes model.

We also discovered a more affordable--and socially conscious--tie option from Lorenzo Vega. The New York-based neckwear designer has created a fashionably conservative silk tie featuring the names of 68 American designers--from Calvin Klein and Donna Karan to L.A.'s own Wallace Muroya and Emil Rutenberg.

Vega said he played cat and mouse for more than a month with some of fashion's biggest names to get permission to print their labels in a zigzag pattern on the front of the Label Tie, which sells for $28 at Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin. He succeeded because the design is tied to a cause: 21% of the tie's retail price goes to benefit the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS.

The ties even come hand-numbered (even numbers on black ties, odd numbers on red ties). Ironically, they carry no signature on the back. "I didn't want to deal with egos," Vega said.

SHOE REPAIL: What's Old Is New Again When President Clinton's Size 13-D dress shoes from Allen Edmonds begin to show their age, the Wisconsin company will rebuild them for significantly less than their original $230 cost and even pay the postage.

But you don't have to be President to get this kind of service.

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