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Solar Flair

Judging from the beach scene, this is what should be cool when schools open their doors this fall.


In Southern California, an endless summer ignores the calendar, shining cheerfully despite the back-to-class woolly wear that arrives in stores in late July. Through Christmas, it's not unusual to spot sundresses and short sleeves, which is why sometimes the best barometer of what's cool for school isn't in the malls, but on the beach.

There they mix summer swimwear staples with trend-setting streetwear. Nowhere was this more evident in recent weeks than on a stretch of sand in Huntington Beach, where Surf City played host to two major surf contests and attracted thousands of spectators who came to see far more than the competition in the water.

The top-ranked contenders: V-necks, dark denim, ankle-skimming skirts, soccer-style jerseys, skate sneakers, shoulder sacks worn as backpacks, nylon sweat pants, wide-leg jeans, cargo shorts and pants. Indian and Mendhi prints pattern girls' and guys' shirts. Time was told via bulbous digital watches in clear-colored plastics.

Hawaiian florals and puka shell necklaces were as popular at the beach as they will be on campus in September predicted the O'Dealy sisters of Whittier. By the looks of the scene and what's hanging in stores, they're right.

"Surfing is really in," said Sangianna O'Dealy, 15, who like her 12-year-old sister, Summer, was pleased that it reflects their Hawaiian roots. "It's the style everyone's wearing."

Not quite pants or shorts, knee-length capris are the trend that fashion pundits believed wouldn't take. They underestimated the item's appeal among young girls. Fountain Valley High sophomore Amanda Fjastad loves her capris because "they're old-fashioned." (Remember, this is the era of neo-swing.) And, she added, she'll be able to wear them to school.

That's not the case with everything on the beach that's fierce for fall.

Baseball caps are being ditched in some cases for the cooler, old-school fisherman's hat. But headgear still is banned on campus, so San Clemente High junior Kane Stewart will have to wait until after last period to sport his.

However, the rest of his duds will do: from his light nylon Volcom "sweaties," pants that resemble snowboard bottoms with their side snaps and Velcro enclosure, to the thick sterling silver cord hanging around his neck.

Kane, 16, was hanging at an elevated VIP stand watching the surf contests and the crowds, taking photos for Oakley eye-wear's Web site. His prediction for back-to-school? Velours, shiny nylons and flashy fabrics interpreted into a sporty look.

This glam-athletic style is certainly showing up on fingernails, proving that the funky-colored nail trend isn't chipping away yet. Pro surfer Conan Hayes, 23, of Hawaii flashed his blue silver-tipped fingers (color coordinated with his blue Ezekiel sweaties and cat-eye wraps). But many of the young women one-upped the guys with airbrushed designs studded with rhinestones.

Among them was Huntington Beach skim-boarder Shelly Hamilton, 23. Her beaded choker reflected another fave trend, a sort-of beach girl version of the crystal collars John Galliano has been doing for Christian Dior.

The biggest trend--literally--is the wide-leg jean. We're talking wide. No bell-bottom ever covered so much space.

Talbert eighth-graders Kory McCarthy, 13, and Kenny Mattice, 13, trudged the sand around the contest tents in Kik Wear's 30-inch-wide jeans (the figure measures the diameter of the pant leg). Pal Nolan Miller, 13, boasted 36-inch pant legs.

"I'd like to go bigger than these," Nolan said. He can, because Kik Wear goes as wide as 69 inches.

He just won't be wearing them to school, said Kory's twin brother, Kenny McCarthy, who opted for khaki cargo shorts on a recent blazing day at the beach. "Our principal has his limits."

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