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Designer Accessories for the Chic Geek

Style * Forget pocket protectors. Today's cyber-hip computer nerd wants to look fabulous and cool 24-7.

May 19, 2000|From Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Douglas Palley is GQ. He's also a geek.

Palley is the 35-year-old president of (, which provides online customer service and support for Fortune 500 companies. A Nextel 5100 phone sits inside the left pocket of his custom-made blue suit, which enhances the blue shirt with his initials monogrammed on the cuffs. His tie, hastily bought at an airport gift shop--"because the Hermes one got dirty"--is impeccable.

His Palm VII is in his front right pocket.

"I can't put the phone and Palm Pilot on the same side because I'll go like this," said Palley, tipping like a teapot, his Rolex sliding on his wrist.

Forget pocket protectors. The computer techies of today wear well-cut suits, expensive shoes, and carry their itsy-bitsy cell phones in designer cases. (Size does matter--here, smaller is better.) They have their suits tailored while wearing their gadgets to ensure a perfect fit. They pound out ideas on their pumpkin-colored iMac laptops, and wear pagers on their hips.

And they want to look fabulous every minute of their 24-7 lives.

Palley was just one of the cyber-chic at last month's Northern Virginia Technology Council's "Techstravaganza 2000." These folks are not just well-connected but always connected.

"I have e-mails streaming to me constantly," said one.

Palley used to have a black leather case for his Palm and cell phone . . . but, truth is, it looked like a little purse.

"My manhood was in question," Palley said.


Real men don't wear purses. But they do carry briefcases: $1,000 Gucci black leather that holds a laptop, cell phone and other gadgets. Or Coach's $448 Express On-Line Brief with cell phone carrier and computer seat belt. For casual Friday, there's the more down-market "Sometimes I Pretend I'm a Bike Courier" briefcases: Gap's clear plastic sling pack, Nicole Miller's shiny "Flight Bag" with detachable cell phone holder that can nestle in one's bosom, and Kenneth Cole's large nylon hobo- and messenger-style bags. These bags say, "Hey, my net worth may be more than Oregon's, but I can still play pickup basketball."

A man might be more inclined to buy Cole's leather electronic organizer cover, curiously called "Palming the Ball." It's small enough to sit in a pocket or bump around a briefcase.

You might set down a briefcase, but the young and wired never set down their phones. A few years ago, cell phone companies offered pathetic plastic cases. Now options are endless: Designers Tom Ford for Gucci, Helmut Lang, Nicole Miller and Kenneth Cole have created leather accessories with an edgier look.

Take your average black phone case, add a couple of hearts and voila : You have Miller's $28 case. There's also her golf-print pattern called "Swing" and a turquoise leopard print, with two more designs due this fall. Women wear the cell phone case over one shoulder like a purse, or detach the straps and clip it onto a waistband or the inside of a briefcase. (No more mystery purse gook stuck in the crevices of the phone.)

Coach offers a phone case with a back belt loop, detachable wrist strap and hidden magnetic closure that promises to "cradle your communications partner." It's now possible that your "communications partner" has a more colorful personality than your spouse.

At least that's what Nokia, the mobile phone manufacturer, is trying to sell: incorporating "personalities" to differentiate its products and features from all those other cell phones.

Nokia was the first to introduce color to wireless phones in 1992, and they now come in carbon gray, earth, red pepper, ocean, gloss midnight, Bermuda blue and sky hues--just to name a few. The Nokia 5100 comes with "Xpress-on" interchangeable covers so the user, in a matter of seconds, can switch the hue of the phone. In celebration of spring, there are pastel covers, and for the mini-mogul: Disney faceplates.


Cell phones and tech toys became "a must-have lifestyle accessory" (according to Nokia) when pagers moved beyond the realms of doctors and drug dealers. Now people from every walk of life are electronically available every second of every day, and fashion is dialing their number.

But your average self-respecting, plugged-in teen wouldn't be caught dead with a standard-issue black StarTAC. Kids today wear Gap three-quarter-length microfiber shorts jammed full of cell phones, Game Boys and Palm hand-held organizers. (Their schedules are way busier than yours.)

They won't talk to their parents for months, but God forbid they should be incommunicado with their chums. "Even in the loudest of nightclubs you're never out of reach," goes the sales pitch for the "Pager Lite" jacket. "When your jacket begins to flash, you'll know that you're in demand."

The jacket, designed by Stephen Zellman and his B. Lucid clothing company, is made of micro-stretch material and has a special pocket for a pager: When the device is activated, a light strip along the arm of the jacket lights up.

Zellman explains: "If you're a girl, right? And you want all your other friends to know you have a boyfriend? Well, when your jacket lights up, everyone knows. Kids love stuff like this."

The light comes in only one color--a bluish purple--but the coat is available in pewter, black or silver in four different styles.

The next Must Have: a tool belt.

Harry Glazer, a lawyer, carries his cell phone and a Blackberry (wireless e-mail device) clipped to his pants' waistband.

"You've got to adjust it to the right spot" when you sit down, he says, laughing. "My secretary wanted to buy me a cowboy holster."

Hey, doesn't Gucci have one of those?

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