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Oakley in Military Product Venture

Apparel: Sunglasses maker says it is working with the U.S. armed forces to develop a boot and protective lens.

June 05, 2002|LESLIE EARNEST | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oakley Inc., known for its trendy sunglasses, is developing two products intended for the U.S. military, the company said.

While offering only sketchy details about the project, the Foothill Ranch-based company boasted about the venture on its Web site, saying it is working with the military to produce "laser eye protection and an alternative assault boot for elite special forces."

Oakley has sold its products to the military for 15 years, but the boot and laser lens will be the first products developed specifically at the request of the armed forces, the company said.

A deal has not yet been struck, but the company said a final prototype of the boot is expected to be sent to the military by September, and the lens should be ready shortly thereafter.

Oakley declined to speculate on the financial implications of any contract with the military. Analysts said they don't expect such a contract to have a significant financial effect on Oakley. But having the company's products identified with the armed forces would help highlight the technical aspects of Oakley shoes and eyewear, they said.

"It's not like it's going to be a big profit driver," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. "I think Oakley's doing it because they can, and they want to be able to kind of advertise how high-tech, cutting-edge and performance-driven the company is."

Oakley is known largely for its sunglasses, which are worn by police officers, Olympic athletes and film stars.

In recent years, the company has broadened its line to a wide array of products, including apparel, shoes, watches and prescription eyeglasses.

Oakley products purchased by the military in the past include sunglasses, goggles, backpacks and jackets.

Some products are modified for military use, the company said. For example, the silver "O" logo may be darkened to gray or black.

The boot being tested is lightweight and intended for missions that last two to 10 hours, Oakley said. The lens is designed to deflect laser light.

The company declined to say how much the military would pay for the products if an agreement were struck. The boot and laser lens will not be for sale to the public.

Oakley's stock closed Tuesday at $17.93, down 27 cents, in New York Stock Exchange trading.

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