TV's latest guilty pleasure, MTV reality show "Jersey Shore," follows a group of hard-partying, trash-talking twentysomethings in a summer house in Seaside, N.J., where they live to get dressed, throw back shots, grind on the dance floor and hook up in the house hot tub.
Critics have taken issue with the cast's use of the term "guido" and "guidette," with Italian American groups pressuring sponsors, including Domino's Pizza, which pulled out as an advertiser a few weeks ago.
But in the case of "Jersey Shore," guido is truly a style, descended from John Travolta characters Tony Manero in the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever" and Vinnie Barbarino in the 1970s TV series "Welcome Back, Kotter."
This is a pop culture outing, one of MTV's many takes on youth subculture. (The network has also tackled socialites, fraternity boys, beauty queens, surfers, rappers and fashion models.)
The term has been bandied about in academic circles for years. (You can Google Queensborough Community College sociology professor Donald Tricarico's 1991 paper "Guido: Fashioning an Italian-American Youth Style.")
So in a sense, "Jersey Shore" is an introductory course in urban anthropology. Like mods, goths and punks, guidos have their own lingo ("creeping" and "vibing") and their own rules about grooming and wardrobe.
For girls, it's about small shorts, spandex tops and clip-on extensions; for guys, muscle shirts, gold jewelry and gelled hair.
The "Jersey Shore" guys have their daily grooming routine down to the acronym GTL, or gym, tan, laundry. (You have to respect their discipline.) And there's something fascinating about watching the men primping and posing like peacocks.
Paul "DJ Pauly D" Delvecchio, who has the word "Cadillac" tattooed on his torso (he drives one too), fusses over his signature coif for 25 minutes a day, with Spiker hair gel and a special comb.
It isn't clothes as much as ripped abs that define Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino, who is always eager to pull up his foil-print shirt and show off.
Then there's babyfaced Ron "Ronnie" Magrow in his baggy jeans and rhinestone belt buckles, who told People magazine he hopes to open a tanning parlor some day. He may get into fights, but at heart he's a teddy bear out to please his girlfriend, Sammi.
Ed Hardy might as well be a cast member for all the logo-ed tattoo print T-shirts and jeans the guys wear. The brand may have found its natural habitat, a place where designer Christian Audigier's ego meets its match.
The women are just as vain as the men about their made-to-order boobs, thong bikinis and belly jewels, teetering between sexy and pornographic.
They're label-conscious too. On a recent episode, a fight broke out on the boardwalk after Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola suggested another woman was carrying a fake Louis Vuitton bag, as the camera lingered on her own quilted black Chanel tote. (Interestingly, a Chanel spokeswoman who watches the show said Sammi's bag is counterfeit.)
With her Amy Winehouse pouf and heavy black eyeliner, self-proclaimed loudmouth Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi throws punches and takes 'em. (On the Web, you can find "Team Snooki" and "I Love Snooki" T-shirts and trucker caps for sale.)
But it's Jenni "J-Woww" Farley who is really cashing in on guidette style, sharing her diet secret (HCG drops) and plastic surgery tips (Dr. Cameron Rokhsar) on her Jwoww.com website, where she also sells $49.99 versions of the infamous plunge-front, draped yellow jersey top she wore on the show, miraculously without having anything pop out.
Farley also plans to launch her own clothing line, and she may be onto something. After all, fashion starts in the street. It's no wonder that Dolce & Gabbana is one of the brands that does advertise on "Jersey Shore." With the men's runway season upon us, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Italian design duo serve up their own take on the guido tee.