THE LOOK: Tommy Hilfiger writes new chapters of the preppy handbook with his menswear collection for spring 2002. Every fashion edict held near and dear to New England's privileged peacocks showed up on his runway at the New York collections -- embroidered crests, patchwork and paisley, whale patterns, seersucker and madras. It was a pink and green valentine to those who love lobsters, lighthouses and Long Island (that would be the eastern tip, my dear).
THE LOWDOWN: Hilfiger's prep aesthetic seems to have returned to the basics. Beefy oxford shirts, sunny polo tops, huggable cotton sweaters and carefree madras shorts are undeniable classics, and Hilfiger offered them up by the boatload. But Hilfiger had fun playing with the staples of the prep closet. His T-shirts were busy with colorful stripes, varsity lettering and signature "H" logos. He took familiar symbols such as the whale, the sailboat and the lobster and threw them on sweaters, shirts and pant s. (His red lobster print shirt would bring a smile to the face of even the most button-downed members of the country club.) Blazers in madras, seersucker and navy cotton twill offered finishing touches that at once seemed both fresh and utterly lived-in.
THE VERDICT: After struggling financially last year, Hilfiger's over-the-top, free-spending, rock 'n' roll glory days appear to be behind him. But that doesn't mean he's down and out. Fashion's path has brought him back to a place of comfort and security (clutching a Linus blanket of 100 percent cotton). Hilfiger's collection wins because it is based on looks that will never go out of style. While it's not flashy or cutting edge, it is a cheery and wholly correct evocation of the prep spirit.
THE VIEW: Hilfiger wasn't the only designer thinking seersucker. It took a deliciously dark turn at the John Bartlett menswear presentation -- a prison-themed installation of models in mini jail cells. What you could see (it was dungeon dark) looked great: sexy denim jeans; lean, low-rise gabardine trousers; cotton twill flat-front trousers; and, yes, seersucker muscle shirts. Which only proves that prep pucker looks as good on a yacht as it does in high security lockdown. Hey, that's fashion.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
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