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The new rage in men's fashion.

Yo, dudes, enough with the sissy stuff. Reading through the preceding pages isn't going to do a lot for a guy trying to look his best during the fall fashion season. Whether you're headed back to campus or to a downtown dot-com, the same basic dilemma presents itself: How to project a fresh, with-it image without looking like a fop or a jerk.

Ordinarily that means jeans, sneakers, a fresh T-shirt, and maybe a fleece sweater for Seattle's cooler weather. This year, however, there's a fresh new accoutrement from New York that no self-respecting, style-conscious man should be without. It's already sweeping the trendiest neighborhoods of Manhattan, working its way uptown from the Lower East Side, jumping across the Atlantic to Carnaby Street, and winging out west to the Viper Room.

It all started with the humble, ubiquitous baseball cap—that stalwart fashion standby beloved by every well-dressed man. We can all remember the tremors that shook the fashion world—a revolution, literally—when hip-hop kids began rotating their cap bills away from the face, around the head, until they were finally facing 180 degrees to the rear. Traditionalists were aghast; yet several years later the look seems, well, tired and commonplace.

Just in time, then, this radical new movement to subvert and actually invert cap fashion. Like all the freshest, most vital developments in the fast-changing fashion world, there's no one author to the trend. Antoine, 21, of Ludlow Street explains, "It was just a spontaneous thing. We got tired of buying all the new caps—you know, Nike, Fila, FUBU, the San Jose Sharks. It just got too hard to keep up. So we tried a new approach. Now everyone's doing it."

He couldn't be more correct. As you'll note from the diagram above, savvy street kids begin with a standard issue model (Fig. 1), then radically reverse the crown (Fig. 2), resulting in a whack new cap with seams and inner stitching revealed (Fig. 3), which then becomes the hippest thing to happen to headgear since the doo-rag (Fig. 4).

Unsurprisingly, cultural critics are already exclaiming on the trend. "It's a metaphoric as well as literal deconstruction of the hat as billboard," Susan Sontag explains. "The all-important brand name becomes internalized, if you will, turned inward as a private signifier that defeats the hegemonic logo of globalization."

Frank Gehry, architect of the Guggenheim at Bilbao and EMP, is quick to cite parallels with his own work: "The shapes and contours represent a personalization of a mass-produced object. Revealing the structural underpinnings of the chapeau is analogous to placing the steel girders outside a building skin. Paul Allen and I are already discussing a special line of EMP caps to sell in the gift shop."

The word on the street is just as strong. Says Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, "At first I thought it was a terrible mistake or something, but now I kind of like it. It certainly makes it easier to decide what hat to wear in the morning. In fact, we're adding it as a model to my next Sean John line." Kid Rock concurs. "People started throwing all these hats onstage at me," he recalls. "At first I thought they were dissing me; then I realized it was a compliment. I think."

So, guys, take a tip from the urban style originators, learned academics, and celebrity fashion plates this season. That old baseball cap of yours is out—until it's in!

 
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