When it comes to high school attire, casual is in.
Abercrombie & Fitch aren't students, but if there were a fashion roll call at Lawrence's high schools every day, those two names would dominate this year.
A stroll through the halls of the schools between classes on any day of the week points to Abercrombie & Fitch as the clear winner in the brand-name wars among teen-agers in Lawrence, and the gray A+F shirts from the popular chain are commonplace.
"It's Abercrombie," said Free State High School senior Nick Kastl, when asked about what students are wearing this year.
"Today, I just bought a T-shirt and some corduroys there, and I have some cargo pants from there," Kastl said this week. "Actually, their sweaters are nice, too. Mostly you see their T-shirts around school, and also some button-down plaid shirts."
Students say Abercrombie & Fitch clothing began winning the popularity contest about two years ago, the same time the national chain opened its Lawrence store downtown. But the store isn't the only game in town, said students who also frequent The Gap, The Buckle, Urban Outfitters and other downtown stores.
Other brand names frequently mentioned during an informal poll at Free State and Lawrence High School include Nike, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Old Navy.
"I think the style for me and others my age is Abercrombie and The Gap. Sometimes I wear Lucky Brand and Old Navy," said Earl Robinson, a sophomore at LHS.
A.J. Ahmed, Free State senior, said many students like Abercrombie & Fitch because the store's clothes straddle the line between casual and dressed-up.
"They're nice clothes. Maybe it's because (Abercrombie & Fitch) is a little bit more dressy, but at the same time it's not overly dressy," Ahmed said.
Out with the old
Fashion can be fickle, and yesterday's hot styles could be today's duds. Gone are the days of fields of flannel and seas of sports jerseys in the hallways, and some students see flip flops and sandals on their way out, along with the saggy, baggy look popularized with oversized, underwear-showing jeans.
"I got rid of a lot of jerseys and old T-shirts," Ahmed said about his pre-back-to-school closet overhaul. "The basketball jerseys, or other sports jerseys, they've really gone out of style."
Students are more apt to wear vests, especially vests made from polar fleece. Pullovers also emphasize the popular layered style.
"These zip-up vests are big," said Ashley Bechard, an LHS junior, who recently wore a Nike windbreaker-type vest, jeans and Nike shoes to school.
Natalie Bennett, also a junior at LHS, said high school generally calls for casual attire. For females, plain shirts with three-quarter-length sleeves and capri pants are popular, and large pocketed cargo pants are common for the males.
"I'm not much for dressing up," Bennett said.
Free State sophomore Jessica Birdcreek passes on Abercrombie & Fitch.
"It's cute on everyone, but I don't think it's me," Birdcreek said. "I wear jeans all the time, and I have a pair of black ones that are kind of stretchy, and they're boot-cut, not tapered. I'll wear that, and basically nice shirts.
Birdcreek said that leather jackets and coats probably will be popular this fall and winter and that national chains are gearing up for big business with leather.
While choosing the right wardrobe is important, keeping it simple means not having to plan.
"I get up in the morning, look in my closet and just pick out something," said Robinson.
"I'm really picky when I shop," said Tricia Sanders, an LHS sophomore, "but I don't go home every night and pick out my clothes for the next day."
Kyo Lee, an LHS senior, recently wore wide-leg jeans and a canvas belt, the last few feet of which dangled to his side.
"In the morning, I'll just pick something out of my closet and try not to wear something twice in the same week," Lee said.
While some styles are more popular than others, Free State sophomore Victoria Cox said it's to each his own at high school.
"Abercrombie is in, but everybody wears different things at different times," Cox said.
"At LHS, it's basically whatever makes you comfortable," Bechard said.
"There's a wide variety of people that dress in their own personal style."
That includes Andrew London, an LHS junior, who's had his eye on a pair of bright yellow pants.
"I saw these cool pants," said London, who wears a thick G-Shock watch that tells the time and temperature. "I like them because they fit my personality."
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.