In the maelstrom of urban style, toughness counts. You don't have to live in South Central Los Angeles to feel that the outside world is treacherous and the environment deadly -- that to look bad is good.
Men are rolling up their T-shirts, cutting the sleeves off their Levi's jackets, putting on construction boots and wearing their pants or shorts slung low on the hips.
Michael Jackson doesn't seem like a very tough guy. But for his new video with the model Naomi Campbell, the fawn-like singer wears a T-shirt with rolled-up sleeves, jeans and slick-looking boots.
Luke Perry, the heart-throb actor in the hit television series "Beverly Hills 90210," is on the cover of the July Vanity Fair looking like one mean hombre: shirtless, in muddied jeans and chaps, cowboy boots and spurs.
He dangles a revolver along a pant leg, a metaphor for you know what. Hair-trigger tough, killer sexy. But sensitive, you know.
Tough style is an amalgam of several styles: Western, biker, blue-collar, rap and surfer. There is a Spanky McFarland "Our Gang" element in the rap or hip-hop style, with its exaggerated sloppiness, backward hats and goofy riffs on the mainstream.
As the predominant form of inner-city defensive fashion, it has affected all the others, even its seeming antithesis, the California beach-boy look.
In downtown New York, it seems everybody's gone surfing, but not surfing U.S.A. Updated surf style -- shorts that hang below the knee, striped T-shirts, hooded jackets -- is extremely popular with young men. But the all-American, clean-cut blond surfer type seems to be a thing of the past.
Today's urban surfer has tattooed arms, ear jewelry, bizarre buzz-cut hair and droopy, ripped-up clothes.