Out of the mouths of babes come trends: Believe it or not, th pacifier may be this year's hot accessory.
Anyone past puberty wearing or using one isn't regressing, but being fashion-forward.
Pacifiers and peace pendants hang side by side in local teen accessory stores -- and some kids admit to scouring baby departments for the right touch.
Do pacifiers signify a yearning for inner peace in the youth of the '90s? Nah, they're more of a fad than a philosophy.
Young sales clerks at Contempo track pacifiers to rap and Public Enemy's Flavor Flav. They remember Flav wearing a real one some years and videos ago. That inspired copy cats in the street fashion scene which was then copy-catted by quick-thinking manufacturers of plastic trinkets.
Now the plastic baby accouterments come in metallics and clear plastics as well as in the usual shades and can be found in street stalls, discount stores and shops that think young, such as Le Chateau in Owings Mills and Accessory Place in Harbor Place.
But this infantile accessory, which has been seen stuck into the mouths of adults, may have darker permutations. Mark Whitaker, fashion editor of Details magazine, the GQ of the twentysomething set, sees an oral and aural connection.
"In London's drug and rave scene, retreating into the music is a total escape. The big club called Ministry of Sound has a separate sanctuary room where you can chill out, retreat to the womb. It may be an extension of 'baby-grow' dressing, wearing oversize clothes to look like a kid and be innocent again."
He sees the pacifier as another commonplace and ordinary object being turned into an icon it was never meant to be. "It's almost the way punks depicted the safety pin -- perverse but obtainable."
At Sassy, the magazine that tracks teen-age attitudes and fashions, beauty and fashion director Mary Clarke kisses off pacifiers as just another fad accessory. "They're wearing them on the club scene. For whatever reason pacifiers started, other groups have picked them up and decided they were just fun to wear."
At the recent spring fashion collections in New York, designer Betsey Johnson had fun and accessorized models with big candy pop rings which looked for all the world like pacifiers. "Betsey's theme was 'Valley of the Dolls' and we showed ring pops as little-girl kind of jewelry," Heather Laing, Ms. Johnson's assistant and stylist explained. "It's candy and jewelry, the best of bothworlds."
Ms. Laing says she sees knick-knack pacifiers all over the street shops in New York but believes they had another origin. "It started with the rap underground and they wore real pacifiers. It was a homegirl/homeboy kind of thing to wear your baby's pacifier. Now they've surfaced as plastic replicas on key chains and strings. I suppose it's a teen-age version of kiddie candy rings."
The kiddie connection shouldn't be discounted. At Dreamland, a vintage and accessory store near Baltimore's Mt. Vernon Place, owner Tim Potee admits to shopping the toy stores for plastic baby toys and teethers and rearranging them, and marking them up as "fine jewelry."
Baltimore artist and fancy dresser Madenney Carlisle claims pacifiers as accessories are old hat. "I have worn pacifiers, but I wore them first in '82. I like integrating baby things into my wardrobe, my art and my world. I had my second childhood. When I reached 17 I threw away baby things; at 22 I wanted them back," Mr. Carlisle says.
"Once something gets documented in the press and on MTV everybody will wear it," says Mr. Carlisle. "I don't go along, I create my own fads."