Beach style shifts like sand in Ocean City


Ocean City -- Styles at the beach change as quickly as the waves rolling onto the shore. Last week's T-shirt or sunglasses may be this week's washout.

The nightly people parade on the boardwalk offers the best vantage point for the uninitiated to check out the latest fashions. Take a seat on a bench and gaze in wonderment.

While there's still plenty of exposed flesh at the beach, young men in particular are keeping their bodies hidden under voluminous wraps.

Jeans are so baggy, they defy gravity by staying on. Part of the attraction is showing your undergarments.

"Boxers are big," says Marc Castro, 19, a salesman at Chat Street boutique on the boardwalk at Eighth Street, referring to men's boxer shorts. "Low rider pants that show the boxers" are a big item, he says.

Jeans aren't the only pants flapping in the salt air. Some of th shorts seen around town are almost down to the ground.

"Short shorts are done for now," concurs Jeff Previti, one of the owners of Cloud Break on 58th Street, which bills itself as an alternative surf shop.

Underneath all those clothes, temporary tattoos are a popular fashion statement. Guys favor panthers and snarling bulldogs on their shoulders and the women choose roses for their upper chests and legs, according to Mr. Castro.

Young women seem to be going in the opposite fashion directio from the men as they snap up skimpy baby doll dresses resurrected from early '70s fashions. They are wearing them with black velvet or ribbon chokers -- another reincarnated fashion item that is selling well at Cloud Break, says Alex Sushko, one of the shop's partners.

Sprouting on heads this summer are knit hats calle Cat-in-the-Hats or Mad Hatters.

"Mostly the kids are wearing them, but every once in a while an old lady will come in and buy one of the Mad Hatters," says Michael Fonte, who works at Chat Street.

"They just started catching on this year. We must have 30 different styles," he says.

Another theme that keeps cropping up in clothes is marijuana -- a replica of the leaf, that is.

One recent evening at the under 21 nightclub in town, the majority of teens were decked out in shirts or caps emblazoned with the green symbol of the '60s.

Growing in popularity on the boardwalk is hair wrapping -- weaving beads and ribbons into a lock of hair. "It's usually behind the ear and hanging down," says Pam Greveris, 21, a hair wrapper at Chat Street.

Ms. Greveris says hair wrapping is most commonly requested by young women, but others are starting to request the service.

"We've gotten more guys and older people, especially teachers," she says.

Wearing the right sunglasses at the beach has always been important. This year's winning shades are the tiny oval John Lennon type or the Arnet brand glasses, which are sold at most surf and skate shops.

At one time, Oakley sunglasses were trendy, as were the stickers advertising the brand, which could be found on nearly every vehicle in town.

Not anymore.

"No one wears Oakley. That's out," says Jennifer Kratzer, 19, a saleswoman at the Shade Shack on the boardwalk near First Street.

"All of the lifeguards used to wear them [Oakley glasses]. I don't know of any who do now," says Blair Rhodes, an Ocean City surfer.

Ms. Kratzer and Mr. Rhodes had conflicting reports on the bathing suit scene this year.

"Neon is definitely out," Ms. Kratzer says.

"At the beach, neon will never be out, because when you have a tan it looks good," Mr. Rhodes argues.

$ Hmmm, suit yourself.

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