FLYING Breeze past airport security
Some people in the clothing industry are rethinking how clothes are constructed.
By MICHAEL QUINTANILLA
LOS ANGELES TIMES
When she's being herself, Angie Bayer likes to wear attention-grabbing chunky jewelry, killer stiletto boots with metal straps and a studded belt slung dangerously low on jeans.
Today, though, she's in gauzy drawstring pants, pink tank top and plastic flip-flops, her outfit for staying below the radar -- a look that lets her breeze through airport security without triggering a beep, a hand wand inspection or removal of her shoes.
This is just how the 33-year-old computer consultant from Atlanta on a stopover in Los Angeles planned it. Like millions of others, she has in subtle and overt ways figured out how to dress the part for her journey through airport security.
Since heightened security procedures began in November -- with screening practices made uniform nationwide -- many travelers who once didn't trigger metal sensors or secondary scrutiny find that they're being searched.
Everything from hidden shanks in boots, rivets in sneakers, zippers in pants and even clasps on barrettes are triggering alarms. And, dare we say, so are under-wire bras.
In addition to getting the attention of passengers, all the buzzing at security checkpoints is getting the attention of some in the clothing industry. They are beginning to rethink how items are constructed.
New lines of detector-free clothing and marketing campaigns may not be far off. Jockey International introduced a new bra seven months ago that uses Mylar under the cup rather than metal.
"Internally, we would bring up how this bra 'won't set the detector off,'" recalls Jim Noble, senior vice president.
And Marshal Cohen, co-president of NPDFashionworld, a market information company based in Port Washington, N.Y., says don't be too surprised if "airport-friendly footwear" hits store shelves next spring.
In a meeting recently he saw such a marketing plan with the slogan "Shoes built to last without setting off metal detectors."
Cohen says he can't reveal the company's name yet, adding the shoe lines are "dressy and casual, but most of all, work boots will have the same construction without the metal content in them."
On your feet
The metal shanks used to strengthen the soles of shoes and boots between the heel and instep are hidden triggers that trip up those who think they are dressed metal-free. Eyelets for shoelaces have been known to make even a child's tennis shoe set off the buzzers.
Many more passengers will be learning the ins and outs of the new system -- and the importance of wearing clean socks when traveling by air.
When travelers set off the sensitive metal sensors on the security walk-through, a secondary search that includes removing their shoes is triggered.
"Years ago people used to dress up to travel. Now they have to be aware about how to dress down," says fashion forecaster David Wolfe of the New York-based Doneger Group.
"Air travel clothes have taken on the function of, say, a uniform for an Xtreme sport. Certain items have become 'my travel clothes' because their function is to not set off an alarm and then I won't be seen as a potential troublemaker or terrorist," he says. "C'mon, who in their right mind wants to have their feet inspected at an airport?"
Levi Locke, chaperoning 26 track students (who packed their cleats in carry-on bags) for a junior Olympic cross-country championship outside Atlanta, said during a stopover in Los Angeles that he'd made sure he was wearing clean socks before he got to the airport. "And no holes in them too," he adds.
Anne Swasey says sock sales at her Designer Shoes store in Boston, located on the way to Logan Airport, have increased at least 15 percent thanks to shoppers who drop in before catching a flight.
"We get a lot of people heading back home and feeling like their feet might be exposed at the airport," says Swasey. "They want to make sure they have nice socks on, just in case."
The vast majority of passengers have no intention of bringing anything prohibited on board, but plenty still show up with stuff that gets caught in the dragnet.
At LAX on the recent Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 4,171 items were confiscated, among them seven box cutters, 1,215 knives, 2,463 cutting instruments, 222 tools, 18 pepper-spray devices, nine clubs, nine toy weapons and a turkey thermometer (regarded as a potential weapon).
In addition to avoiding metal, Stone adds this advice: "Don't wear, pack or bring items that you think would create panic and fear."
At LAX, Jason Manning, 23, of Amarillo, Texas, says he knows he's going to set off alarms, but the bull-riding cowboy never leaves home without his boots and is always asked to remove them at airport checkpoints.
"That's the price to pay for what I like to wear," says Manning, on his way to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. "I did remove the belt because it does have a big metal buckle and it always triggers the alarms. This is my style but I haven't given into changing it and no one I know has either."
The good stuff
Charlene O'Brien of Teton Valley, Idaho, has her own strategy for traveling in comfort -- bring and wear less of everything -- and even an observation on what seems to get past the sensors.
Headed home after a New Zealand and Fiji Islands vacation, her checkpoints through security went smoothly even with her multiple piercings. She says it's been her experience that it's the cheaper jewelry that sets off the detectors.
"All of these are real gold and diamonds, baby," she says pointing out the bling-bling on her nose, four on one ear and two on the other.
"Not had a problem with them. Here's a tip for all the ladies -- wear the good stuff."