“Covert Fashion”

Even if the killing of Trayvon Martin hadn’t drawn national attention to the steady drift of the country towards one where countless citizens join the police in packing heat everywhere they go, the fashion industry might have supplied some hints.

That’s right: as Matt Richtel of the New York Times explains, there’s an important new niche market for gun owners who want to conceal their hand cannons fashionably:

Woolrich, a 182-year-old clothing company, describes its new chino pants as an elegant and sturdy fashion statement, with a clean profile and fabric that provides comfort and flexibility.

And they are great for hiding a handgun.

The company has added a second pocket behind the traditional front pocket for a weapon. Or, for those who prefer to pack their gun in a holster, it can be tucked inside the stretchable waistband. The back pockets are also designed to help hide accessories, like a knife and a flashlight.

The chinos, which cost $65, are not for commandos, but rather, the company says, for the fashion-aware gun owner. And Woolrich has competition. Several clothing companies are following suit, building businesses around the sharp rise in people with permits to carry concealed weapons.

In line with the philosophy of the conceal-carry movement, the new fashions don’t draw attention to the wearer as someone who might be expected to be wielding deadly force:

Carriers of concealed guns say the new options are a departure from the law enforcement and military look, known as “tactical,” long favored by gun owners.

The latest styles, by contrast, are called “concealed carry” or “covert fashion.”

“What we’ve tried to do is create a collection of garments that allows the end user to have stylish lifestyle apparel but have features in the garment that enable them to carry a weapon and draw the weapon quickly,” said David Hagler, a vice president at 5.11 Tactical, who was lured from Nike to work at 5.11, one of the biggest makers of clothing for soldiers and police officers.

Appropriately enough, Richtel’s piece is accompanied by a photo of a man shopping for chinos during the recent National Rifle Association conference in Washington. His own threads look a lot like the outfit usually sported by the late gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, himself a famously avid gun owner. I’d loved to have seen what Dr. Thompson might have done with this story.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.