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Engineering chic

Engineering chic

I was surfing the 500-plus cable TV channels last weekend, when I came across a broadcast of the 2001 Paris Technology Fashion Show on the Fashion Channel. While I missed the segment on haute-couture/top management I did manage to catch coverage of Science and High Tech apparel. And with Monsieur Bernoulli hosting the broadcast, I knew there'd be more than a few surprises during the show.

The first segment was dedicated to the engineering professional, and each of the models was adorned in formal office wear. Crisply pressed business suits, starched white shirts, pencil thin neckties, and razor-sharp creased trousers were the norm. Jacket lapels were straight and narrow, simulating perfectly parallel lines for today's engineering professional looking to be on the straight and narrow. Their shoes, of course, were designed for the ultimate in function and safety with OSHA approved steel toes. Styling options included traditional wing-tips, toe shoes, and the traditional loafer. The big surprise here was that each of these engineering professionals was sporting the new "Wild-Einstein" haircut.

The second segment highlighted emerging trends in office-casual attire for young professionals. What was intended to be awe-inspiring turned out to include a bunch of Gen-X models all wearing beige khakis and short-sleeve golf shirts-though I didn't realize that golf was such a big hit with the Parisians. While the golf theme will be bringing argyle into the office, I was truly glad to see that one designer had maintained tradition with its "flood-water" trouser styling-you know, the trousers that are hemmed to end with exactly 3.14159 inches between the pant leg and the ground.

During intermission, a couple of the Parisian designers took the opportunity to showcase their new line of Engineering Accessories that can be employed throughout the daily routine to meet, tackle, and solve the world's problems. High tech engineering accessories included in the fashion show were: the pocket Cray computer; the combination cell phone/ GPS; a fanny-pack mounted battery charger (for all batteries smaller than B-Cell), and the Chief Engineer/Dick Tracy wrist mounted combination video phone/presentation display module. This device allows the wearer to support program meetings even while they're stranded in an airport.

The fashion show closed out with an exclusive on clothing styles for lab technicians and others who've dedicated themselves to working long hours behind the scenes. While top management may have forgotten these true engineering warriors, the fashion designers still care. Underneath it all, it's these troops who've demonstrated the dying art of avoiding top management and Human Resources so that they can actually get work completed. Lab coats included both formal and casual looks; the formal ones ending in a short waist at the front with long split tails in the back. Lab shirts and slacks were constructed of a new material providing a perma-press crease and synthetic fabric that repels all common greases and oils yet isn't flammable or carcinogenic! The final fashion statement was the electro-antimagnetic shoes that enable wearers to automatically dislodge any metal chips and shavings in their shoe treads.

This report is one of a series of occasional columns exploring the not-altogether-serious side of engineering by Ken Foote, a mechanical engineer at GDLS. You can reach Ken at [email protected] or e-mail your comments to us at [email protected]

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