May 13, 2010

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Geek chic
What not not to wear
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Flowers bloom. The ground thaws. As winter turns haltingly into spring, there suddenly becomes a shortage of pockets. Without a coat, where do all the gadgets go?

I, for one, refuse to buy pants or shorts without some variation of “painter” or “carpenter” in the name. The smallish pocket on the right leg — intended for a paintbrush or screwdriver, I guess — is usually perfect for a cell phone. I’d much rather it be snug on its own than rattling around with my keys. Cargo pants do in a cinch or if I need to carry around more stuff, but it seems like there should be better options.

Oh, there are options.

If you’ve ever spied a professional photographer at a sporting or political event, you’ve probably seen their totally nerd-tastic vest with lots of huge pockets. Extra lenses, flashes, light meters, batteries and the like stash in those pockets. You can try the Humvee Combat Photo Vest for all your media players, mobile Internet devices and headphones for about $30 online, but you don’t really get sturdy construction until you’re willing to pay a little more. The choices abound and your decision will rest on placement of pockets, comfort and *ahem* fashion. Plug “photo vest” into your favorite shopping search engine and pay attention to reviews.

For something more tailor-made for slim devices rather than bulky pro photography equipment, check out the selection at scottevest.com. They have no fewer than eight products that they deem “iPad-Compatible.” Yes, pockets big enough to hold the iPad. An X-ray view of one vest on their site shows an iPad, water bottle, compact digital camera, extra memory card, keys, sunglasses, driver’s license, coins, Bluetooth headset, two pens and both iPhone and Blackberry phones in separate pockets. There’s even a network of conduits throughout the vest for earphones or other wires.

That vest is $100. They also offer $70 hoodies, $60 cargo pants and jackets ranging from $75 to $250, all with multitudes of pockets and conduits. A few jackets even have zip-off sleeves, so they can double as vests in the warmer months.

Maybe you want your clothing to do more than just hold your devices — say, charge them too? Our good friends at Chinavasion.com have you covered, literally, with their Solar Vest. Four solar panels on the back charge up an 8800mAh battery in the front left pocket, and various connectors transfer that power to your phone, iPod, whatever. You can even detach the solar panels “while you are working inside a cave or shaded terrain.” Plus, everyone will know why your vest looks weird, because the words “SOLAR VEST” are plastered on the back in nice bold, capital letters.

Future clothing will be able to harvest power from your own movement. Nanofibers capable of converting the stretching and twisting of threads will be woven into your garb. The more you move, the more charged up you get. Finally, a reason to exercise.