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URBAN FANTASIES ARE A GOOD FIT FOR SLATES

By Published on .

New from Levi Strauss & Co., and on TV all autumn long, a line of dress slacks called Slates. This is news that should make fans of the National Football League quake in fear.

It wasn't so long ago, after all, that the same marketer introduced Dockers casual slacks, and a TV campaign to promote them. For football fans, this meant being exposed again and again to those insufferable Dockers-ad trouser wienies, bonding, bonding, bonding like crazy during darts games and other guy activities, gently insulting one another while the camera lingered pathologically on their butts and flies.

No erotic intent, mind you, nor even cinematic affectation-just the grim determination to show off the pants' pleated comfort.

The ads were unendurable, but men did get to see the pants. And then they bought them. Thus advertising's double-edged role in a textbook case of astute marketing. The Dockers brand was the Miller Lite of garments, clothing that anticipated the middle-age spread of the baby boom generation.

As a viewer, though, unable to watch two changes of possession without encountering the insipid banter of the trouser wienies, one had to wonder: Is there no way to make me look at pants without making me want to stab the actors, and the photographer, with an ice pick?

And will Slates yield more of the same?

Answers: Yes. No.

For this introduction, Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, has left the wienies on the dock and sailed an opposite tack. Gone are the wisecracking Everymen; in are urban fantasies starring idealized dreamboats in unlikely situations. One involves a guy in a tony restaurant being given the specials of the day by a dark and exotic waitress. She mentions mango. He says, "Did you say tango?" Whereupon, they do, displaying much sexual tension, a charming archness and a very handsome pair of trousers.

Another shows a guy lost in a fancy hotel, wandering from ballroom to ballroom and being drawn into a series of fancy affairs. He's got no jacket, but the pants are dressy enough for anything.

Then there's the one with the handsome young executive crossing town on a Friday afternoon, against a nightmare traffic backup. But not in a cab.

Instead this latter day Steve McQueen strides over rooftops and down fire ladders with the cool confidence of a man who knows a) there's a major babe waiting for him across town, and b) he has a pants crease you could carve a turkey with.

Yes, yes, yes, for 20 years to be casual has meant to have no crease at all, or a Dockerish dull one, against the chance of being dismissed as a megageek who irons his Levis, or worse yet a style refugee from the land of Haband. But it would appear that de-creasing is decreasing and a sharp press is on the rise.

So, yes, he looks preternaturally stylish and self-possessed as he almost magically materializes at the hip West Side cocktail party, like the Miller Genuine Draft stud on dress-up day.

And there this marketer seems to have done it again, because this suave Slatester has just left his office to make the journey, wearing a turtleneck and a jacket with his slacks. Even as social occasions are getting slightly dressier, the office is getting more casual and there is Levi at the nexus.

Dockers. Slates. What will the next decade bring. "The NFL on Fox, brought to you by .... Zoots, the dress baggies that fit."

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