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Respect the Uniform

For spring, fall in with the fashion ranks as olive turns anything but drab: Canvas boots, helmet bags, and even parachute pants return to earth.

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Top-end designers for men and women are marching into spring with military-surplus style, but sidewalk guerrillas know where to find the same looks for less. Michel Botbol, a W editor who often sports the regulation gear in fashion's front lines, starts with a stock of basic cotton hoodies from the Gap ($48; shorten the arms for spring's hot look), and concocts his version of the look of the moment with these sturdy picks.

At Weiss & Mahoney, tractor-sole canvas boots ($35) and shiny black leather Carolina lace-ups ($120) add the requisite rugged feel to a designer outfit: "They bring dress-up clothes down a level," Botbol explains. "They look cool with a Helmut Lang suit." There's also a wide selection of reproduction army-style drawstring-hemmed nylon parachute pants ($30) and waffle-knit thermal tops in cream and gray ($10).

For a wide selection of true army-issue stuff, brave the drill-sergeant demeanors and dig through the rubble at Canal Street's musty Trader's military emporium. Look for the "maharishi-style" anti-night-vision parachute pants ($40) that the shop struggles to keep in stock. "They're like cyber-modern camouflage," Botbol notes approvingly. "They've got a very Louis Vuitton feel to them."

Carry gear in a zip-top nylon pilot's-helmet bag in army-green ($35) or black nylon from Kaufman's Army & Navy. Or try a plainer look with a Manhattan Portage messenger bag. "The Pradas of the world are all making them," Botbol sighs. "But the originals are $45 at Canal Jeans" -- hardly Pentagon spending.

The Gap, Fifth Ave. at 54th St. (977-7023); Weiss & Mahoney, 142 Fifth Ave., near 19th St. (675-1367); Trader's, 385 Canal St. (925-6610); Kaufman's Army & Navy, 319 W. 42nd St. (757-5670); Canal Jean Company, 504 Broadway, near Broome St. (226-3663).

Picks of the Week

Showroom Seven's sample sale includes spring styles from trendy designers like Ghost, Lawrence Steele, Whistles, Velvet, and Erickson Beamon at half off the retail prices: a Velvet T-shirt is $15; a Frou satin hipster handbag is $68; an embroidered Ghost dress is $250; and an elaborate Erickson Beamon hand-beaded Jet choker is $700. Women's sizes 2-12. 498 Seventh Ave., near 36th St., twenty-fourth floor (643-4810); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. 10-7; 2/16-2/26.

The Barking Zoo keeps Chelsea's lucky dogs cozy in wool sweaters and winter booties to protect paws from sidewalk salt. On sale, the sweaters are 40 to 50 percent off ($22.50 to $84), booties are 30 to 40 percent off (from $16 to $21), and collars and leashes start at $14. A teeny leather bomber jacket is $70. 172 Ninth Ave., near 20th St. (255-0658); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 11-8, Sat. 10:30-6, Sun. noon-5; 2/20-3/6.

Meghan Kinney, a star-quality East Village designer, is making room for her upcoming Han Solo-inspired spring collection by selling off all her figure-skimming winter styles at half price: Three-quarter-length moleskin coats are $115; wool hooded dresses are $80; cotton-flannel A-line skirts are $60. Older stuff's mostly $30-$50. 312 E. 9th St. (260-6329); M.C., V.; Mon.-Sun. 1-8; 2/15-3/1.

Beyond the Bosphorus's hand-woven Turkish kilim rugs are now 40 percent off regular prices: Two-by-three-foot scatter-size rugs are $35; six-by-nine-foot styles are $435- $1,080. Runners start at $240. Kilim throw pillows are half off, at $25- $175. 79 Sullivan St. (219-8257); A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Sun. noon-6; 2/16-3/16.

To Boot New York's swank, modern men's shoes are $185-$600 at places like Bergdorf Goodman. At the company's warehouse, 1,500 pairs of winter stock are now 60 percent off: from $69 for a casual lug-sole style to $195 for handcrafted dress lace-ups. Must-have leather ankle boots are $99. Men's sizes 7-16. 603 Washington St., ground floor (463-0437, ext. 5); cash only; Thurs.-Fri. 9-5, Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5; 2/18-2/21.


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