Almost Bionic

Many words could describe Dockers slacks. Subsonic, platonic—you ain't gettin' any in Dockers—catatonic, beige.

Bionic? Not Dockers, the national pants of trig teachers and the sales staff at Best Buy, what guys impersonating millionaires wear when they're not working.

Yet the new Dockers press kit features a sound chip that keeps playing the boi-oi-oi-nnnngy noise from Six Million Dollar Maneven after I've jumped on it. How ironic. Wait, that rhymes with bionic, too.

Apparently being introduced in 1986 as “the casual alternative to jeans and dress pants” just wasn't good enough for Dockers. Now, not unlike The Blob, the line has expanded into tops, shoes, belts, outerwear and hosiery for guys and dolls. On one level, that's great; lotta guys who wear 'em could use a little room to expand—chiefly, around the waistline. And this is the way of the capitalist: if people like your product, make more of it. Flood the market, good sirs.

Dockers now has a new name to match its new attitude: proStyle.clothes, and of course that's trademarked—like a bunch of other snappy phrases in this press release. ProStyle seems like what astronauts would wear, if astronauts wore Dockers. They do? Oh, God.

The new Dockers have new techie features like Wrinkle Defiance (wrinkle-free fabric); Cool Effects, a technology that helps move perspiration off your skin; Perspiration Guard, which helps prevent sweat-through; Stain Defender for your neckties; All Motion Comfort Fabric, which has four-way stretch movement; and Inner Flex Waistband, for the big-boned gentleman with a deep rise.

Full disclosure: I'm capitalizing all this stuff so Lee Majors won't hurt me.

Even Dockers shoes are “airport-friendly” now, with non-metallic shanks that won't set off the metal detectors. Shanks are little rods inside your shoe sole to make it stiffer and more durable; they protect fools, drunks and construction workers who step on nails. Non-metallic shanks, though, smell of compromise, much like a spork: not quite a spoon, not quite a fork, but it still breaks off in your dinner.

But then, one thing Dockers hasn't changed is its audience: men—and women—who live the compromise. These aren't brainy moms in charge of America's future or hairy-chested, Men of Action, Charles Atlas types. They're the sweaty, out-of-breath, Tums-munching types who always make their commuter flight at the last minute. They're rumpled, shy, salad-bar stalwarts who stopped wearing Jackie O. glasses in 1999.

They'll feel right at home in the new Dockers—same as the old Dockers, just more stain-resistant. Which is really what capitalism's all about: finding a good line, then sticking to it.

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