Here's a new and fashionable salve for your fears. It's an ideal way to arm yourself for a new year, the perfect gift for someone who refuses to sit with his back to the door, and it's straight off the pages of 007: the world's first line of bulletproof fashions, according to its creator.
At John Jolcin Protective Fashions, which has been open for the past four months in a glass-walled store in SoHo, men and women can select from an array of sporty outer wear and elegant evening wear--either custom- or ready-made. They may cost more than average garments. But, says Jolcin, the store owner and antiballistic mastermind, "Just think of the lives they will save. Had we only been around before John Lennon was shot . . . wellll."
Jolcin's fashions are modeled after the bulletproof vests worn by police, FBI agents and other high-risk personnel. But, unlike the institutional lifesavers, these armored garments are more fashionable and comfortable. Each is fitted with a set of bulletproof panels that conform to the body between the waist and the neck. The panels are removable and interchangeable. "All you need is one set of panels," notes Jolcin. "We can sew zippered flaps which hold the panels into any garment."
Protective Fashions are not particularly high fashions. They are more along the lines of the military-backwoods-button-down styles. But they are comfortable and fairly inconspicuous. A navy blue parka, for example, with snappy French-military epaulets (at $550) actually feels lighter than this reporter's standard-issue, L.L. Bean down-filled parka. For business wear, the standard dark blue vest (at $400) seemed a little stiff, but Jolcin said it is his best seller.
And there is also evening wear, which Jolcin says sells well at this time of year. The standard starched-board shirt (at $350) assumed extra stiffness with the panels. And for women, a red silk evening dress and jacket (at $1,200), which looks like something Dior turned out in the mid-'60s, offers protection with panels under the little jacket.
"There have been a number of orders for evening wear from Washington this time of year," says Jolcin, "and, strangely, it is usually from women buying evening clothes for their husbands."
Jolcin estimates he has outfitted more than 1,200 customers since he opened last September at the busy intersection of West Broadway and Broom Street. Many of his clients are entertainment and political figures already protected by a retinue of guards. Others, however, are average New Yorkers "who fear for their lives." Recently he outfitted a teacher; her identity--as his other clients'--remains a secret.
Jolcin, a bearded man with steely blue eyes, is no newcomer to ballistic design. Before opening John Jolcin Protective Fashions, the native Israeli was chief designer for Eagle Military Gear Overseas U.S.A. Ltd., an international supplier of bulletproof uniforms for NATO, the Israeli army and Central American armies.
Should you decide to armor yourself in Protective Fashions, you will probably need some idea of the type of bullets that might be aimed at you. Jolcin hands prospective customers a mimeographed ballistic chart when they enter the high-tech shop. The chart lists the four grades of bulletproof panels, and each grade offers further protection from an array of bullets and low-velocity fragments--from .22 caliber to .357 magnum.
Even the top-of-the-line bulletproof panel, however, is not guaranteed to stop one type of ballistic. Model No. 30 will only stop most 9 millimeter ammunition fired from a submachine gun with a 9-inch barrel, according to the chart.