The good news is that you don't have to look like Jeff Aquilon to be discovered. The better news is that you only have to go as far as Woodies to discover whether you are top model potential, like Aquilon. Aquilon, a Ford model, was discovered by Gentlemen's Quarterly magazine at Pepperdine University in 1978.

But the bad news is that the winner of the GQ and Ford Models nationwide search for the one male whose look represents the look of the '80s will get a two-year contract from Ford with a guarantee of earning more than $50,000 in that period. That's in comparison to the women's Face of the '80s winner, who was guaranteed $250,000 over three years.

Says Eileen Ford, head of Ford Models, "$250,000 isn't really much for us to guarantee [a female model] for three years. This is the only business I know in which men make less than women." Explains Ford, "There simply isn't as much work for men. As [magazines like] M and GQ increase circulation, there will be more business. And as men accept the fact skin care is necessary there will be more business. The world is changing and they [male models] will catch up. Lady firefighters first, and then male models will catch up."

Those interested in participating in the competition will find contest entry forms at Woodward & Lothrop. Deadline for the initial phase of the contest is March 27. Cruz's Comeback Collection

Nothing stirs the design juices better than little money in the coffer. That's probably why Miguel Cruz, the Cuban designer, is having such a resurgence. Cruz recently caught up with his childhood chum, New York investment banker Roberto Polo. Over a period of 20 years Cruz had a small but steady following in Europe and wanted to expand in the United States. Polo, convinced of his talents, reorganized his business on an international scale with the help of European and American investors.

His fall collection focuses on a narrow shape, using several shades of gray and patterns taken from Turkish kilims. Cruz designs were a highlight in last September's Hispanic designer show here. With luck, he'll be back for round two of the same celebration this fall. Karen Akers Likes Raleighs . . . Really

Karen Akers was asked to sign a truth-in-advertising statement last week saying that her comments in the current Raleighs' commercial series are her true beliefs. "I'm not quite sure what they were caring about," says the Broadway actress/entertainer, who lives in Washington. In the commercial, produced locally by Hal and Marilyn Weiner, Akers lists her proudest accomplishments as her boys, ages 10, 12 and 43 (for her husband). Her secret fantasies? "To eat anything I want," responds Akers in the commercial. "Nothing could be closer to the truth," says Akers. "It is the truth embodied." And if she gained 20 pounds? Well, she'd buy a lot of things at Raleighs.

Not everything she owns is from Raleighs. In Italy recently to visit a friend, she spotted this bright green coat (below) designed by Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi and couldn't resist. She was wearing it opening night at the Folger Theatre recently to see her sister, Nicole (Nikki) Orth-Pallavicini, who plays Dunyasha in "The Cherry Orchard." The Jockey Club & The Ties That Bind

Weep not over the heist of ties from the cloakroom at the Jockey Club. A Second Chance, a resale shop of gentlemen's clothing has come to the rescue with ties by Herme s, Yves Saint Laurent and Fendi. Additionally, some Jockey Club regulars have brought their discards to the restaurant for the unknowing who arrive sans cravate . Baldrige's Snappy Answer to Studs

Those studs on the White House party circuit have been put out to pasture. For the moment at least.

All thanks to Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige, whose Christmas gifts to the president, Cabinet members and the chief of staff were snap-front tuxedo shirts -- no studs necessary.

Baldrige, who became acquainted with the style as president and chief executive officer of Scovill Mfg. Co., parent company for the snap makers, has worn one himself for a while. There being no tape measures at Cabinet meetings, Baldrige collected the sizes for the shirts, made by After Six, through phone calls to staff members.

Has Baldrige saddled a dead horse? After Six makes the style to sell only to tuxedo rental companies for clients who don't want to worry about jewelry. Another use might be male models who need to make quick changes. And of course for Cabinet members and others who need to rush into evening clothes for black-tie dinners. London's Latest: Alistair Blair

Londons has become an important showcase for young designers, recent graduates of the many art schools in Britain, peddling their original textiles and clothing to an increasing number of shops worldwide. The emphasis has been more on inventiveness than on quality of workmanship.

Not so with Alistair Blair, one of the brightest additions to the London designer scene this week. Born in Scotland, trained at St. Martin's School of Art in London, Blair, 30, has worked as an assistant to the best in the business -- Marc Bohan at Dior, then for almost five years with Karl Lagerfeld, first at Chloe' then at Lagerfeld's own firm.

It is much harder being out on your own than an assistant, admits Blair. "For someone like Karl, his reputation is so well known everything is set out for him. Fabrics, for example." Working in France has advantages over England, too. "Paris is geared to the best craftsmanship. London is known for street fashion. I don't know any other way than couture." It's taken time, he says, but he has found and trained skilled workers in his own way. Even before his London show at the end of the week, he had 22 appointments set up with top American stores' buyers.

He's aware that working with Lagerfeld has rubbed off on his clothes. "People will have to understand it will take me a season or two to get it out of my system. But there are certain details I like, so why shouldn't I use them." Unlined garments, for example. He dropped one or two things from the line because they looked "too Karl," he admits.

His clothes are body-conscious, waistlines marked with a belt, hemlines very short or very long. "Very short has more of an impact on the catwalk," says Blair. In fact the runway is so important that, unlike other designers, he brought in top models from all over for the show.

He can afford such luxuries. His backer, who gave Blair free rein, is former oilman Peter Bertelson, who has brought several top European designer shops, including Valentino, to Paris.