Teen culture ain't whack, it just needs a little duct tape. The gray rolls, the same stuff lying in the junk drawer, are cutting edge these days. We won't say it's trendy because, well, like, trendy is, like, a bad word (and this can get a little sticky). Kids wearing duct tape would hate it if you called them trendy because trendy is for the social set and those who wear designer labels and those who wear clothes because they care what other people think about what they are wearing.

Duct tape is not a stealth status symbol. These kids are wearing duct tape not because everyone else is wearing duct tape. To them, cutting off a piece of duct tape and patching a hole in their jeans or repairing a loose sole on a pair of Converse All Stars is, like, you know, functional. Like it totally makes sense. Making a prom dress or a tuxedo out of duct tape is, like, so anti-corporate, anti-world hype, anti-commercialism.

"I know in the punk scene, they use Super Glue and safety pins, and they are into do-it-yourself. You just like, patch things up. A lot of people make their own clothes," says Danielle Joray, 15, a 10th-grader at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. "It's finding the cheapest possible way without giving in to big corporate kind of stuff. A lot of things we buy, we can do it ourselves and we won't be exploiting anyone like children and people."

They wear duct tape not because they don't have the money to buy something new. Money is not the problem. It's wearing the brand-new stuff that is the problem.

"Most of them have the money," she says, twisting a bracelet she made by cutting the tops off tube socks and taping them together with duct tape. "They just don't feel like it."

Danielle calls herself "half raver, half punk."

"A lot of punks I know are into activism. They are all into that. A lot of people think we are really violent, bad kids, and we are not. Being punk is being more into activism and wanting to change things and not conforming to the trend and being part of a bigger group and not accepting society's views."

A lot of her friends keep duct tape in their lockers, "like a security blanket." You never know when your world might start falling apart and you need duct tape to pull it back together. It's the adhesive for activists.

Danielle mends her pants with duct tape and made a pillow with duct tape. She has duct-taped her textbooks and the binders on which she writes messages to the world, including "Candy Kids Rule." But that is another story.

She's at the home of her friend Nicholas Klinovsky, 16, another 10th-grader at Eleanor Roosevelt, sitting on a cushion made of styrofoam from a computer packing box, over which she placed red cloth and fastened it all together with duct tape.

Nicholas uses duct tape to keep his Converse All Stars together.

"They have a tendency to fall apart quickly," he says. "My parents complained that the soles of my shoes were coming off, so I fixed them with duct tape. 'Chucks' are really comfortable when you break them in. It was a pain to see them go to waste."

With duct tape, "I solved a whole lot of my problems with my shoes."

His mother smiles and thinks it may be a little dangerous. His parents gave him new shoes, and he got a new roll of duct tape for Hanukah.

Nicholas thinks back to when he was in middle school and he dressed like everybody else. "It bored me." He looks at his shoes, wrapped in silver tape. "This is my personality. I believe in recycling." His best shoes just need maintenance. "I think it looks cool, but I don't do it to look cool."

Duct tape may be an anti-fashion statement. "We're too cool to care. It's like the ultimate in chilling out and being unconcerned with appearance," says Irma Zandl, president of the Zandl Group, a trends research firm in New York City.

Wearing duct tape is so non-trendy that Zandl hasn't seen it. "In this kind of fashion-and-branded product times we are in, the kids doing this, I imagine, would be mostly well off. If everybody can afford to get Abercrombie & Fitch, the way you set yourself apart is if you don't care. This can only be done by kids who live in a great house, so it's obvious to their peer group that they are not impoverished."

If it seems that duct tape has always been around, it's because tape that can fix anything from a rusty bumper to a broken windowpane to Mom's purse has that kind of influence.

Tim Nyberg, one of the two "Duct Tape Guys" who have written three books extolling duct tape and created a Web site where they sell duct tape goodies, says the product was invented by the military in World War II to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. It was so effective that "they started using it to repair jeeps and guns and hold stuff together. After the war, they used it to hold heating and air conditioning ducts together."

People came to rely on the tape, using it to fix other things in their households and anything in their lives. "It's cheap," Nyberg says. "It's easy to work with. You don't need to know how to sew or anything." It's stronger than masking tape and Scotch tape, but not as strong as filament tape. But you can't rip filament tape with your fingers.

What duct tape can't fix needs to be thrown away.

Duct tape, shall we say, is a many-generational adhesive.

Recently, kids as young middle school age have been making skirts, purses, backpacks and wallets out of it. "It's not kids going out and shopping for Abercrombie name-brand fashions," Nyberg says. "It's the creative kids."

"I went pretty crazy with duct tape at one time," says David Witty, 21, who lives in Springfield. "I made duct tape visors and duct tape purses. I was just sitting around the house bored. I had some duct tape and I went to town. . . . I wear the visor to clubs."

At clubs he gets compliments on duct tape's functionality. "If you have white pants on and you go to a club, you wrap duct tape around the bottom of them and you keep them from getting dirty and fraying."

Allison Kayser, 19, of Chesapeake, Va., uses duct tape around the bottom of her pants instead of hemming them.

"My parents hate it because they always want to hem them," she says. "But this way, if it gets ripped, you can take it off and put more duct tape on the bottom of them. . . . Whenever I wear big pants, I use duct tape. If I wear smaller pants, then I don't, but it's on all my big pants. It protects them. It works. And it's cute."

Even if it is not broken.

CAPTION: Nicholas Klinovsky and Danielle Joray apply duct tape to Joray's guitar strap.

CAPTION: Nicholas Klinovsky, with friend Danielle Joray: "This is my personality. . . . I think it looks cool, but I don't do it to look cool."