Aware that the North Face brand of jackets had become a target of choice for armed thugs, a Prince George's County teenage boy sold his gray North Face coat two years ago, opting for safety over style.

It wasn't enough.

On Saturday night, county police said, the youth, now 17, was walking to a bus stop near Prince George's Plaza in an unincorporated section of the county near Hyattsville when he was attacked by a gunman who demanded his sleeveless vest bearing the North Face logo.

Even though the teenager handed over the vest, the gunman shot him, grazing the youth's head near his left ear, then fired into the youth's torso. That round went out the teenager's back about an inch from his spine, his father said yesterday.

The assailant was about to fire a third shot, but the youth punched him and ran to a nearby gas station, according to Avodon Oates, 48, the victim's father.

"I don't get it. He gave him the [vest] -- why would you want to shoot him?" Oates said in an interview. "We've got to put this guy away."

Oates's son, who is not being identified by The Washington Post because he is a witness, was in stable condition yesterday at an area hospital, police and Oates said.

Police are looking for the gunman.

The attack occurred about 8:45 p.m. Saturday in the 3500 block of East West Highway, a busy thoroughfare.

Oates said his son had been at the plaza with two friends.

His son was walking to catch a bus home while his friends went into the convenience store of a gas station, Oates said. The friends were in the store during the attack.

Oates said his son, a senior at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, is a good student who hasn't been in trouble with the law. From his hospital bed, the youth told his father he did not know the attacker, Oates said.

In recent years, hundreds of people in the Washington area have been targeted by robbers who wanted their designer jackets. North Face now appears to be a popular brand among such robbers, according to police.

During the past 15 to 20 years, attackers -- often armed -- have also taken Eddie Bauer and Timberland jackets and Nike Air Jordan sneakers.

In January 2004, D.C. police said, nearly 80 robberies of designer coats had been reported in the previous three months; the robbers particularly coveted the North Face brand, police said. Some North Face coats retail for $200 or more.

Joe Flannery, vice president of marketing for the North Face Co., said the violence "saddens us. It troubles us. It's difficult for us to understand why anyone would resort to that kind of violence to get a jacket."

Caroline Cuff, publisher of Musician Minds, a Lanham-based magazine that covers hip-hop music, said a desire by some young people to be fashionable fuels some of the crime.

"You have a group of people who validate themselves by what they wear," Cuff said. "When a product comes out, they want it, and if they can't afford it, they'll do what they need to do to get it."

"Materialism and status seem to be motivating some young people to resort to violence to get their designer coats," Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said.

"It's a real sad statement."

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.