NEW YORK, SEPT. 8 -- Bulletproof back-to-school clothes are the latest thing for New York City children who run a dangerous gantlet to and from class.
School blazers and other jackets fitted with bullet-resistant Kevlar 129 pads are providing a feeling of security to parents undaunted by price tags ranging from $250 to $600.
Added shielding from flying bullets can be had from a bulletproof book bag or clipboard.
The items are being offered by former New York City police officer Stephen D'Andrilli, who runs a security firm, Guardian Group International Corp., which D'Andrilli said already has taken three dozen orders.
The demand comes after a rash of summertime child deaths in New York, some by random gunfire. Four children were slain in an eight-day period in August.
New York is on its way to a record number of homicides for the third straight year. There were 1,905 homicides citywide in 1989.
Hairdresser John DeLoca, 41, recently bought $450 jackets for himself and his two sons, age 8 and 4.
"God forbid if they should be caught in a cross-fire or a random shooting, then $450 would seem like a pretty good investment," he said. "We're talking about my children's lives and the bottom line is: You can't buy another kid."
Kevlar is a synthetic material five times stronger than steel and relatively light. It is used in police bulletproof vests and vehicle armor. Its composition is a closely guarded trade secret, but recent technological advances made it 25 percent lighter and 40 percent thinner than before, so it is less noticeable and more comfortable.
D'Andrilli admits no clothing is ever truly "bulletproof," but demonstrates that Kevlar pads will stop slugs and can save lives.
"See here," said D'Andrilli, pointing to a swatch of Kevlar fabric showing dents from two Uzi bullets. "You may get bruises from the impact, some trauma such as broken ribs, but the bullets won't pierce the body."
In his office, D'Andrilli has a row of fashion dummies sporting jackets, vests and T-shirts with panels of Kevlar concealed in pouches. Joining the back-to-school lineup are Kevlar-lined fur coats and business suits, briefcases and umbrellas.
The line of fur and leather coats starts at about $3,000 and tops out with a Russian sable coat for $80,000. The bulletproof clipboard goes for $300.
An 8-year-old boy named Palmer, in bow tie and red-and-white pinstriped shirt, snapped on a denim jacket featuring Kevlar "Silent Armor" and said it felt only slightly heavier than normal. "It feels good, it feels like you have good protection and nobody even knows you have it on," he said.