CAMOUFLAGE fabric, designed to conceal soldiers in hostile territory, may become a visible show of support for U.S. combat troops in the Persian Gulf.
Desert camouflage, the drab mix of beige, khaki and light brown so often seen in televised broadcasts from the war zone, has been idling on the shelves of area Sunny's Surplus stores for years.
''It was not a popular item until this happened,'' says Sunny's merchandising manager Larry Switzer. ''People were just not interested.'' Now the stores are getting many calls and inquiries about the gear.
At the Baltimore Street and Eastern Avenue Sunny's, there is a random assortment of desert camo -- pants, T-shirts, field jackets and bandanas, but the stores have no intention of promoting the line.
''We don't want to profit from a tragic situation,'' says Switzer.
But it isn't just camouflage that's dressing to support the troops. Miles of yellow ribbons and American colors are sprouting on lapels and collars across the country. T-shirt printers are working double time. T-shirt entrepreneurs are brainstorming to find the catchiest design and slogan.
And the fashion industry has been touched by the war. The New York Times has reported that editors and retailers have had to consider whether to attend the spring couture showings in Paris next week.
Conde Nast Publications, which owns Vogue, has canceled all international travel for its employees as has Harper's Bazaar.
Press coverage is vital to the haute couture showings, a twice-yearly presentation of fabulously expensive garments sold only to private clients. But the showings would be difficult to postpone. Any delay could impinge on the fall ready-to-wear shows March 2.
Max Factor, one of America's oldest cosmetics manufacturers, joined Operation Desert Shield in November. The company shipped 67,000 bottles of Pure SPF Invisible Face Protector to troops in the gulf. The company manufactured the free sunscreen to meet the needs of weather conditions in the Middle East.
It's not the first time the cosmetics maker has gone to war. During World War II, Max Factor created special camouflage makeup to make the faces of Marines almost invisible against battle backgrounds like sand, earth, jungle and night.