Byline: Melanie Kletter

NEW YORK — American-themed merchandise, which already was taking root in the junior and contemporary markets before the attacks on Sept. 11, has taken on new proportions.
In the wake of the tragedies, the market is flooded with national pride, as vendors introduce merchandise of all sorts featuring the American flag, USA logos and styles in red, white and blue. While younger shoppers seem as if they might be less inclined to purchase similar merchandise as their parents, industry watchers said this is one trend that bridges the generation gap.
“From what I have seen in traveling around the country, this trend is genderless, as well as ageless and is being embraced by a broad spectrum of people,” said Tom Julian, a trend analyst at advertising agency Fallon Worldwide.
Julian noted that when the Gulf War was in full swing, there was a “blip” of patriotism that lasted for about a month. However, the terrorist attacks are generating patriotic fervor that will likely last far into the coming year.
“Now, it is almost a personal tribute or homage to those lost to wear Americana,” Julian said. “There is an emotional connection.”
In the days immediately following the attacks, T-shirt vendors quickly rushed to produce tops with flag motifs, and the streets of New York and other cities overflowed with vendors hawking these quick-turn products. Now, the rush for all things American has expanded far beyond T-shirts and can be found in every apparel and accessories category.
Many of the vendors plan to use proceeds from their sales to help the relief efforts. While vendors acknowledge that they run the risk of capitalizing on the tragedy, some said they are just addressing what consumers want.
“It is hard to keep your business strong in a time of international crisis, and if that is what customers want, that is what we are going to give them,” said Scott Eisenberg, president of sales rep firm Candy Rain Sales.
Candy Rain is now offering about 50 items with Americana themes, including a range of T-shirts under its two labels. Eisenberg said a portion of his profits from the shirts will go to relief efforts at TJX Cos., which lost seven employees who were on American Airlines Flight 11 traveling from Boston to Los Angeles.
“I feel that is the right thing to do since they are one of my retailers,” he added.
XOXO Jeans has started shipping a limited-edition American flag T-shirt. A portion of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. B. Lucid, the better junior apparel company, said it will give a portion of the revenues from sales of its new suede jackets with the American flag to relief efforts, said president Steven Zellman.
Coolwear, the junior sportswear firm, had introduced a pair of jeans with Americana themes in time for the July Fourth holiday, which it does every year. Since the attacks, reorders on the jeans have skyrocketed, said president Oded Nachmani. The company also has added items with American themes, including sweatshirts and T-shirts.
“Everyone, including teenagers, is looking to feel a sense of belonging and is embracing Americana,” said Nachmani.
On the retail front, British firm French Connection last week began selling an American-themed T-shirt in some of its 25 U.S. stores and plans to eventually sell it in all its stores in this country. All of the profits from sales of the shirt, which says, “USA, Brave & Still Free…Guaranteed,” will be donated to the Twin Towers Fund.
The top marks the first time that the company has featured any American themes in its merchandise. Previously it had only featured the Union Jack, a British icon, according to a company spokesman.
“We felt it was important to support the United States and the relief efforts in our adopted community,” the spokesman said.