Latest fashion: the high-tech look

My sister-in-law recently told me about someone who walks into her office every day dressed in a long black trench coat, sunglasses (regardless of the weather), and a huge Bluetooth earpiece for his mobile phone.

"I think it's just part of the whole 'Matrix' look he was aiming for," she says. "It was just jewelry."

Wearing technology as jewelry is not exactly new. Isn't a watch a form of technology? The availability of new technologies like Bluetooth, however, has led some companies to look for new ways to entice consumers – particularly young, tech-savvy ones – into buying their products.

But before venturing into the land of "bling," let's take a quick look at the technology in question: Bluetooth.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, indicates Bluetooth is named after 10th-century Danish King Harald Blåtand. King "Bluetooth" was a peacemaker and encouraged warring parties to talk to each other. The device's creators believed this was a great description of what Bluetooth does – allowing completely different technologies to "talk" to each other.

Bluetooth is a wireless technology for a "personal area network"; it only works over a small area – your "personal area." Bluetooth works great for PDAs, cellphones, printers, etc. It also can be used with certain toys. I have a Bluetooth wireless mouse that I use with my laptop. I plan to get a wireless game controller for my kids' PlayStation 2 because I'm tired of tripping on wires in front of my TV.

The key concept to grasp here, and the connection to fashion, is the wireless part. Bluetooth turns technology users into Pinocchios without strings. No longer will they become tangled in the wires connecting their cellphones and earpieces.

For people who care about how they look, there's an added coolness factor. Wires were never fashionable. Bluetooth liberates them from looking like geeks.

A recent survey by cable television's Oxygen Network shows that there may be another reason to make technology more attractive. It found that "three of four women would prefer a new plasma television to a diamond necklace," and that the gender gap on technology has closed. Women now own 6.6 tech devices, compared with 6.9 for men. Four out of five women felt comfortable with technology and almost half now do their own computer troubleshooting.

With women embracing technology, you can see why manufacturers are looking to blend more technology with fashion.

Take the Burton Bluetooth Jacket. This "wearable technology" combines the electronics wizardry of Motorola with the fashion sense of Burton, a snowboard and accessories company.

The winter jacket is equipped with a control panel on the wrist that uses Bluetooth technology. The device allows you to talk on the cellphone or listen to an iPod while skiing or snowboarding. Of course, these practices are not recommended by the company.

Right.

Just look at this description of the jacket on expn.com, the website created by ESPN for all things X Games: "Wanna rock out while chatting with your cross-country bros on the chairlift or keep your digits toasty in their mittens while scrolling through your Black-Runs-Only playlist? Done."

Ummm. OK.

Or check out the description of the Jabra JX10 Bluetooth Headset, a wireless device designed by the Danish design company Jacob Jensen, on Geek zone.com: "The Jabra JX10 lives up to our three main design philosophies that form should follow feelings, the noise should be taken out of technology, and that every product should have a feel of magic about it. When people put on the Jabra JX10 they will feel as though they are putting on a piece of jewelry, not just a Bluetooth headset," said Timothy Jacob Jensen, chief designer, Jacob Jensen Design.

So there you have it. People who wear headsets should feel as though they are putting on a piece of jewelry.

It naturally follows, of course, that some people will want the headset without the mobile phone, just for the cool tech look.

As someone with little fashion sense (I have trouble matching socks), this all seems a bit much.

But if designers could create a cool looking sweat shirt that uses Bluetooth technology to, say, automatically check what's in the fridge during commercial breaks of a football game, I might wear it.

If it comes in extra large.

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