Take the Hawaiian short-sleeved shirt. On Terry from EastEnders it looks crass. On Austin Powers it looks retro ironic. But on a slightly sweating geeza in summer it says sex. These are Club Tropicana prints you'd find on tacky resort postcards: palm trees, lush pineapples, hot pink tropical flowers. You'd think lads would rather order a pina colada in the local than wear a poncey print shirt. Not a bit of it. Go out on a summer evening in London and it's like an am dram dress rehearsal for South Pacific.
So why are the boys living it loud this season? Girls have already got it on with spray-dyed tropical sunset Ts by Chloe and Anthony Symonds. But hip chicks are also wearing tight denim hotpants this season and we don't want too many men copying that particular look - more's the pity. No, the lads are loving Hawaiian shirts because they are pure fashion irony: Miami Vice, Wham! and The Spy Who Shagged Me.
"It's camp ironic, mate," says Loaded fashion editor Beth Summers. "Last summer the lads were wearing Bruce Lee prints. Now they're into the Second World War GI story with South Pacific prints." It's so fabulous to see solid gold tack rescued from the bargain bin of 20th-century fashion. It shows that British men can 'ave a larf with fashion rather than at it.
How to where it
"You've got to stay true to that Eighties vibe," says Crystal McClory, assistant fashion editor of Arena. "I shot Hawaiian shirts with faded denim jeans recently because I think dark denim has had its day for now."
Here's the deal. Go for a print as busy as a professional fluffer's sex life. It doesn't matter if it scares small animals and children. But make sure your pants are a single colour block. Faded denim is cool again. So is GI white drill cotton. The ultimate is obviously a short, tight Hawaiian shirt with fairly fitted crop pants. Style Police has said it before and we'll say it again. Lads are wearing crop pants and looking good. The look is camp ironic but never camp as knickers.
Where to buy it
Style Police bows to the expert on this one. Arena's Miss McClory has already hunted the best Hawaiian shirts down and shot them. She's also changed our mind about two of Style Police's favourite targets: Gucci and Gap. Gap has gone beyond khaki with its cream and green palm tree print shirt (pounds 26). Gucci's floral print - which we've always said looks terrible on this season's dresses - is lush as a Club Tropicana shirt for pounds 360.
Mambo, the Aussie skate and surf label, is loud and proud when it comes to tacky cartoon prints (from pounds 45). Replay gets it right with curry-house wallpaper prints for pounds 55. If you're going to get really clever, then haul yourself over to Top Man for some Indian batik prints which are half Hawaiian with a dash of ethnic spice (pounds 20). Top Man has also got the Hawaiian palm trees covered as well as the reverse print story (from pounds 20). Reverse print is the wrong side of the printed fabric which makes it a bit faded and a lot subtler. But when you're wearing postard print, who wants subtle? As the great Bette Midler used to say, "F---' em if they can't take a joke."
Gap: 0800 427789.
Gucci: 0171 235 6707.
Mambo: 0181 741 2444.
Replay: 0171 505 2700.
Top Man: 0800 731 8284.