Latest look for fashion aficionados? Dress like a New York City binman

IT IS said that where there's muck there's brass, but the maxim has seldom been applied to the world of fashion.

However, an unlikely top-seller has emerged in a new line of official New York City clothing - not from the fire and police departments that have long enjoyed the spotlight, but rather from the agency that moves mountains of rubbish every day.

A fashionably grungy brown cap with the Sanitation Department's light blue logo is the new must-have item - even among celebrities - since the city launched the products last year. The collection is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's goal to profit from the city's official landmarks and logos.

"I'd wear that," said Tam Smail, a 33-year-old tourist from Edinburgh, who tried on the cap while browsing for souvenirs at a Times Square shop. "It's a very popular look right now. You see it everywhere."

For years, agencies like the New York Police Department and the Fire Department of New York have sold souvenir T-shirts, sweat shirts, caps, mugs and toy vehicles. Sales generally hovered below $1 million (518,000) annually, but surged to an all-time high of 14.5 million in the year after the 9/11 attacks when the city and its rescue workers gained worldwide fame. The collection drew retail sales of 10.3 million in 2006.

Mr Bloomberg's administration realised the city was losing millions of dollars because City Hall lacked any sort of central licensing operation that could capitalise on the city's popularity and help eliminate unauthorised use of its logos.

Now, those responsibilities have been concentrated under one agency, NYC Marketing. The group has not only helped police to seize counterfeit goods and crack down on illegal vendors, but created an entirely new clothing line with updated and hip designs.

Besides the sanitation cap, which is being sold across the US, the Sanitation Department's line features T-shirts with a similar hipster aesthetic. The city's film and television agency has also produced some winners - sleek T-shirts and lounge-wear stamped with its minimalist "Made in NY" logo.

NYPD and FDNY gear is still selling strongly, according to Lloyd Haymes, vice-president of licensing for NYC Marketing. But he said new clothing, like the sanitation cap and faded T-shirts with old-fashioned taxicabs across the chest, tap into a different consumer base that seems to be drawn to a more subtle, "authentic New York".

"There's a chance to make it this underground style brand, kind of like, 'You don't know how cool sanitation is, but I do'," Mr Haymes said. "That's popular right now - it's just the right style at the right time."

The agency's marketing strategy includes one trick often used by big-label designers, who are known to promote their merchandise among Hollywood stars. NYC Marketing did exactly that with a list of celebrities, including the film director Martin Scorsese, pop star Nick Lachey, Liv Tyler, James Gandolfini and his on-screen daughter in The Sopranos, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

It has paid off - a number of them have been photographed wearing or buying the items, which stimulates sales and elevates the status of the brands.

Out of dozens of city agencies, officials are currently focusing on the seven that they believe have the most marketing potential: FDNY, NYPD, Sanitation, Film, Transportation, Parks and the Taxi & Limousine Commission.

The Parks gear consists of a few shirts and a Central Park cap, but the next big thing in city fashion could be a line of Parks Department athletic wear.

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