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Weapon-concealing garments for the fashion-conscious gun owner are having a “moment,” according to the New York Times, which reports an uptick in apparel companies catering to people with permits to carry concealed weapons. Among their growing ranks is Woolrich, whose new “Concealed Carry” collection offers cotton-twill khakis and basket-weave button-downs with hidden welt pockets, false buttons, and stretchable waistbands for securing handguns, knives, or ammo. One jacket even features a channel through the back for storing plastic handcuffs.

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The rise in “covert fashion” didn’t just appear out of left field. The number of concealed-weapon permits rose from five million in 2008 to seven million just last year because of changes to state laws, notes the Gray Lady. After intense lobbying from gun-rights advocates, 37 states now have “shall issue” statues that require the provision of concealed-carry permits if an applicant has no previous criminal history. Several states allow concealed weapons without any kind of permit. In contrast, only eight states were bound by such statutes in 1984, while 15 didn’t allow handgun-carrying at all.

The number of concealed-weapon permits rose from five million in 2008 to seven million last year.

The newspaper spoke to Shawn Thompson, a 35-year-old auto-dealer and gun enthusiast who calls the new threads a “step up” from military and hunting garb. “Most of the clothes I used in the past to hide my sidearm looked pretty sloppy and had my girlfriend complaining about my looks,” he said. “I’m not James Bond or nothing, but these look pretty nice.”

Other businesses honing in on people like Thompson include 5.11 Tactical, which is launching a water-resistant vest with a pistol-stowing “hand-warmer” pocket, and Under Armour, which will be adding a jacket and a plaid shirt with Velcro flaps for easy access and moisture-wicking fabrics to prevent guns from rusting.

But although gun owners say they want “maximum uncertainty” on the part of any would-be assailant, weapons experts have found inconclusive evidence that such tactics actually reduce crime. Not that it’s stopping businesses like Woolrich from cashing in on the zeitgeist, however. Allen Forkner, a spokesman for the company, explained it thus: “When someone walks down the street in a button-down and khakis, the bad guy gets a glimmer of fear, wondering: are they packing or not?”

If current projections offer any indication, then odds are that yes, yes they are.

[Via the New York Times]