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'Bra-llelujah!' Can flying be fun again?
Industry watchers say tighter airport security has spawned a niche for search-prevention wear.
May 6, 2005: 3:33 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer
The BuzzNot airport-friendly suspenders with plastic clasps come in three colors, navy, green and tan, and are priced at $19.95 each.
The BuzzNot airport-friendly suspenders with plastic clasps come in three colors, navy, green and tan, and are priced at $19.95 each.
Boot Barn's Justin Men's Black Melo-Veal
Boot Barn's Justin Men's Black Melo-Veal "Airport Friendly" boots (left; $139.99). Ariat Women's Heritage Western non-metal boots (right, $114.99)

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Once upon a time, air travel used to be fun.

Lately, it's less about flying and more about shoe checks, coat checks and random frisking, all part of a stress-inducing airport obstacle course as you engage in your own "Amazing Race" to the boarding gate.

Now some quick-thinking merchants are taking someone else's moment of misery and turning it into a business opportunity by creating a niche market for "security-friendly" clothing.

"We did some market research and realized that there is a need for airport-friendly wear," said Marianne Torres, owner of online store suspenderstore.com.

So her company last February launched "BuzzNot," the no-metal suspenders. Instead of the typical metal clasps that would set off the metal detector, these suspenders feature plastic clasp and adjusters.

Torres wouldn't divulge how many BuzzNot suspenders have sold so far but said that they've become one of the company's top-selling items.

Who's buying 'em? "It's mostly men over 30," she said. "The TSA [Transportation Security Administration] is going nuts over these because they've told us that it also speeds up their work when their security personnel don't have to constantly run wands over people, which holds up everyone else in the line."

"Next we're looking at belts made with plastic buckles," she said.

Calif.-based retailer Boot Barn's non-metal boots are a popular buy with both passengers and pilots, said company spokesman Elton Graham.

"Lots of pilots wear cowboy boots when they fly," said Graham, who explained that boots typically have a metal shank in the soles. "Pilots would call us and ask if we could make airport-friendly versions and so we introduced the non-metal boots about two years ago."

Graham said the non-metal boots are an "emerging" category for the company but could potentially have a mass market appeal.

Atlanta-based company Spanx Inc. has come to the rescue of women travelers with the "Bra-llelujah!," which is a no-metal, all hosiery, airport-friendly bra.

"The beauty of entrepreneurship is that it rears itself in very unique ways and this is an example of it," said Candace Corlett, strategist with retail consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail.

"If you watch airport travelers today undress piece by piece at a security checkpoint, it's very comical," she said. "For women particularly, you can't be carefree anymore with what you wear to the airport because at some point you'll have to take off the jacket."

But that's the reality in a post 9/11 world, Corlett said. "Lots of business opportunities come out of tragedy. It's the capitalist way of life. I think the a market for airport-friendly merchandise is a good thing."

For its part, the TSA is careful with its assessment of so-called search-friendly products.

"We often look to partner with the private sector when possible," said Amy Von Walter, a spokeswoman for the agency. ""When the private industry develops new products to improve customer service it's good news for us and for the traveling public."  Top of page

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