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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

What teens want: from brand clothes to a new car

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

What do you get a teen, whose ever-changing wants can drive an adult crazy, for Christmas? According to them, specific clothes, Microsoft's Xbox or any of the above.adult crazy, for Christmas? According to them, specific clothes, Microsoft's Xbox or any of the above.

Photo collage by Leigh An Crow &Mac240; The Honolulu Advertiser; dragon tattoo photo from tattoo.about.com

Too old for Barbie; too young for a bottle of Crown Royal. Too hip for any artist with a greatest-hits collection; way, way too hip to wear anything her geeky, childless uncle might pick off the rack.

I give. What do I buy my 15-year-old niece for Christmas?

Stop snickering. Like you know?

Now, applying literary theories to William Burroughs might be tricky. And calculating the amount of torque involved when a mosquito collides with a raindrop could, um, take some time. But it would take from now until the heat death of the universe for me to even begin to figure out the shifty wants of Generation Whatever-We're-On-Now.

Not that I have to. As I learned in that summer session astronomy class back in college, there are always shortcuts to be had.

This year, I'm snaking my answers from people far wiser and far cooler than myself — actual teenagers and the people who pander to them. And just my luck, there were plenty of both at last weekend's go! Teen Expo at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

The obvious question is this: Do teenagers really want to go to something as contrived as an expo? The answer: Apparently. Crowds gathered at the Hawai'i Convention Center last weekend, and some Saturday-night teens even got dolled up as if for a dance. Some of them even ventured inside between smoke breaks.

Allan Coloma, who at age 18 was something of an elder statesman for the mostly teen crowd, gave the event a thumbs up for content. For the record, Coloma said his Christmas wish list includes a pair of Heelys — those shoes with the retractable wheels in their (duh) heels — and an Xbox, Microsoft's new gaming console.

The Xbox has been difficult to find this season. Toys n' Joys general manager Alex Le said the system already has sold out at his store. But there are other — some would argue better — options, including Nintendo's GameCube and Sony's PlayStation2.

For the more ambulatory sofa spud, there is also the Dance Dance Revolution game, in which players "dance" on a large sensor pad in synch with directions flashed on a monitor. The game retails for about $50 and, if demonstrations prove accurate, will produce a generation of people who dance like Robert Dole.

Wireless phone vendors also attracted a lot of attention at the expo — as several dozens of mothers with hyperextended arms can attest.

Staci Follante, 14, said she wants one with programmable codes and changeable ringing sounds. Jamie Leonardi, 13, had her eyes on the latest model by Nokia.

Why that one?

"Because," Leonardi said. "it has, like, a lot of stuff on it."

Ric Ramos is the general manager for 808 Wireless, which specializes in wireless phones for teens and young adults. He said teenagers typically want phones that are small and have vibration or flashing-light features for discreet classroom use. Transparent colors (a la iMac) and Hawaiian-print faces are particularly popular this season.

"Anything that catches the eye to make them look hip and cool," Ramos said. "It's like shoes and attire. Everybody wants something a little different."

Just don't be surprised if your teen decides that a new wireless phone would make a great Easter gift, as well.

"I'd relate this market to the computer industry," Ramos says. "It's always changing. Every three months there's a big change. There's always something new."

Ah, sweet transience of youth. How like a blooming rose. Like a ... like a tattoo?

Close, but not exactly. Nessa Vierra of Fine Line Tattoo is aware of the popularity of tattoos among teenagers — dragons, kanji symbols and tribal designs are in high demand this year — but she'd prefer not to indulge them.

"When you're young, your mind changes a million times," she said. "There are a lot of girls who'll put a boy's name on their arm. But if you're going out on a date with Joe and you've got 'Bill' on your arm, that's not so good.'"

So Vierra recommends temporary tattoos, airbrushed with care and certain to disappear within a few days.

Of course, tattoos for Christmas might not ring your bell the right way. Perhaps something more traditional — like underwear.

John James of Solid Surf Hawai'i brought his line of aloha-print boxers to the expo. The shorts are so far only available through retailers on Maui, Kaua'i and the Big Island or through the solidsurfhawaii .com Web site.

For outer wear , Asian designs — from dragon print T-shirts to Chinese-style dresses — are still popular.

And, this being Hawai'i, surf wear is always a safe bet. Robert Stehlik, owner of Blue Planet Surf Shop, says boys are leaning toward dark, solid colors this year.

"They're staying away from prints, which were more trendy a couple of years ago," he said. "They want functional designs. Bright colors are good, but blues and blacks are the best sellers."

For girls, survey says: Anything by Roxy, the girls line by Quiksilver.

Leonardi is more specific.

"I want Roxy stuff that has, like, a saying on it," she said.

Like ...

"I don't know."

Fashion-conscious teens might also appreciate gift certificates for hair treatments.

"Anything but blonde or black," said Hollywood Beauty College instructor Randy Milhelm of teen hair preferences. "They want anything but standard. There's a lot of highlighting, a lot of frosting. Lots of vivid colors — purples, reds, greens."

Do-it-yourself types also can opt for a simple $8 bottle of Spiker Colorz colored gel. The color washes out with the gel if it doesn't work out. Yellow is a hot choice.

Of course, some teens were more ambitious with their Christmas wishes.

Lindsay Kaneda, 14, wants clothes and, oh yeah, a car.

What type of car?

"I don't know," she said.