Dirtbag, Your Days Are Numbered! Clean Up Like Ali McGraw by Spring

You’re planning a chi-chi getaway to an obscure little island a deux . Warning: insist that your boyfriend leave his smelly-dirtbag look in New York. The locals will never understand it; they’ll take one look at his self-conscious degage -not to mention his unwashed, matted mullet-and assume that he’s mentally ill. Clean him up! Buy him half a dozen plain white T-shirts from Emporio Armani ($48) and a crisp pair of Levi’s and then send him to Astor Place for a buzz cut. The locals will dig his cleanliness-and so will your olfactory system.

For those of you who have not encountered the dirtbag look and have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the deal: This style of dressing was first popularized by highly paid hair and makeup professionals in the late 1990’s. The look is very John Walker (as in the Taliban recruit) at the time of his arrest, but with denim. Le dirtbag has now been adopted by a wide spectrum of male urban groovers and, most disastrously, by middle-aged people who should know better. The progeny of grunge, the dirtbag look results from a chronic fear-on the part of a particular segment of the fashion cognoscenti-of looking fashiony and prissy.

Dirtbaggers are resolutely post–Prada/Gucci/Dolce in their clothing sensibility; they are into “keeping it real.” High-profile dirtbags and bagesses include Tommy Lee, Saturday Night Live ‘s Jimmy Fallon, Kid Rock and-shockingly-Shalom Harlow and Carolyn Murphy.

Though dirtbag affecters can be found all over Manhattan, they are primarily located south of Houston. However, the highest d.b. concentration in America is in the parking lot of L.A. clothing purveyor Fred Segal. Here you’ll also find the haute couture version: These skanky, unwashed, Night of the Living Dead dudes-and occasional chicks-would rather die than risk getting lice by rummaging for garments in thrift shops. They think nothing of plunking down hundreds of dollars for a mangled Alabama hand-crafted T-shirt ($275 to $350-available in N.Y.C. at Barneys) and chewed-up Rosebowl Levi’s ($198 at Selvedge, 250 Mulberry Street). They then drive back to their Laurel Canyon cribs in their gazillion-dollar automobiles. The scroungier the dirtbag, the more shekels in the bank.

But enough about dirtbags-it’s time to talk about your new 2002 resort wardrobe. And do I have good news for you or what: Fire up that old samovar, because the Ukrainian look is back! Those nifty little folkloric blouses are not just the perfect beach cover-up, they are the very essence of spring 2002. Yes, it’s that California hippie look again, but this time it’s more Ali MacGraw than Squeaky Fromme. Authentic hand-embroidered Ukrainian “blooskas” can be purchased from Surma (11 East Seventh Street, 477-0729; prices range from $75 to $150).

Your MacGraw-ish resort wardrobe is incomplete without two silk/cambric caftans by Muriel Brandolini, a petite French/Vietnamese Jacqueline of all trades who, when not designing luxe, rich-hippie interiors, slogs her way to Jaipur and whips together caftans from insanely colorful fabrics of her own design. You need one short ($200) and one long ($315, from Scoop). Kiddie caftans ($98)-for that mother-and-daughter moment-are also available.

Re swimsuits, there are only two things to keep in mind:

1. It’s pointless to spend a lot of money. Well-cut suits now abound at all price points. Buy two cheap ones, wear them to death and toss them in the trash.

2. If you want to get attention on the beach, wear a solid one-piece. All the other tarts on the plage will be falling out of their snazzily printed thongs and bikinis, and you will look like the only classy crumpet.

Target sells a simple navy and yellow one-piece by Cherokee with tummy control for $29.99. If you are long-waisted, go for the Cherokee Tankini sport top with matching shaper bottom (above), also with tummy control ($14.99 per piece; call 800-800-8800).

The money you saved on swimsuits can now be blown on a pair of Robert Clergerie calfskin sandals. The new Coulis platform ankle-strap number (below, $375) has just enough of that clunky 1940’s look to be flattering. Choose from black, natural or red at Robert Clergerie (681 Madison Avenue).

And where the hell are you going? How about joining the Hemingway pilgrims and preppy sailing set on Bimini in the Bahamas? This tiny island, where Papa wrote To Have and Have Not , is a short plane-ride from Miami ($226.70 round-trip on Chalks Airlines). There’s a spooky underwater formation known as the Bimini Road, which press releases claim is a vestige of Atlantis. Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth is also (press release again) said to be lurking somewhere on Bimini. Rent a cottage at either the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club or the Bimini Blue Water Resort, ($208 and up; call 305-931-6612), read magazines and waft around in your caftan.

If your bloke refuses to relinquish his dirtbaggery, then there’s always Montana-and I don’t mean Claude. Every March at the Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, tourists and locals come together to celebrate Dirtbag Day. Attendees parade around in hideous get-ups consisting mostly of filthy 1980’s ski attire. In the evening, the festivities reach a freaky conclusion with the Dirtbag Ball, at which the Dirtbag King and Queen-that could be you!-are crowned by the local ski patrol. Admission is $10. For more info, call Dax Schieffer at 800-548-4487.

Bonne chance !