While you seldom hear the words military and fashion in the same sentence, there's always been something about dressing to kill.

World War II gear is still some of the coolest stuff you'll ever see. It became a definitive designer genre forever etched in our creative psyche by movies and matinee idols marching off to war.

During the Vietnam War days of the 1960s, military coats and gear became part of the protest movement, treating an unsolvable situation with mercantile mockery.

That was followed by decades of peace and prosperity, which meant great coats and striped sleeves were discarded and became the wardrobe for the hapless and homeless.

Now, all these years later, the military look is back.

Battle boutique

In the trendy shopping district along King Street, a storefront window display says you can "mix military-inspired pieces with around-the-clock sparkle!"

Among the clothes for sale are camouflaged shirts and jackets complimented by fatigue pants and other bits of battle boutique.

Normally, I don't pay much attention to the fashion whims of the young, but this one stuck with me for a while. Mainly because I don't think many in the target market, mostly college-age girls, have any idea what any of it means or stands for.

And I don't blame them. To them these are simply accent pieces, airy accessories, flashes of flirtatious flare that make them stand out in the parade of life.

And yet something about it stings my soul.

Drips of indifference

At a time when thousands of other kids their age are fighting what seems an endless war, wearing these same colors with pride and commitment, this kind of frivolous fashion statement seems out of place.

Call me old fashioned, but I don't see a camo-colored scarf draped across a plunging neckline as a salute to the troops.

Instead, it drips of indifference to the sacrifice some of our citizens are willing to make while others pretend the conflict doesn't exist.

Only when you or someone in your family dons a real military uniform do you gain the sense of responsibility that comes with the colors.

Only when you've seen the reality of war and what those uniforms look like in the aftermath could you possibly understand their ultimate utility.

Only when you've hugged someone who just returned from duty and felt and smelled the essence of absence in the fibers, can you know that heartfelt feeling of relief.

These emotions never go out of style.

They're never marked down.

And they should be remembered.

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598. To read previous columns, go to postandcourier.com/burger.