• U.S.

Modern Living: Ringing Success

2 minute read

Insert finger, tug and quaff: in those few seconds, the aluminum ring atop a pop-top can of beer or soda fulfills its function and becomes instant junk. Garbage men hate the rings because the sharp edges can cut. So do barefooted hippies and strollers on the beach. So do conservationists, who lament the litter. To at least one man, however, pop-top rings are a source of inspiration and income—and the raw material for a revival of a medieval fashion.

In his San Juan workshop, Designer Gonzalo Chavez, 36, a native New Yorker who calls himself Mr. Terp, has been painstakingly assembling pop-top rings into glittering dresses, vests, stoles, belts, miniskirts and maxiskirts—all resembling the mailed armor worn by warriors of the Middle Ages to ward off sword blows. Collecting the rings from rubbish heaps behind San Juan bars, Chavez files down their rough edges’ and crochets them together with silver thread. It is a slow process. When he began making the pop-tops last spring, it took Chavez a day to complete a 600-ring vest 20 inches long. Now he can turn out two vests per day.

Considering Chavez’s labors, the price of pop-tops is remarkably low. A 600-ring vest costs $60, a 1,000-ring stole goes for $100 and a 2,800-ring maxicoat sells for $350. The most recent creation, a picture hat with a raffia band, can be adjusted into shapes that range from a cowboy stetson to a Garbo cloche, and costs $50. At those prices, the pop-tops have become the sensation among Puerto Rico’s livelier set.

The first pop-top garments were almost as stiff as their medieval counterparts. But Chavez has made them much more supple. “They fit like a second skin,” he claims. “As you wear them, they change shape a little and mold themselves to the contours of the body.” Rings differ too. Budweiser’s rings are light and flexible, Miller High Life’s are “soft,” and Pepsi’s provide a heavier, stiffer garment.

Although Chavez does not recommend it, some of his customers have risked pinches or scratches by wearing pop-tops over their bare skin. “The first topless chick to try a vest,” he says, “caught her right nipple in a ring. I think it looked groovy, but I can recognize the snags.”

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