Fashion File: Faux Nipples - A New Fashion Accessory

Is it cold in here or are you just happy to see me?

You'll never know with the latest outrageous fashion accessory — fake erect nipples.

Although you may not have known you needed to, thanks to a couple of entrepreneurial women from the Midwest (and their male business partner), women can now shine their headlights all the time — no matter the temperature or the mood.

That there could be a need for faux nipples was discovered during a "girls" weekend in Las Vegas, according to Lori Barghini, one of the owners of bodyperks, the home of the false rubber nipples. Barghini and her gal pals got into the spirit of Vegas' over-the-top atmosphere and decided to hit the Strip wearing mini-shampoo bottle caps in their blouses.

"They were kind of big but we didn't care," said Barghini, 41. "We were sassy with our bottle caps." The "perky" women — surprise, surprise — got a lot of attention on their night out and, presto!, a product idea was born.

And it seems the need for fake nipples was already there. Since Barghini and her partners started bodyperks in July, they have sold 4,000 pairs — at $20 a pop.

And the appeal isn't lost on men, who buy 40 percent of the product, said Barghini. "For friends or girlfriends or their wife ... We're doing a lot of secret Santas."

Stand and Deliver

The nipple enhancers were designed to be in line with the trend toward a "natural" — i.e. no-bra — look. So why not just go au natural if you want to show off your wears?

"Because you don't have any control over your nipples," said Barghini. "You don't know if they will be standing at attention. And body parts are asymmetrical," she added. "Sometimes one headlight is on and one isn't."

Indeed, the perky body part is well known for getting men's attention. But why?

"Men are much more turned on by visual stimuli than women are," according to Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., R.N., former president of the American Association of Sex Counselors and Educators. "Men have been given the message that erect nipples are an indicator of sexual arousal in women, which is not necessarily so, but it is a visual indicator ... so men think 'oh, she's turned on by me.'"

"These are all stereotypes," she added, "but it seems to pan out when research is done."

Blake Morgan, a 31-year-old musician from New York, took one look at the nips, fresh out of the bag and said, "The first thing I noticed is they're gross. The reason they're gross is they're weirdly colored." But he admitted, "And yet the first thing I tried to do was reach out and touch them." Once he saw them in action, he said, "They look real. They really do look real."

Morgan, who says he's never been the sort to meet women in bars, said "I could see noticing some woman who had very pronounced nipples, but to what end? And then what? Am I going to walk over and say 'Hi.' Where is this leading?"

Party Favors

The nips may not be appropriate for the company holiday gathering. But "If you're ever at a boring party, just bring out your Perks ..." suggested Barghini, who says she often wears them out on the town. "My husband's a fireman. He said to me, 'Men are oglers — they like to look.'"

Dr. Whipple, on the other hand, expressed some hesitation about deceiving the opposite sex. "If it's an ice breaker, a way to get people talking on a deeper level, it's fine, but if it's a way of bypassing communication then I have trouble with it ... I think there are many other ways of attracting someone."

At Patricia Fields, a New York boutique noted for selling extravagantly sexy fashions, they have bodyperks displayed next to their array of pasties, those little round items (mainly) strippers use to cover nipples. They've had the new accessory in stock for a month, but Alyssa Nitchun, who works in the lingerie department, said, "We've only had one person buy them, but we love them here and we wear them."

She suggests customers wear them under a tight dress, tank or T-shirt for the most erotic effects. But she also offered a word of caution. "They are provocative, so you have to be prepared for people to notice them." And it may not be the kind of attention you'd otherwise relish.