For years it was one of the fashion elite's hallowed commandments: Thou shalt eschew plaid pants (which comes right after "Thou shalt covet thy neighbor's Chanel suit" and "Remember an old pair of Levi's and keep them holey"). But that was before geek chic, a movement that suddenly has trendsetting celebs—including Elizabeth Hurley, Christina Applegate and the Fugees' Lauryn Hill—looking like refugees from the PGA Seniors Tour. "Plaid is colorful and exciting," says Freddi Rojas, co-owner of Los Angeles's X Collection boutique, a fave of Dennis Rodman and Rosie Perez. "It's now hip to be nerdy." Adds MTV veejay Idalis DeLeon, who in June sported yellow-and-green plaid pants at the L.A. premiere of The Cable Guy: "I never thought I would like what my father used to wear. But I'm skinny, and plaid makes me look bigger."
Revived along with Hush Puppies and Izod shirts, the preppy pants are "pure nostalgia," says Hollywood fashion stylist Karin Labby, whose clients include John Travolta, Jenny McCarthy and Elisabeth Shue. "This is a case of what goes around comes around. You can dig in your parents' closet and find the stuff." Rojas says the plaid revolution also marks a rejection of fashion's tyrannical rules. "It's celebrating a lack of pretense," he says. "It's Forrest Gump come to life." But buyer beware if it's high glam you're after. "Part of the tacky charm," says Labby, "is that you can walk into any Denny's and see the same look."