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Sweet Shirt Alabama

Need the 411 on Big Ru's 205's? American Idol finalist Ruben Studdard has been sporting shirts that feature the area code of his hometown, Birmingham, Ala.

''Ruben came by the store and said, 'I'm gonna be on American Idol,''' recalls Frederick Jenkins, co-owner of 205 Flava Inc. (www.205flava.com), the company that makes Ruben's jerseys. ''And I was like, 'Yeah, whatever, dawg. You're not going to be on American Idol.''' Luckily, Jenkins had a change of heart and decided Ruben was worth a free shirt or two. Now that he's part of the elite seven, the Alabama heavy has amassed a stash of 40 jerseys in his custom size, 8-10XL, and will receive a few more each week for the rest of his Idol stint.

When Jenkins isn't custom-designing Ruben gear -- he's working on a shirt for the singer with numbers made of stars and stripes -- he's filling 400 orders a week. ''Before Ruben, we got a few calls here and there,'' he says. ''Now there are kids in Idaho and Miami and Detroit wearing 205. It's a little weird, actually, but everyone wants what Ruben's got.'' -- Jessica Shaw

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Originally posted Apr 11, 2003 Published in issue #704 Apr 11, 2003 Order article reprints