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Batten down the hatches and hoist the sails, the 1994 fall men's sweater collections are coming ashore in Utah.

Although the nearest ocean to Salt Lake City is 800 miles, men can pretend the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake are extensions of the high seas with the nautical colors and styling of men's sweaters offered for fall.Presenting the maritime look are such sportswear companies as Sears, Gant and Christine Foley.

For example, Gant has three "salty dog" themes: rough weather, on the waterfront and season of the angler. They will feature classic nautical colors revolving around indigo blues, navy, white and red. Emerald greens also will be prominent.

However, the season of the angler collection will spotlight chino natural grounding instead of white. Warm deep tones of olive, sangria and blazer are sparked by banana and teal.

Sears, in conjunction with America's Cup 1995 sailing race, has teamed up with Dennis Conner Sports to offer a new fall line of casual sportswear.

"Designing a fall line was a natural extension of the `Stars & Stripes' program because the nautical look is so popular in sportswear this year," said Meg Rist, divisional vice president for men's apparel at Sears. "Since our introduction of the line last spring, sales have exceeded our expectations. The bold colors and traditional Americana theme of `Stars & Stripes' offer a universal and classic style that appeals to a wide audience. The line works well as both active wear and casual wear."

But not all of the sweaters this year will be aquatic in design.

Top sportswear manufacturer Tommy Hilfiger is expanding its selection of styles and fabrics. New offerings for fall include a shakerstitch sweater with a ribbed texture - in both solids and stripes. Also new this year is the addition of an active element, reminiscent of the athletic styles of the 1920s and 30s.

Nautica's David Chu has designed an array of winter sweaters. An example: a rugged red plaid cotton crewneck that's an exhilarating feat of texture and pattern.

Nautica also turns to an unexpected but handsome source of inspiration in the varied patterns of men's fabrics - plaids, checks and herringbone - are combined in a patchwork of soft camel tones. Transferred to a sturdy cotton double knit, the result is a pullover that's a fresh take on tradition.

Jantzen, America's largest sweater maker, is capitalizing on America's love affair with the great outdoors with a collection of rugged sweater looks. Classic fair isles, patchwork plaids, and an all-over snowflake pattern framed by stripes are among Jantzen's rustic offerings.

For added versatility this year, Jantzen is introducing neutrals throughout a collection called "desert blues," ideal for the nation's growing legion of khaki-lovers.

Most of Jantzen's sweaters for the fall are 100 percent cotton yarns that include retro sport themes, color blocking, and golf motifs. The Portland Ore.-based sportswear giant also has added a polo-style pullover to its popular range of all-season sweaters.

Joe Frodsham, men's merchandise manager for ZCMI, says, "We're very excited about men's sweaters this year."

He said there will be a lot of hand-knitted looks in unusual textures. Some of the most popular colors will be taupe, olive, darker-and-deeper greens and navy/burgundy combinations. Crewnecks will be very strong this year - making up 75 percent of fall styles.

Frodsham said ZCMI will be offering fewer sweaters than in previous years, but with more variety to present a very unique, individual style coupled with aesthetic appeal.

The common thread running through most of the well-known sweater labels is 100 percent cotton.

"Our wool business has dropped almost through the floor," Frodsham said. "People are wearing sweaters not just for the outdoors, but for indoors as well.

"Cotton is more comfortable at room temperature," Frodsham said, "while wool gets too hot when worn inside." He projects that 9 out of every 10 sweaters sold will be made of cotton.

However, wool will not be out of the picture completely, thanks to designers who are introducing lightweight wool sweaters for both indoor and outdoor wear.

Pronto-Uomo Firenze of Italy, a division of Mondo, Inc., has brought a fresh new level of luxury to sportswear fashion this fall with wool sweaters. And designer Marco Wachter is introducing opulent fabrics to his sweater line, including cashmere and 100 percent lightweight wool merino yarns.