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Uniform attraction
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Firefighter Josh LeBlanc says the neat, clean appearance of policemen and firefighters adds to their allure among women. "And you know they have a job," he says.

What is it about those hunky men in uniform?

Could it be the bulging muscles? The tidy uniforms? Or simply the sense of protection the men with a badge offer?

Josh LeBlanc, a firefighter with the West Jackson Fire Department, said he thinks there are several reasons why women flock to men in uniform.

"When a woman is looking for a guy or looking at guys, it's the general appearance," he said. "Do they look clean? Do they look respectable? And the uniform really brings all of that to the picture ... and you know they have a job."

It helps, too, that firefighters have to be up to the physical challenges of the job.

"Usually you can't be a fireman and not be in shape ... it wouldn't make sense - it would be like being an athlete and not being able to play sports."

Chief Ben Stephens of the West Jackson Fire Department speculated that women's attraction must really be all about the uniform.

"You look very well put together and you aren't picking out your own clothes. I know guys are bad about that sometimes," said Stephens, while chuckling. "Maybe they think if he's wearing a uniform and looks that well put together then he must have something going on in his life."

Amy Hawley's fascination with men in uniform began when she was in her early 20s. She said it's one of the main reasons she was attracted to her uniformed husband, Jeffrey Hawley.

"They look strong and they can protect you," said Amy Hawley, who has been married to Jeffrey for eight years.

And this is the same mindset that has influenced the creation of message boards, blogs, MySpace groups and even Web sites - which refer to some of these ladies as Badge Bunnies - for women to hopefully meet their uniformed crushes in cyberspace.

Jeffrey Hawley, an officer in the patrol division of the Gainesville Police Department, said he hasn't heard of these Web sites or message boards and hasn't witnessed any women hitting on uniformed men.

But his wife Amy said she has heard some stories.

"Oh, I know they do (hit on policemen)," said Hawley, a Cleveland resident. "I was in Kmart one time and he was in the aisle and I was in the other aisle and some lady came up and starting talking to him, and I just started laughing. Then he came out and he was kind of looking at me and I was like, ‘Yeah, OK,' and I knew."

Misty Bryant, wife of Hall County firefighter Lt. Brandon Bryant, said her attraction to firefighters began a different way.

"My father was also a firefighter, so maybe in my case it was I chose someone that was very similar to my father," she said.

But Bryant said she can understand the appeal.

"Maybe because that it shows they have some kind of control, that they can take control of situations, that they are authoritative, protective maybe," she said. "It's a great experience. I am proud to say that he is my husband.

"He comes home some days and says, ‘My job is so hard sometimes.' And I say, ‘But if you quit I can't say that my husband is a firefighter. You have to uphold the image - the sexy, sweaty uniformed firefighter with the big muscles.'"

Bryant added that she hears about older women flirting with the firefighters.

"It's a lot of older women - especially like in their late 50s, early 60s and older - that really seem to be attracted to the young firefighters," she said.

Although LeBlanc hasn't noticed that age really matters.

"I'd say it is a broad range of ages ... I do notice, especially on calls, that the older females are extremely friendly," he said. "They don't really cross the line, they just ask questions."

But while on duty at various events, LeBlanc has been asked some mildly embarrassing questions.

"I get asked, ‘Are you in a calendar?' And I say, ‘No, I'm not in a calendar.' Or, ‘You should try out for such and such calendar.' ... when they tell me I just laugh and blush a little bit," he said.

Also, from time to time, there have been a few occasions when a misguided woman stops in for directions at the Braselton station.

"There have been times that women stop by the station and ask for directions that was to somewhere just down the street," said West Jackson's Stephens, also a former Marine. "We've had an instance where we saw the car pull in coming from the direction where the place she was looking for was, so she had to drive past it to get to where we are."

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