December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

American clean

With a Web site as fresh and minimalist as its classic clothes, Jcrew.com brings the spirit of its parent company online. But the appeal goes beyond apparel-Jcrew is marketing both image and lifestyle. Like its catalog, its Web store features pictures of attractive 20-somethings having a good time-be it on the job or at the beach.

The site is also one of the Web’s most efficient, with just two or three clicks from selection to checkout. Along the way, the store offers much more than scrolls of merchandise. Since it’s tougher to dress down and look good than it is to dress up, Jcrew woos the fashion-challenged male with Men’s Wear to Work, which helps lay out a five-day supply of business casual clothes. Another area that cuts to the chase is the interactive Chino Finder, where browsers can find the perfect khaki to fit the occasion. Seekers of high-fashion help can head directly for the Blacktie section, which features formal evening outfits worthy of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Other shoppers want a bargain. Those who long to look good but spend less can comb the easy-to-find clearance and weekly sales sections. The store extends special offers beyond these sales racks, but only to repeat customers, who get personalized promotions. “Jcrew.com has a good loyalty element to their site,” says James Vogtle, e-commerce director at Boston Consulting Group. “It’s creates a sense of exclusivity,” explains Vogtle, “like frequent-flier lounges.”

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