Saggy Pants: A real crime of fashion

The fashion police finally have an actual law to enforce, said Cecil Brown in the San Francisco Chronicle. Recently, Atlanta became the largest city to consider legislation that would make it a crime to wear the excessively baggy pants made popular by hip-hop artists and gangstas. Similar laws are already in effect in Louisiana and have been proposed in Florida, Texas, Virginia, and Connecticut. Anyone who has ever seen teenage thugs—real or wannabes—slouching around the ’hood with their boxers or butt cracks half out of their jeans knows why, said the Rochester, N.Y., Democrat and Chronicle in an editorial. “This fashion fad has become a disgusting eyesore.” Being cool is one thing, but why would anyone want to walk around in pants “belted under one’s butt?”

For the same reason that hippies wore bell-bottoms and love beads, said Andrew Potter in Maclean’s magazine. Prigs who are now clamoring for a universal dress code should remember that until the 1960s, we basically had one. “Ladies wore dresses, not trousers, and no man would appear in public without a suit.” Clothes were an outward manifestation of a stifling social conformity. When teenagers and 20-somethings rebelled by adopting the hippie look, their parents were appalled. Long-haired men and braless girls, they said, would lead to the collapse of civilization. Instead, the country was better off for being a little looser, a little more free. Today those former rebels are parents themselves, and they seem to have forgotten the appeal and importance of youthful anti-conformity. “Hippies and gangstas are just acting out different variations on the same stick-it-to-the-man script.”

There’s a reason, though, that no community passed a law against bell-bottoms, said Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. Hippie clothes may have offended the establishment, but gangsta garb is more threatening because its origins are literally criminal: The “sagging” fad began among prisoners who were forbidden to wear belts with their ill-fitting uniforms. I wish that so many young black kids didn’t look to felons as their role models, but threatening to lock them up for conforming to what has become standard African-American style isn’t the answer. It will only reinforce the idea that all black people are criminals. Besides, all fashion is temporary, and my own teenage son informs me that “saggy baggies” are already on the way out. “Maybe young folks are just getting tired of having to walk around with one hand always holding their pants up.”