Who would have thought fashion trends would come from inside the walls of America’s correctional institutions?
It’s been nearly two decades now and sagging is still a “fashion trend” plaguing the black community and there seems to be no end in sight.
Sagging has seen its share of scrutiny from the public. New York state senator Malcolm Smith started a ‘Stop the Sag’ campaign to convince young people that pants should stay up and their backsides should be covered, not hanging in the breeze.
While Smith hasn’t won the war against teens and young adults liberating their rears from the constraints of the jeans, at least in his district he has seen progress. It’s that progress that keeps him motivated to help young black males realize just how silly they look, and to think about the long term implications that come with sagging.
“I don’t think a lot of young people understand that the style came from prison,” Smith said. “This also speaks to how many of our young people are in the system. The young men who come back out of prison are used to not wearing the belts and they wear those pants as a badge of honor for being in prison.”
And how could anyone ever forget the performance that Larry Platt gave when he debuted his original single “Pants on the Ground” for the millions of people who love American Idol? His talents have inspired a wave of music videos on YouTube that remix his satirical song.
In every American city you’ll find pants inching lower, exposing more than anyone would truly like to see, and forcing older Americans to shake their heads in disapproval and scorn. After years of fruitless attempts by parents, community leaders and mentors to get people to pull up their pants, the battle has left the home and entered the legislative halls of America.
In cities and suburbs all over the country like Lynwood, Illinois, and Collinsville, Missouri, laws are popping up to force people to pull up their pants or pay the price. Fines in Illinois can range anywhere from $50 to $250, but some as high as $750 have been recorded (those fines were later waived).
While not every city is fining people for their colorful undergarment exposure, lots are thinking about it. In Jonesboro, GA, concerns about sagging impacting tourism are sparking the movement to consider such a regulation. The bus system in Fort Worth, TX has given drivers the discretion to turn people away from the bus for sagging their pants. Florida has a “pull up your pants law” that requires schools to discipline student s who wear “clothing that exposes their underwear.”
A senator in Florida was even handing out belts on the first day a school to get the message across.
The fight to keep pants sitting at least sitting at “low-rise” level has also gone commercial. Remember hearing about that University of New Mexico football player who got booted off a US Airways flight for not pulling up his pant? He wasn’t the only one thrown into a blind date with the TSA.
Green Day member Billie Joe Armstrong wanted to “get away” on a Southwest Airlines flight but his low-hanging pants landed him a seat in the terminal while his plane left without him.
There’s even a literary movement to bring the sagging fad to a long overdue end. In South Carolina a man has written a children’s book titled Oliver Vance Pull Up Your Pants!
With all this opposition to the lowering of pants, why oh why does this trend persist?
For starters, companies like Sagz Jeans, the manufacturer of jeans that are designed to “sag naturally” and attach to boxers at the waistband by snaps, are further perpetuating this ridiculous style. But wait, there’s more: the pants feature “three rows of snaps” so consumers can “sag their SAGZ JEANS at different levels” without having to constantly pull their pants up. Yes, someone actually makes this. Let it sink in.
Add to the mix rappers who consistently display the image that sagging is the thing to do, and the high number of young black men coming through the jaded correctional system and you have the formula for a cycle of never-ending sagging.
Maybe the worst part of all this is not even the sagging itself, but the age of the people doing it. When you see grown men well in their 30s, 40s and older sagging their pants, it almost makes it passable for younger black men to do it.
Alejandro Rosario, 17, made a short documentary entitled Sagomatic that focuses on the opinions people have of sagging and that of those who choose to sag. Rosario says the sagging doesn’t personally bother him, although he doesn’t sag.
“I feel like people shouldn’t be discriminated against just because of what they wear, but it’s not professional either,” Rosario said. “People don’t want to sit on the train and see someone’s butt in their face. People should try to think about why someone would sag their pants instead of just judging right away.”
The opinions of the people who choose to sag is nothing short of amazing, and not in the way you would think. It’s something that Curtis Sherrod says is just giving the black community more negative attention.
Sherrod is the Executive Director of the Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem, and says that people who sag make profiling, stereotyping and negative perception a permanent part of being black in America.
“You make it easy for law enforcement to profile, easy for employers not to hire,” Sherrod said. “Unfortunately there are not enough adults or organizations to steer our young people into making the right decisions and the fruit from that tree is sagging pants.”
Maybe one day people will wise up and leave this fad behind, but it doesn’t seem like that day is coming any time soon. Until then, do us all a favor: pull up your pants.