Balenciaga under fire for sweatpant design accused of appropriating ‘sagging’

The $1,190 sweatpants have caused a stir on social media, with many critics labeling the design as a form of gentrification

Between lofty prices and notoriously unorthodox designs, Balenciaga garments have raised many an eyebrow in the past — at times for adverse reasons. Now, critics are accusing an item from its recent collection of being cultural appropriation, while some have even called it “racist.”

Among the U.K. fashion brand’s latest looks for the Fall/Winter 2021 season are sweatpants designed with an exposed boxer short built-in above the waistband, which some have deemed to be an appropriation of the “sagging” pant style popularized in the 90s by Black people.

Since catching wind of the new “Trompe-L’Oeil” sweatpants, which retail for $1,190 USD, social media users have not held back their critiques, with many dismayed to witness yet another piece of Black culture land in the clutches of gentrification.

TikTok user @mr200m__, real name Josiah Hyacinth, was an early critic of the sweatpants, uploading a video on Sept. 2 inspecting the controversial design while shopping at the U.K.-based high-end department store Selfridges.

“This feels racist. This feels very racist, guys” Hyacinth said, probing the clothing item while another voice off-screen replies: “It is.”

Image via Balenciaga E-commerce Website

“They have woven these boxers inside the trousers,” Hyacinth continued. The video, which has been viewed over 1.6 million times, is captioned: “You know when something feels racist ? ? @Balenciaga I have questions #fypシ

“They’ve gentrified sagging ??,” user @6aptiste responded in one of over 3,300 comments the video has amassed.

Twitter user @blackgirldating wrote “just a reminder that there has literally been legislation to criminalize Black people for sagging,” referring to laws in several southern-U.S. states disproportionately reprimanding Black people for wearing britches below the belt.

Two youths wear their pants with the underwear showing on April 23, 2009 in Riviera Beach, Florida. Recently Palm Beach Circuit Judge Paul Moyle ruled a Riviera Beach city law banning sagging pants is unconstitutional in the case of a 17-year-old who was arrested and held overnight in jail for breaking the law. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Black men in Shreveport, Louisiana, for example, comprised 96% of the arrests from 2017 to June 2019 for wearing sagging pants. These legislations reportedly led to police chasing down and killing 31-year-old Anthony Childs in 2019.

This is not the first time the luxury brand’s designs have been accused of “gentrifying” or “appropriating” melanated culture.

Balenciaga currently sells a $2,090 bag which many have pointed out resembles a well-known bag design originated in West Africa, colloquially referred to as “Ghana Must Go” bags.

BBC reported the bag earned the nickname in the 1980s after “hundreds of thousands” of undocumented immigrants, comprised mostly of Ghanaians, were given short notice to leave the country of Nigeria and used similar bags to carry their belongings.

“Nigerians have been using this bag for decades and it sells for less than $2.5 apiece,” wrote @StephenIkechuk4 on Twitter.

theGrio’s Kia Morgan-Smith contributed to this report. 

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