And pastel pink jeans with little zips up the
ankles. And big plastic earrings. Fingerless gloves. And those g-string
leotards worn outside my leggings to do aerobics in the 80s. In fact,
most things I wore in the 80s were resolutely criminal.
But was I arrested? I was not. The same cannot be said for young,
mostly black men in America who will soon be fined or thrown in jail
for their fashion choices. Seriously.
There is a particular look, popular among a certain tribe of young
hip-hop loving males, called “sagging”. It involves wearing your baggy
pants low. Not just hipster-low but actually underneath your bottom,
exposing your boxer shorts.
Truth be told, I’m not at all sure how you pull this off. To have your
pants hover below your buttocks without slipping down around your
ankles? Well, that is quite a feat. Especially given that belts are not
involved. And how do you walk? Sadly, I have not had the chance to pose
any of these probing questions to a sagger because I’ve never seen one
in person. Only photos.
Remember those early 90s Calvin Klein ads with Marky Mark and an emerging waif called Kate Moss? That was possibly our first introduction to the idea of men’s underwear being visible in a sexy way (as opposed to a builders’ crack way) and it inspired a rush of men’s underwear with branded elastic waistbands. Sagging is a bit like this look, if Calvin and Marky had been taking serious amounts of hallucinogenic drugs before the photo shoot.
I’ve always known sagging looked stupid. It’s been around for a while – I recall K-Fed was an advocate some years ago –but it was only recently while reading an article in the International Herald Tribune that I learnt sagging had a name, a history and now, criminal fashion implications. Apparently, it first began in American prisons where inmates were given oversized uniforms without belts so they couldn’t use them as weapons or for committing suicide. The style spread, as styles do, back into the community via rappers and music videos.
Thanks to MTV etc, sagging spread like an insidious virus and soon enough, small American towns were infected with saggy-panted, boxer-exposing young men. Oh the horror. And this is where it gets amusing.
Faced with said exposed boxers, middle-aged male lawmakers decided sagging was disgusting. So disgusting that it may even be dangerous and certainly indecent. This year on June 11, the town of Delcambre, Louisianna (population: 2231) officially outlawed the saggy pant. Dare to sag in Delcambre and you will be slapped with a US$500 fine or a six-month jail term (since the style originated in jail, this would appear either ironic or inadvertently hilarious). The town’s proud mayor told a reporter “We used to wear long hair, but I don’t think our trends were ever as bad as sagging.”
Oh Mr Mayor. Get over yourself. No generation ever thinks their trends were as bad as “kids today’’. Hey, even I find myself rolling my own eyes at teenagers with facial piercings while nostalgically recalling Winklepickers and Happy Shoes. And how many boys in the 80s had one ear pierced? So many. Left for straight, right for gay went the folklore.
Unsurprisingly, The American Civil Liberties Union is not happy about the persecution of saggers. Since most saggers are African American, they think it’s not only an appalling breach of freedom of expression but also racist. Executive director, Debbie Seagraves, had this to say to the Herald Tribune: “I don’t see any way that something constitutional could be crafted when the intention is to single out and label one style of dress that originated with the black youth culture as an unacceptable form of expression.”
This hasn’t stopped other towns from following suit, with a flood of sagging laws pending in a number of different American states. I for one am relieved that such laws are being introduced because I am personally horrified by the flagrant indecency of brightly coloured boxer shorts. Oh, except that I’m not.
Still, here are a few words that could be synonymous with sagging: stupid, silly, ridiculous, moronic, farcical, absurd, pointless, baffling and embarrassing. Those same words could arguably used to describe any number of fashion trends. Sagging does not have a monopoly on silly. But illegal? Indecent? Offensive? Really?
What is youth for if not to wear silly things that make older generations shake their heads and make you cringe when you see photos of yourself years later? Isn’t that the whole point of being young?
Ok, for argument’s sake, let’s take away the silly part and stick with the indecent exposure angle. That’s hardly new. Like most women, I’ve exposed many an indecent body part in my life. I’ve worn hot pants. I’ve worn Wonderbras. I’ve worn midriff tops. I’ve worn very short skirts. I’ve worn belly button rings. Not all at the same time, but still. As for underwear, show me a woman who has never exposed a bra strap or a g-string – either deliberately or inadvertently. Western society encourages such exposure, in fact it’s hard to escape it visually even if you want to.
But have you ever caught a whiff of any laws proposed in a Western country that would make any of these things illegal? Never. Perhaps this is because female flesh and underwear is eye candy to the middle aged men who propose such laws. Threatened? Jealous? Racist? Nothing better to do? No other possible outlet for outrage like, say, maybe a particular on-going and increasingly shambolic war?
I have a better idea than laws and jail and fines. How about the punishment for saggers is to have their photograph taken and every five years for the rest of their lives, they have to look at it.
Surely that would be punishment enough.