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Sagging Pants Shunned at Morehouse

December 09, 2008 11:58 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Morehouse College’s reinvigorated campaign against sagging pants could be successful this time around, perhaps encouraged by the influence of President-elect Barack Obama; but is it discriminatory?

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Morehouse College has been on a mission to change the casual style—sagging pants and foul language—of some of its students since autumn 2007, when Dr. Robert Michael Franklin Jr. became president of the college. Now, a Morehouse residence hall director named William Tweedle is reigniting Franklin’s efforts by encouraging students at the historically black men’s college to pull up their pants and clean up their language, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Morehouse’s efforts began prior to the Obama campaign, but some think President-elect Obama’s public condemnation of sagging pants as well as his stylish mode of dress could influence urban fashion across the country, according to an article in The New York Times.

Fashion writer Anne Hollander thinks that Obama’s style could rub off. “Everybody’s looking at him all the time. That means they’re going to absorb it,” Hollander told The New York Times. Menswear designer Alan Flusser disagreed. Meanwhile, others say the saggy style is already on its way out, anyway.

Background: What does smart look like?

In September 2007, Morehouse College President Dr. Robert Michael Franklin Jr. initiated attempts “to make being smart cool again and put morality at the forefront of the college’s mission,” by implementing stricter expectations for dress and conduct, according to an article published by New America Media.

“We are Morehouse, and we will not tolerate sagging pants that gravitate far below your waistline,” Franklin said in a public address to students in August 2007. “I will be watching and expecting class from you,” he said, according to the New America Media article.

Related Topic: Pants laws in the U.S.

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle reported on the recent (Nov. 2008) efforts of Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson to pass a law against sagging pants. The style was “popularized by hip-hop artists” and “originated in penal institutions, where inmates are denied belts and strings to prevent strangulations.”

According to the article, Delcambre, La., was the first town to outlaw baggy jeans, and bans have also been put in place in Connecticut and in three Georgia towns, Hahira, Hawkinsville and Warner Robins. Violating the law in Delcambre can mean up to six months in jail or a $500 fine.

The American Civil Liberties Union sees these laws as racial profiling. Benetta Standly, statewide organizer for ACLU of Georgia, told the Associated Press in 2007, “It’s going to target African-American male youths. There's a fear with people associating the way you dress with crimes being committed.”

Opinion & Analysis: Will banning saggy pants encourage social change?

In an editorial in The Anniston (Ala.) Star, Phillip Tutor rails against “the whole idea of banning a style of dress strongly associated with black males.” Tutor feels that the bans will not work, and that problems plaguing black communities will not be solved by changing clothing styles, but by creating “tangible remedies.” Tutor calls for local government officials to “address the need for more parental guidance and discipline in the homes of all youth, not just those who listen to hip-hop and sag their britches.”

Sagging pants do not always signal societal problems or struggle, writes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fashion editor LaMont Jones. “I know too many intelligent and successful young men, several with advanced degrees, who sag their pants.”
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