saggy pants, baggy pants
Mel Evans/AP
Two young men with low-slung, baggy jeans walk in Trenton, N.J., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007.

Support Sags for Baggy Pants Ban

February 09, 2010 02:45 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Even though many agree that baggy pants are indecent, lawmakers say a ban on saggy pants is unconstitutional.

Baggy Pants Trend Protected by 14th Amendment

In 2008, voters in Riviera Beach, Fla., approved a saggy pants law that banned people from "wearing pants below the waist, exposing skin or undergarments" in public, Susan Spencer-Wendel reported for The Palm Beach Post. Violators could be fined and jailed if they didn't pay up.

But in 2009, county judge Laura Johnson ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, and that the baggy pants trend is protected by "freedom of choice and liberties guaranteed under the 14th Amendment." Johnson is the second judge to rule the ban as being unconstitutional; county judge Paul Moyle of Florida made the same ruling in late 2008.

Cities in other states around the country
have created laws similar to Riviera Beach's, while Dallas and Atlanta "have considered imposing fines on those wearing saggy pants," Spencer-Wendel writes for The Post.

Background: Where did baggy pants come from?

The baggy pants trend reportedly originated in prisons, where inmates aren’t given belts. Some rap and hip-hop artists have helped popularize the style.

Opinion & Analysis: Are laws the best way to deal with saggy pants?

“It’s an interesting question whether these laws would violate the First Amendment as currently understood,” law professor Neil Richards told Jessica Martin in an interview for Washington University in St. Louis' Newsroom. Although lawmakers may look at saggy pants in terms of indecent exposure, they can also be a form of “expression of identity through clothing.” But “given the murky government power to enact indecent exposure laws, I’d be hesitant to call all saggy pants laws categorically unconstitutional under current doctrine,” Richards said.

In an interview with MTV in November 2008, Barack Obama, then-democratic presidential nominee, weighed in on the issue. Though he believes a law banning sagging pants "is a waste of time," he advised that "brothers should pull up their pants."

Some students took Obama's words to heart: In March 2009, Plantation High School in South Florida celebrated "Pull Up Your Pants Day." Free belts were supplied to students that needed a cinch and Obama's MTV interview was screened at the school.

In an article for Ebony magazine, Judge Greg Mathis referred to a proposed ban on "saggin' pants" in Georgia. "A better approach might be to embrace, educate and challenge our youth on why they should avoid fads and fashions that would be disrespectful to them selves and their community," he wrote.

Related Topic: Other fashion faux pas

In 2006, the bikini celebrated its 60th anniversary. Swimsuits have caused their own fashion upheavals over the years. When the bikini was first revealed, the French fashion models who were supposed to wear it refused and a stripper was recruited to show off the creation. It took a few years for the bikini to gain a hold on the fashion market.

Body piercing is another fashion that’s raised eyebrows, yet has actually been around for centuries. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology examines body piercing as both a cultural practice and a form of self-expression.

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