For young men, sagging pants, a style which originated in prison and was later popularized in the early 1990s by hip-hop artists
Much like the debates between youth and adults over hair and skirt length in the 60’s and 70’s, hip hop apparel has become criminal in today’s society. For generations, teenagers have rebelled against adults with their clothing. From zoot suits in the 1930s to hot pants in the ’60s, hip-hugger jeans in the ’70s and now the latest trend of low hanging pants.
For young men, sagging pants, a style which originated in prison and was later popularized in the early 1990s by hip-hop artists, and for young women, low cut jeans exposing their thongs, a style popularized by music videos are becoming a criminal offense in a growing number of communities. It began in Louisiana, where lawmakers have deemed pants worn low enough to expose underwear pose a threat to the public, and they have passed indecency laws to stop it. In Delcambre, La., a town of 2,231 that is 80 miles southwest of Baton Rouge showing your underwear can cost you $500 or up to a six-month sentence in prison and in Mansfield, a town of 5,496 near Shreveport, it can cost you $150 plus court costs or up to 15 days in jail. According to Police Chief Don English, this law will set a good civic image. In Atlanta wearing low hanging pants can cost you upwards of $500 or 6 months in jail! Indianapolis mandated a district wide policy banning jeans, saggy pants and midriff bearing shirts, Student are only permitted to wear solid pants, belts and shirts with collars. Atlanta, home to Ludacris, T.I., and Outkast has also banned saggy pants and a club in Virginia recently posted a dress code policy, which bans the following:
- Weapons of any kind
- Timberland, LUGZ, or “Work” Styled Boots/Shoes
- Camouflage Anything
- Corn Rows, Dreads, Braids
- Excessively Baggy Clothing or Long Shirts
- Excessive Jewelry or Chains longer than 22 inches Exposed (Dog Tags, Medallions, ETC)
- Hats, Bandanas (HEAD OR POCKET), Sweat Bands, Doo-Rags, Skull Caps
- White Tee Shirts, Plain Tank Tops, Muscle or Sleeveless Styled Shirts
- Button Down Shirts Must Be Buttoned And Remain Buttoned
- Sweat Clothes, Sweat Towels and/Workout Suits
- Logo Styled Clothing (Football Jerseys, Basketball Jerseys, FUBU, Rocca Wear, ETC)
- Tee Shirts of any type which do not meet a semi-casual to semi-formal nature
- Shorts Below the Knee Cap
- Any Clothing with Obscene, Rude, Offensive or Degrading Wording or Gestures
- Any Other Item Management DEEMS Unacceptable
So they are actually reserving the right to ban a customer because he or she is wearing braids, dreads or cornrows? As if the style of someone’s hair is a good indication of his or her character. Is this a way of lowering the amount of black clientele without actually saying they are denying African Americans access?
What do laws like this say about freedom of expression? When the fashion police are replaced by actual law enforcement and clothing goes from being offensive to illegal what is next? Will they seize out iphones and arrest us for watching B.E.T.? While there have been no court cases to test laws banning hip-hop clothing, the ordinances are a violation of the 1st Amendment, according to Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. No matter what, there is no denying that they are unconstitutional. By allowing people’s disapproval of the way a person looks to a means to persecute them is appalling. And how ironic is it that the style that originated from African American men in America’s prisons is what could ultimately put more of them behind bars!