Several years ago the National Basketball Association implemented an extremely unpopular dress code, and you did not have to be a rocket scientist to know that the target was African American basketball players.
Understandably, school districts, given wide latitude by the courts, have also implemented more restrictive dress codes. Now it appears that communities across the country have decided to get in on the action by passing laws against wearing sagging pants in public.
Sagging pants style is worn by young black males, although a few white males wear sagging pants. This style, popularized in the early 1990s by hip hop artists, has become extremely popular across the United States. In Delcambre, Louisiana, a town of 80 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, wearing your pants in this manner carries a fine of as much as $500 or up to a six-month jail sentence.
Another town, Mansfield, fines offenders up to $150 and 15 days in the slammer. According to the esteemed mayor, “this new law will set a good civic image.” The success in passing these dress codes has inspired other communities to follow suit. Efforts to outlaw sagging in Virginia and statewide in Louisiana in 2004 failed, usually when opponents invoked a right to self-expression. But the latest legislative efforts have taken a different tack, drawing on indecency laws, and their success has inspired other lawmakers. With hip hop under serious attack from the song lyric police, the time is ripe to make a frontal attack on sagging pants. Next, they may go after the over-sized t-shirts.
For example, in the West Ward of Trenton, New Jersey, Councilwoman Annette Lartigue is "drafting an ordinance to fine or enforce community service in response to what she sees as the problem of exposing private parts in public. 'It's a fad like hot pants; however, I think it crosses the line when a person shows their backside,' Lartigue said. 'You can't legislate how people dress, but you can legislate when people begin to become indecent by exposing their body parts.'" While she is being general here, you can bet that sagging pants will be included in this ordinance.
From my perspective, sagging pants is nothing but a metaphor for the hip hop lifestyle. Critics of this lifestyle view sagging pants as a badge of delinquency along with its distinctive thug walk and disrespect for authority, whatever this means. Sagging began in American prisons, where over-sized uniforms were issued without belts to prevent suicide and the use of belts as weapons. The style spread by way of rappers and music videos, from the ghetto to the suburbs and around the world. Sagging pants are an easy and convenient symbol of the supposed dereliction and menace of young blacks.