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Dear America: Let It Go About Sagging Pants

Of course you didn't know it. It's not true.
Of course you didn't know it. It's not true.

Whether you're sitting in an independent coffee shop sipping a drink whose name has a Scrabble score in the triple digits, knocking back mass-produced beer in a dive club or merely taking time out of your soccer momming to head to the grocery store for Funyuns, there is apparently a universal experience that unites Americans across all social strata. What's this? A young man walks by and the waistline of his pants is precariously situated below his derriere, his brightly hued underwear majestically coloring the very air around him? My God, you thunk (Thug/punk? No? Fine, hooligan, then), have you no sense of decency? No self-respect?

And then you take a deep breath and form an all-caps cry of "PULL UP YOUR PANTS!" with utter certainty that the country, the President (No, really) and certainly Football Hero Jesus himself are firmly in agreement with you on the amount of disdain a person who sags deserves.

Well, one person isn't with you anymore. America? If you are still complaining about saggy pants, then you, my weirdly fixated and judgmental friends, are part of the problem. For every one of you who screams "PULL UP YOUR PANTS!" I am now going to scream "GET SOME BUSINESS AND START MINDING IT!"

Because, no joke, sagging pants are illegal in parts of America now. Are you hearing me, libertarians and ACLU members and regular old freedom-loving Americans? Sagging pants, a fashion, a mode of dress and a form of personal expression that hurts exactly no one, is against the law in places simply because it annoys some people. This isn't something we're foisting off on students in schools, by the way. We're talking about fully grown, taxpaying adult people being needlessly bothered by actual city governments over, and I can't stress this enough, pants.

I mean, I can walk (and have) through the largest mall in Houston with a tank top that said "Get the fuck away from me" and received a grand total of zero tasings or even polite requests to change my attire or leave. I could do that tomorrow in a mall full of kids and even hosting an active playground and no one will bat a single eye. If I shrug my jeans down a little, though? People will cross the hall to get away from me.

Last year Wildwood, New Jersey, voted unanimously to institute a ban on sagging pants and skirts that it deemed too short. In a move that is somehow related to tourist dollars, offenders who sag their pants, or in women's case, offend the fragile male gaze with too much thigh or cleavage showing, face $25 to $200 fines and 40 hours of community service.

Or how about up Fort Worth way, where sagging pants can get you banned from public transportation. You know, the buses that we freakin' pay for as citizens of a municipality? Joan Hunter, communications manager for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, was quoted in that linked story as saying, "Riders don't want to see a person dressed like that on a public bus. Our customers think it's disrespectful."

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If you want to keep reading, Wikipedia has a pretty extensive list on how many jurisdictions seem to feel that baggy pants are such a threat to society that we must take arms against them with laws. And do you know why these laws get passed? It's because of every overly vocal fashion-Dalek building a social consciousness where it's okay to hate someone over pants. We as Americans have literally sneered hard enough that we're willing to outlaw wearing clothes that reveal underwear in a country where Victoria's Secret lingerie models adorn the sides of city buses.

The first time I remember seeing sagging pants was way back in 1993. That's when a completely forgettable science horror flick called Ghost in the Machine came out, and I watched a teenage Will Horneff shrug down his pants to try and impress an older girl with how street and smooth he was. And yes, that was lame then and sagging pants are lame now, but that was 1993. If sagging was a person, it would be old enough to drink right now, and we are still passing laws against it as if suddenly it's going to manifest as a societal disease or something.

They won't. Sagging pants may not be proper court attire, but they aren't otherwise any more annoying or dangerous than fedoras, Ed Hardy T-shirts, or that weird lady I met who wore a used Chick-fil-A wrapper pinned to her vest as a sign of support for the company opposing same-sex marriage. Also, they have nothing to do with being a sign that you are willing to be anally penetrated by a fellow prison inmate. That's an old myth that confused causation with correlation. (Sagging began in prisons, where clothes don't fit well and belts are forbidden for many good reasons.) The more you read into that whole "sagging pants means you're looking for dick" thing, the more it plays out as a repressed homosexual fantasy by uptight closet cases.

After two decades, folks, it's time to take a stand and get over this hatred of sagging. Make like Elsa and let it go. You want a real clothing cause to pass laws about? Crocs. A 2008 U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission noted that of the 77 escalator entrapment incidents that had occurred since 2006, all but two of them involved Crocs. Kids get their feet mangled in escalators wearing Crocs, and I don't see people passing laws against people wearing them.

How many times have baggy pants caused an escalator incident? As far as I can tell, one.

Listen, part of the American experiment is a willingness to tolerate other people doing what we think is stupid as long as they aren't hurting anyone. All those laws that I mentioned have mostly been passed in the past five years. We've allowed a stupid pet peeve to grow up and actively start eroding civil rights for no good reason. It's time to move on.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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