Known as ‘sagging’, it’s been banned in some places, rock stars have been thrown off flights because of it, and even Barack Obama has had his say on the issue!
To many of us, it’s a mens trouser fashion disaster, to some it’s downright offensive, but why do they do it, and why hasn’t this fad ‘bottomed’ out by now?
Here we take a look at the saggy trouser brigade – and their penchant for pulling their pants down.
You’ve seen them – young men swaggering down the street, their trousers worn so low it leaves little to the imagination – that’s ‘sagging’.
But just how did the craze for displaying several inches of underwear come into being?
Like many fashion faux pas, this one is from across the pond.
In a bid to prevent suicides and to deny prison inmates a potential weapon, gaolers in the United States routinely confiscate belts from convicted criminals. Prison issue uniforms are shapeless and ill-fitting – and the result is trousers that sag.
When gangster rap came along in the 1990’s, hard men of the genre took droopy drawers – a fact of prison life humiliating by design – and turned it into something of a badge of honour. Eager audiences lapped up the look and a fashion trend developed that’s proved just as long lasting as the popularity of the original music and its subsequent evolutions.
Here in the UK the trend for wearing your jeans so low, your boxers show has met with mixed reviews, but over in the States, it’s provoked outrage in some quarters. In fact, in some states, the authorities have resorted to the law to crack down on the practice.
Tug your trousers down just two inches below your natural waistline in Ocala, Florida and you could face a fine of up to $500. In Pikeville, Tennessee, the ‘crime’ will cost you $25 for a first offence and $50 a time if the message doesn’t sink in.
In some schools, teachers turn loose fit jeans into high waisters by cable tying then into place. A photo of the offender sporting the new look is then pinned to the wall in an attempt to shame the student into submission.
Flying your jeans low might be broadly tolerated here in the UK, but as lead singer of Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong discovered, if you hope to take to the air in the States, you’d better pull your trousers up. When in 2012, the star boarded a Southwest airlines flight from San Francisco to California, an air hostess to ask him to readjust his waistline.
When Armstrong refused, he was given short shrift; and the ‘American Idiot’ singer, was promptly thrown off the flight. Allocated a seat on a later flight, you can be sure he belted up in good time.
Clearly, sagging is something of a sore point in America – but is the sharp shock solution a case of racism rearing its ugly head? Some commentators have pointed out the prevalence of the preference for low slung jeans among people of colour in the US, complaining that clamping down on the practice is unconstitutional not only in terms of denying freedom of expression, but also because it discriminates against the black population.
Naysayers point to the abundance of middle class white teens who’ve also adopted the fashion statement. But the issue has proved so divisive that even Barack Obama weighed in on the argument, coming down against legislating to ban low slung trousers, but telling the media in 2008 that: “ brothers should pull up their pants. You’re walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing.…And, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I’m one of them.”
Back home in the UK, large portions of the population are less than bowled over by so-called ‘sagging’, but broadly speaking, it’s a look that’s tolerated, albeit with a tisk here and a tut or two there. But perhaps we’re just used to it.
After all, we’ve lived with it for decades – centuries even…it’s just that what the yanks call sagging, we call ‘builder’s bum’!