Sagging Pants, Negative Messages
By Shane Miller
The Bronx Journal Staff Writer
As you walk down the street with your family or by yourself, I’m sure the last thing you want to see is the underwear of another person. Even when low-rise jeans were trending years ago, there were complaints about women showing their thongs. The low-rise jeans trend has faded with many other fashion trends for women over the years, but for many men and young boys, the sagging pants trend is here to stay.
Seeing someone sagging their pants was not always such a big issue for people. In 1992 Calvin Klein had a major underwear advertisement with Mark Wahlberg. The commercial featured Mark Wahlberg wearing Calvin Klein boxer briefs and sagging his pants low enough for the famous logo to show. After that advertising campaign, Calvin Klein’s underwear sales skyrocketed. Women loved the muscular Wahlberg and men wanted to show off their Calvin Kleins.
The ‘90s were the dawn of the baggy jean and the Calvin Klein ad was the mainstream media’s tacit approval of sag in your pants. It has been reported that the saggy pants trend originated in prisons. In an article titled “Sag Harbored” the author wrote, “Sagging pants became the behind-the-bars thing, thanks to ill-fitting prison-issue garb: some of those incarcerated were provided with clothing a few sizes too large. That oversizing, coupled with the lack of belts in the big house, led to a great number of jailbirds whose pants were falling off their arses.”
Now it is 2012 and the sentiments about showing your underwear are nothing like they were during the early 90s. In recent years it seems like the sagging pants trend has been amplified. Young men have been sagging their pants way lower than Mark Wahlberg in those infamous commercials. In some cases men and young men alike have been known to sag their pants to their knees.
Mainstream media condemn the fashion trend, and it even became a major topic on the popular show “American Idol.” During one of the auditions, “General” Larry Platt became famous for his song “Pants on the Ground.” The content of the song included the line, “You looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.” Although “American Idol” is an entertainment show, Platt touched on a serious issue that affects men, particularly men of color.
When a person of color chooses to sag his pants he inadvertently represents all people of color. Taj Madhoo is a 21-year-old college student who has been affected by the negative connotations associated with sagging pants. Madhoo said, “I remember going to a post office and the associate behind the window telling me I wouldn’t walk like that if I pulled my pants up. But in reality, I had on sweatpants that were tied very tight and were on my waist.” The situation Madhoo describes shows that some people assume that just because you are a young man of color, you must be sagging your pants. Madhoo continued by saying, “I don’t sag my pants because I don’t think it looks good and when I see people doing it, I feel they don’t care about their appearance and what they represent.”
Sagging pants may not look good, but what they represent to different people is the biggest factor. When asked about what she thinks of when seeing sagging pants, Lorna Neil said, “When I see people sagging their pants, they honestly look like criminals to me, like they are up to no good.” Neil didn’t say why she thinks that when she sees it, but maybe it is in some relation to the prison origin of sagging pants.
Appearance is not the only issue with sagging pants. The site hiphopandpolitics.com did a study and published the results in an article titled, “Wearing saggy pants (is) linked to erectile dysfunction & other health issues.” The article details how walking consistently with sagging pants can lead to hip issues and problems with your back. The author continues, “Dr. Mark Oliver Mansbach explains that the continuous wearing of sagging pants severely impacts sexual performance.” With these studies released, the question arises of whether men who sag their pants will tone it done in hopes of avoiding health issues.
Hip hop is one of the main reasons that sagging pants have not yet gone out of style. It is a style celebrated by several artists and is a statement of rebellion. The fact that some artists sag their pants is proudly championed in their music. Kanye West, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Lil Wayne are all important figures in hip hop culture and, at some point, have all sagged their pants. When impressionable young men see these images of the men they idolize, they think it is cool to do, and they overlook all of the negative reactions associated with it.
Shawn Thomas is a 17-year-old high school student who sags his pants. He says, “It shouldn’t matter to people how I want to wear my pants, the key word in that being MY. I don’t tell older people I don’t like how they wear their clothes, so they shouldn’t say anything about how I wear mines.” Thomas makes a good point because you may not like the way someone looks, but that doesn’t give you the right to say anything about it.
Regardless of your personal view on the sagging pants trend, appearance is often first way your present yourself to others. If someone chooses to wear their pants so low, they are making a strong statement, and unfortunately, that statement is a negative one in mainstream culture.