Down with Baggy Pants

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Posted October 10, 2007 by DAVE MCNEELY in News

Someday, when they are 10 or 15 years older, the boys who are teenagers in Dallas now should erect a statue of Ron Price. He may wind up saving them from serious injury.

Price is the Dallas school board member who suggested last year that the Dallas City Council ban wearing pants so baggy that they show the wearer’s underwear.
Then, his effort was stymied by concern that such a ban would be unconstitutional, for limiting freedom of expression. But the effort has picked up new steam, with Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem Dwaine Caraway proposing a fine for the low-hanging pants. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and a few other council members endorsed his idea.
Caraway said he wants to protect those folks “who don’t want to see someone else’s private parts” and also help young adults with their self-image.

Nor is Dallas the only place where people are tired of gagging at the baggy-pants parade. The city council in Shreveport, La., passed an ordinance with fines for so-called “sagging.” Caraway, who is African-American, as is Price, said the proposed ordinance doesn’t pick on blacks and Hispanics, though they are the most frequent practitioners of the low-riding trousers.

Last year when Price made his anti-exposure proposal, he said the trend is “disrespectful, it’s dishonorable, and it’s disgusting.” That is all true, but it doesn’t deserve a statue. What does is the fact that outlawing the baggy pants is a safety measure. Required use of belts (or suspenders) to keep pants up would not only beautify Dallas – and America – it would probably prevent more knee and ankle injuries than outlawing high school football.

The baggy-pants style is also known as “jailin’,” because it apparently got its start from young men trying to imitate jail prisoners whose trousers sag because their belts have been taken from them. It’s interesting to see young men shuffling down sidewalks in Dallas, Fort Worth, and elsewhere, trying to look cool while their pants are around their knees. Negotiating the world with one hand permanently holding your pants up has to be a challenge. Some have even had buttons sewn inside their shirts so they can affix their jeans to them, to keep them from sliding down too far.

The idea that it is somehow rebellious to affect a style because everybody else is doing it has always amazed me – even when I was the one copying the styles. Back then, one could do it by wearing motorcycle boots with taps, turning up the collar on your blue-jean jacket, rolling up cigarettes in your t-shirt sleeve, wearing ducktails, and growing sideburns. I’ll admit it; once, I even dyed my hair black. But it was only after Elvis Presley signed my hand. (True story. It was in G. Rollie White Coliseum in College Station in 1954. Elvis was 19 and hadn’t been on Ed Sullivan yet or in the movies. But a girl I knew from science class was still trying to crawl over the footlights to grab his shaking leg. After the concert, I got him to sign my hand, and my binoculars case. Eventually, I had to wash my hand and someone stole the binoculars.)

The rebellion has changed through the years, from hair long enough to complicate gender identification, to facial hair to earrings to tattoos. But now some forms of “rebellion” have become so mainstream that I saw a guy with tattoos down his arm all the way to his wrist – and he was a cop, wearing a short-sleeved uniform. One female relative showed up a while back with an earring in her nose, and another in her belly button – a lot more painful than rolling your cigarettes up in your t-shirt sleeve but probably healthier than smoking the cigarettes.

While it could be argued that jailin’ allows young lads to show off their best side, it probably can’t be legislated out of existence. What likely will halt it will be when some hot rapper decides it’s uncool, and rebels by buying a belt.

Veteran Texas journalist (and former scraggly beard-wearer) Dave McNeely can be contacted at dmcneely@austin.rr.com.

 


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