Haven’t we been through this before? No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. Even an irreverent shirtless, shoeless hippie from the 1960s got the message that you cannot walk into a five-star restaurant as if you were going to the beach and expect to be served. So wassup with this new hip-hop generation and their sagging pants?
I posed the question to entertainment mogul Russell Simmons, who stopped by Dock Book Store in East Fort Worth for a book-signing recently. The creator of the hip-hop label Def Jam and the clothing fashion line Phat Farm evaded the question by philosophically declaring “to each his own.”
Beg your pardon! Then where do we draw the line between decency and indecency?
I, for one, am not buying into this counterculture fashion argument. The bottom line, for me: Your freedom of expression ends at me having to see your tailbone when the underwear is exposed. Whose rights are being violated here?
Society has been tolerant of many affronts to our sensibilities. After all, fashions come and go. But this penitentiary-bred style of dressing and exposing boxer shorts in public is getting old enough to sprout gray hair.
Some say that opposition to the style is racially motivated, targeting young minorities, and that attempts to keep the kids’ pants from falling down violate their freedom to express themselves in fashion and style. But Grandma was the first to draw the line in the sand and say, “Pull ’em up!” That, of course, was when sagging was an accident.
Now that the fad appears to be an in-your-face act of defiance, others are jumping in. City councils in some places have made it a criminal offense, imposing hefty fines upon saggers. A University of New Mexico football player was removed from an airline flight in San Francisco for balking at the no-sag policy. A Houston mall refuses entry to anyone coming in wearing pants that ride below their buttocks. And the Fort Worth Transit Authority has issued a no-ride policy aimed at those who would board the buses with sagging pants.
These draconian measures of civil enforcement would not be necessary if hip-hoppers would only take Grandma’s advice. No one wants to see their children or grandchildren in handcuffs being carted off by police. But when civility is beyond parental control, then we as parents and grandparents can no longer keep our kids out of the grip of law enforcement.
The American Civil Liberties Union can make a constitutional issue out of this, as they have in some cases. But public support is not on the side of the hip-hoppers, and nobody is going to be singing “We Shall Overcome” because some kid wants to show off his skid marks. Such exposure is particularly revolting in a restaurant where people are eating.
No matter how many rights young people think they have and how strongly they feel, life can become very uncomfortable and disconcerting when you have to wait for the next bus, catch the next flight, or spend a couple of hours in jail because you are defending your inalienable right to look trashy. It is easier to get where you are going by simply pulling up your pants.
Maybe those glimpses of pretty boxer shorts are attractive to the opposite sex, which some young men surely must be thinking. If that’s true, the young women in question need to realize that saggers are going nowhere fast. After all, who is going to hire them or put them in positions of responsibility? A loser looks like a loser, and nothing makes that clearer than a penitentiary-style fashion statement. (They’re also going nowhere fast physically — have you ever watched one of these guys trying to walk down the street while constantly dragging his pants back up to keep from falling over them?)
When young hip-hoppers sort out the playas from the haters and find Grandpa on the wrong side of their liking, I remind them that their greatest vulnerability is between their legs. Sagging and crotch-clutching are not cute. They are insults to real men of character. Not to mention the insults that are bound to happen when an underwear attitude meets mean-street reality: There is nothing a kid can do when someone snatches his pants down to his knees and threatens to turn him into a paraplegic.
Eddie Griffin is a local blogger and activist.