City Wants to Police Sagging Pants

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer

The saga of the sagging pants, it seems, is never-ending. Municipalities around the country — in South Carolina, Louisiana, New Jersey, Alabama, Mississippi, and Illinois, just for starters — have banned the controversial look, sometimes levying fines for those who won’t pull their trousers up over their skivvies.

And now a town in Georgia wants to outlaw pants that legislators deem as sagging too low.

Lawmakers in one Georgia city want to outlaw this low-hanging-pants look. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Something’s got to happen … to get these young boys to know they can’t be dressing like that. It’s not getting better it’s getting worse,” Augusta commissioner Marion Williams, the legislator behind the effort, told WRDW News 12. But at a Tuesday meeting with other city leaders, the only idea that was agreed upon was to enforce a dress code of pulled-up pants in all public areas, including parks, but with no penalty.

“I’m really disappointed,” Williams said. “We already have something that says they can’t come into our public facilities dressed a certain way, something else needs to be done, something’s got to change.”

He’s not the first, nor will he be the last, to be fed up with the hanging-low style — which, it’s been theorized, has roots in either the look of prisoners whose belts have been taken away to prevent suicides by hanging, or from young men wearing hand-me-downs, which, if the clothes are big enough, can indicate having super-size brothers.

Whatever the origins, the trend has long taken hold in popular culture, to the disdain of many — including Barack Obama, who called out the style back in 2008. “Brothers should pull up their pants,” he had said. “You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What’s wrong with that? Come on. Some people might not want to see your underwear. I’m one of them.”

But efforts to ban the look have sometimes turned extreme — with one Tennessee high school even charging teens that won’t pull up their trousers with indecent exposure, sending them to jail and collecting hefty fines. Similarly, a student at Hinds Community College in Mississippi was arrested for his sagging-pants style in 2015, prompting a campus protest that eventually pressured campus authorities to clear the young man of the violation.

And this week, in Augusta, some officials — including the mayor — spoke out about the need to focus on more pressing community issues, such as unemployment and poverty. “So if you’re going to make a dress-code policy, put something in there about how you’re going to put them to work, how you’re going to keep them off the streets,” Mayor Hardie Davis suggested.

Commissioner Andrew Jefferson agreed, noting that local legislators “have more pertinent issues to talk about.” He added, “We’re talking about shootings and things, but I’ve never seen sagging pants pull the trigger.”

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