Saggy pants create controversy

by Jim Longworth

At age 54, I am officially from the old school, and, thus, prone to generational pet peeves. For one thing, I don’t like long hair on today’s athletes.

There is nothing less professional and less team oriented, than seeing long stringy hair or dreadlocks flowing from ‘neath a football helmet. Only Sampson, Jesus and my editor get a pass on this. Another pet peeve is men (other than catchers) who wear baseball caps backwards. If I see one more white rapper wannabe sporting a backwards baseball cap, I will probably commit murder. And then there’s the problem of saggy pants which expose the underwear of the male wearer. I don’t care where or how the style originated, it is the dumbest, most asinine thing I’ve ever seen. But unlike long hair and backwards caps, saggy pants have given rise to serious controversy and debate. Last summer, the town of Delcambre, La. made it a crime for a man to wear saggy pants which revealed his undergarment. The offense carries a $500 fine or up to six months in jail. According to the website, one of Delcambre’s 2,200 residents testified, “You can’t legislate how people dress, but you can legislate when people become indecent by exposing their body parts.” Now, some Triad area folks are Fridays at 6:30am on Sundays at 10pm on jumping on the banning bandwagon. Mattie Young, a resident of Cleveland Homes, has gathered 600 signatures on a petition which she hopes will persuade the Winston-Salem city council to ban saggy pants altogether. Young told the Winston-Salem Journal the fashion trend she was fighting was “disrespectful.” Her petition says that citizens have the right to “be free of this repulsive and unattractive display of character by the juveniles”. Politicians are taking these complaints seriously. In addition to Delcambre, Mansfield, La. and Flint, Mich. have also enacted a ban. Meanwhile, Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas are taking the matter under advisement. And the battle is turning nasty. Orlando, which recently made the wearing of saggy pants illegal, is coming under attack from their local NAACP. The organization is arguing that criminalizing saggy pants is tantamount to racism. They are wrong. In fact, most of the complainants nationwide are African American. Somewhere amidst all the hoopla is a double standard waiting to happen. After all, men have always been held to a different standard from women. R-rated movies frequently display female genitalia, but filmmakers are not allowed to show full frontal nudity on men. And while we fight over a man’s right to show his underwear, what will happen to the legions of young women whose bras purposely poke out from behind their spaghetti-strapped tank tops? Are saggy pants on a man a threat to society, while provocatively clad women are not? I guess so, because an Atlanta councilman told that the wearing of saggy pants is indicative of a “prison mentality.” My friend Scott Sexton, a columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal after speaking with an anonymous source on the police force, concluded that enacting bans on saggy pants means that law enforcement will turn into baby sitters, spending their time busting boxer-short exhibitionists rather than hunting down drug dealers and murderers. He has a point. But so too do adults who are offended by the trend in saggy britches. And so do defenders of the obnoxious fashion as an expression of free speech. I can’t be objective because my advanced age and upbringing have colored my view on what is and is not considered appropriate attire. When I was growing up, men who attended baseball games wore white shirts and ties. You also never removed your jacket in church or anywhere else inside, no matter how hot the room temperature became. And you dressed up to ride planes, go to movies, and when meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time. It was all a matter of respect for our women and our elders; most male youth of today have none of for either. Still, making saggy pants a crime is going a bit too far. Instead we should order every school district to institute a uniform dress code (like most private academies still do). The result can be less emphasis on class structure, less fighting and a sharper focus by students on academics. In that sense, the public schools will simply be teaching good manners and providing an environment which is more conducive to learning. So let’s start dealing with this matter rationally, and stop giving these kids the “bums” rush into the criminal justice system.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15)