Throughout modern history there has always seemed to be an “invisible wall” serving as a distinct divide between generations. Never has there been an arena where that is more prevalent than the bobbin-laden battlefield of fashion. The youth of any given era seek for ways to distinguish themselves from the previous generation as there has hardly ever been a desire to dress like one’s old man.
Dating back to the 1930’s and 1940’s was a trend first ushered in by the introduction of something that came to be known as the zoot suit; described as the combination of an extended length, over-sized suit jacket having broad shoulders with matching baggy pants that taper to the ankles. During that period in Los Angeles, California, the dress came to be associated with young Blacks, Latinos and Mexican-Americans. Those styles were, unfortunately, connected with characters engaged in such social prejudices as numbers running, sexual promiscuity, violence, drinking, gambling, and the threat of street attacks. The look came to be symbolic, in post World War II America, of everything that upstanding society viewed as villainous. The trend’s appeal became more significant as it was quickly spread by African-American jazz musicians traveling around the country.
As chronicled by Gene Demby of Code Switch; fashion historian, Tanisha C. Ford, a historian at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who researches clothing trends stated of the zoot suiters in 1943, “That anger exploded into violence in Los Angeles when bands of white servicemen — joined by hundreds of police officers — left their posts to search for young black and Mexican-American men dressed in that style to beat up. People were pulled from streetcars and pummeled by crowds. They were bludgeoned in the streets. The violence went on for more than four days. These kids wearing those outfits were stripped by sailors and LAPD and their suits were burned in the street.” Such behaviors began to emerge in large cities across the country, the report detailed.
Attitudes as relative to controversial fashion trends have followed the youth of every generation from Afros and dashikis in the 1970’s to the baggy jean of the 1980’s. The hoodie and work boots look of the 1990’s and the skinny as well as low ride jean in the 2000’s have all been sources of controversy for the youth.
Today’s younger generation, much like in virtually every facet of life, face an extreme fashion trend that literally has them showing their butts to the entire world. It’s an unattractive, unappealing, demeaning and vulgar display of individualism that stems from a place to where most either have been or, without change, are on their way. Originally began in the prison system, it signified that you were another prisoner’s property. Inmates were forced to wear their pants slung low to make it easier for their masters to “access” them. This, reportedly, somehow became a 1990’s fashion trend as prisoners took the look to the outside once released.
The trend of “sagging” has been around for decades but is becoming increasingly popular among young individuals of all races and cultures as an expression of their unique position in today’s petrous social order. Urban dictionary defines sagging as the concept of wearing ones pants down around the hips so they sag and bunch up around the ankles.
Whether the fashion trend originated in the prison system or on the streets of America, it’s one to which many have voiced opposition. During the past ten years the problem has garnered adverse reactions stemming from President Obama’s 2008 MTV appearance when he noted that men should pull up their pants, to laws and ordinances being passed in numerous states, cities and municipalities throughout the country. The Hahira, Georgia city council passed a March 2008 ordinance that bans citizens from wearing pants with the top below their waist that reveal skin or undergarments.
Albany, GA passed a similar ordinance in November 2010 banning the wearing of skirts or pants with tops more than three inches below the hips and imposed a $25 fine for the first offense which increases up to $250 for subsequent offences. Within a year, 187 citations had been issued amounting to collected fines of $3,916. The city of Opa-locka, Florida unanimously voted in December of that same year to impose a $250 fine or ten hours of community service for individuals found guilty of “sagging violation.”
Laws mandating the display of simple common sense shouldn’t be required as courtesy has nothing to do with a person’s age. That boils down to a matter of decency and respect; for oneself and others. Whether because of my upbringing, my age, or a nominal degree of dignity, sagging frankly doesn’t make sense…really. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.