The GEM Debate: Should You Be Fined For Wearing Saggy Pants?

saggy pants

Okay, I’m gonna just put this out there, I’m as torn over this issue as a pair of ripped up Levi’s.

You see the small town of Hampton, Georgia is going to start fining young men who wear saggy pants with a $50 fee. You know the look, low pants that expose a guy’s underwear. But should such a fashion ‘choice’ result in a fine? Uh-oh… here we go.

First of all, let me say I am not a fan of the look; I see kids walking the streets of Manhattan with their britches past their butts and I just shake my head. I’m also not a fan of nylon fanny packs or mom jeans with white tennis shoes. Talk about criminal. But if NY cops spent their time writing citations for that stuff, can you imagine what a field day it would be for REAL criminals? Please!

No, what this feels like is one more way to harass. According to latest census figures, Hampton Georgia is nearly 85% white. Who popularized the saggy pants look? Young, black men. Who’s likely to be pulling those jeans even lower as they reach for their wallet to pay the fine? You guessed it.

Don’t be fooled, race and racism is still very much alive in this country and having a black man in the White House has not made that go away. While race relations are better than they’ve been in the past, one way to make real progress is to see things like this for what they really are; another veiled attempt at marginalizing a group of people who’ve spent too long on the margins of society already.

That’s my take, time for you to leave yours. What do you think of this legislation passed by Hampton, Georgia? Is it about fashion or something more sinister? Will young black men be the ones paying the price? Let’s debate!

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com . When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

36 Comments

  1. Dave

    July 29, 2011 at 9:45 am

    This is an unsightly ridiculous trend that I was hoping would go away as most of us aged out of the demographic that started it. But sadly, it looks like it’s here to stay.

    But under no circumstances should they be fined. Unless of course, you want to include women who wear sickeningly short skirt, have cleavage plunging like Niagara Falls and drap themselves in spandex which should require a maximum weight requirement for anyone to wear.

  2. That Writing Chic

    July 29, 2011 at 9:46 am

    As a mother of a teenager who goes to a school system that is not primarily African-American dominated, I will tell you that they are not the only ones who sag. I HATE to see my son or anyone else’s pants sag for that matter. I find it disrespectful. How would guys feel if women of ALL shapes and sizes walked around the same way? I will probably get a lot of flack for this – but, it’s never stopped me from being brutally honest before: I’ve noticed that the lower the pants sag, the more defiant the child. I think the lower they sag, the more bold the child feels. Not to mention that they have to adjust their walk to make sure they don’t fall down. I would love nothing more than to see it go away. I have no desire to see any child’s underwear, nor a grown man that I’m not in a relationship with. That being said: I don’t agree with the fine. Why? Because the reality is that when a 15 year old is fined by the legal system, they are not paying the fine. The parents are. And we, unfortunately have not control over how our children look when they are not in our sight – no matter how many belts we buy – lol!

  3. Keith

    July 29, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I don’t know about police handing out fines. But I told my wife that if every male over the age of 50 would start wearing their clothes like that the trend would die fairly quickly. She assured me that the public didn’t want to see that either.

  4. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 10:09 am

    I think people should be fined wearing sagged pants. It’s inappropriate and offensive. Exposing your underwear or the butt lining and cheeks is indescent exposure. It’s the same thing as being a flasher. When someone flash themselves publicly, they’re fined or sometimes held in jail. Parents need to continue to have the conversation about the importance of dressing appropriately. You are branding yourself by what you wear and how you speak. Parents should be firm and insist on how their children should wear their clothes. Afterall, parents are the ones who buy the clothes. So, parents have the power to manage what their children wear as they have the buying power.

  5. Doyle

    July 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I too cant really stand the look and personal think the kids/young adults are idiots ( I am now showing my age)

    I think this “fine” is total racism based.

    Then if we are going to fine people for what they wear and how they wear it. here is my fine list.

    1. Muffin Tops
    2. Girls who wear “juicy” over there but
    3. Guy who wear shirts that dont fit correctly
    4. Pants that are toooo tight
    5 Wearing Spandex
    6. Wearing PJs in pubic

  6. Supersach1000

    July 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I am not in favor of this. I am young, it’s my generation who contributes to this trend…and I HATE it, it’s ignorant BUT I do believe that this is an excuse to unneccesarily fine and jail blacks. Just as Dave said, if we can fine the guys, lets fine the girls in skank clothes who cause more crime because men want to rape them (I’m being ridiculous here, but you get my point)

  7. keith

    July 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Yea, this isnt a race thing at all. White folks are just as bad. I was guilty of it as a teenager, and my clothes are still baggier than most would approve. Im comfortable that way, pay my own bills and buy my own clothes tho, so that is a different story.

    The saggy look actually was “popularized” and started by inmates, as a signal that they were willing to “receive” love from other inmates. Feel free to remind yourself that each time you see someone “sagging.”

    With that said, I dont think it should be an offense that requires a fine either.

  8. Sandy Seale

    July 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Well in my day it would have been considered indecent. But we crossed that line a long time ago I think. Where do you draw that line these days? Girls wear skirts that barely cover their undies, some aren’t even wearing them anyway. Music, TV & movies leave nothing to the imagination anymore. I think we lost control a long time ago & its hard to get it back. I personally think less is more when it comes to shock value but then I’m also ancient so what do I know???? Kids have always tried to push the boundaaries & aggravate their elders so why are we so surprised. Elvis outragged with his pelvis. The Beatles invasion shocked with their “long” hair. Then came Madonna’s cone bra, etc. Boy George all the way to Lady Gaga….need I say more?? This too shall pass & something more shocking will replace it. Remember Sodom & Gomorrah?? And since the beginning of time they’ve worried about whats happening to the youth. But we’re all still here; relatively unscathed. I for one think the police have much more important things to deal with.

  9. Stacia

    July 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I too, think the fine for minors penalizes parents more than kids, however I’m for it. In the city in which I live it is boys of all creeds and colors that sag. My daughter knows that they are not allowed in my home until they PULL UP THEIR DANG PANTS! However… I treat the girls the same with their booty shorts and clothes that show their bras. “That Writing Chic” nailed it… their behavior is different with that style of dress. When kids (or adults) dress like this disrespectful attitudes are usually right behind it (and I’m including the girls who wear clothes that show off all their goods too).

  10. Sandy Seale

    July 29, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Keith has a good point. If we adults would start dressing the way the kids do, they couldn’t change theirs fast enough!!! Something to think about……Maybe we should all ban together???? LOL

  11. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Doyle, you’re probably being sarcastic with your ‘fine’ list. But, I think you make a valid point. Some people should not wear those items in public, if it doesn’t fit them appropriately. However, this list could be challenged based on one’s geographical location, environment and who’s wearing it. If you’re at a gym, wearing spandex, it is appropriate. A lot of college students wear PJs around campus, going to the dining room for breakfast. Overall, in general, these items are inappropriate to wear in public. Again, people are branding themselves by the clothes they wear, etc. So, public dress codes need to be enforced, as they are in the workplace, schools, churches, supermarkets and so on. For example, certain stores you’re not allowed to enter without a shirt on or flip flops surrounded by safety issues. It’s actually against the law to walk the public streets without a shirt on in New York City.

  12. Will Jones

    July 29, 2011 at 11:08 am

    My son tried this once.

    “ONCE.”

    I simply explained that he could use his belt for what young men should use it for, or belt I would use mine for what dads use them for. We haven’t had that problem since. He’s since moved on to “skinny jeans” which I hate, but as long as he wears them properly…

    I have no problem with the younger generation expressing themselves. I wore some crazy stuff as a teen. But showing me, my wife, my children, my mother and sisters, or who ever, your underwear is disrepectful and offensive. I would applaud the idea of a fine if I didn’t know for a fact that it would be used as one more excuse to to harass african-americans.

    I do, However, think banning the look from schools, colleges, and malls would be a good start. I know if my dad would have ever had to come to the school because my butt was showing, the next day I would have had to pull the pants up to hide the welts.

  13. Cody Williams

    July 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Girl, I do have a job. But, your post are very compelling.

    By choice I live, work and breath in the ‘burbs, no more like the country, way out of urban America’s scope. So when I ventured into The Village of Harlem recently I was totally surprised by the number of young men I saw walking around with their ass out. Black Intelligencia over the years has tried demeaning them by arguing it’s a signal that shows a willingness for sexual submission. Tried shaming them with, “looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.” And even tried waiting them out. Foolish looking fashion disasters like wide brim hates and platform shoes didn’t last this long.

    You see sagging so much on 125th street that it should be renamed the Avenue of Booty. I mean it’s ridiculous. At one point I asked myself who are these boys preening and prancing for, other males? This surely must be a gay thing, the new vogue. And just as that thought popped into my head a buff young brother with both ass cheeks draped in Old Navy red boxer-briefs, with his jean literally parallel to his butthole walked by. Two young fly girls in front of me give him major dap and one says “man you do’n it. You look good.” They slap each other’s hands high in the air looking back as he swags pass.

    WTF?

    This is exactly the reason I moved my kids to the country. As of yet they don’t know what sagging is.

    Anyway, to your point. It’s obvious. This is counter-cultural warfare. The more society pushes the more these urban gorillas push back, and the lower their pants get. They get even more creative at exposing their asses to a society that would marginalize them anyway.

    I do think a lot of it is sexual, it’s teasing. But I also think it’s just youthful rebellion. It’s attitude. It’s a ‘fuck you world’ gesture.

    Should they be fined? What Dave said. Only if they fine Buffy for exposing her cleavage too.

  14. kt moxie

    July 29, 2011 at 11:11 am

    This is ridiculous. There will always be fashion trends that people will not like. People should not be fined for them. And, yes — this is racism.

    Ironically — a relative of mine was fired from his job for the same reason back in the late ’90s when this fashion started (yes, it’s that old). He’s white, but loved/s rap and dressed the style. He worked as a pizza delivery guy, and the owner suddenly decided — on the day he was fired — that there was a “dress policy” (even though there had never been one before, and no policy was written).

    The truth was: the owner didn’t want a worker delivering to white neighborhoods who “dressed black.”

    Elizabeth: Why do you think public dress codes need to be enforced? Yes, people are branding themselves — aren’t they allowed to do that? Yes, there are safety and other concerns at workplaces that can dictate dress. But what is *really* the problem with saggy pants in public? Just because you find it offensive doesn’t make it illegal.

  15. Hope

    July 29, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I do not like that look on young men and I dont think they should be fined. Most young men who are not wearing their pants like that are productive members of society. When you are doing things with yourself then the saggy pants turn into slacks, dress shirt and tie. I hope that that fashion statement goes away fast because it has been aroung too long. We need to start doing something positive and productive young men so we are not always the target.

  16. m.e. johnson

    July 29, 2011 at 11:17 am

    It’s gotta be racism, but it may backfire. In my town they passed an ordinance banning those ear-shattering car speakers but then it turned out most ‘violators’ were white and asian, so now the ordinance is pretty much ignored.

    An airline disallowed a Black athlete to board while ‘sagging’ but allowed an ugly, old white man to board wearing a woman’s bikini bathing suit. He looked disgusting. Chickies wear what I call “ducky” skirts. You know, where you can see the quack. My eyes! My eyes!

    Guys have to walk a certain way to keep the pants up. I wonder if, when they get old, they’ll have hip, knee, or ankle problems. Then they could teach, maybe the fools would listen.

  17. Barry Smeltzer

    July 29, 2011 at 11:46 am

    This ” look” originally comes from the prisons, as belts draw strings, and even elastic can be made into deadly weapons. Thus the sag. I have discussed this origin story with my own sons and their friends many times.
    “BUTT” to no avail…check out this picture of my own blonde blue eyed son in Northern CA. looking like a wanna be hoodlum. I will do the parenting and fine him myself thank you very much! I agree Rene that it sounds like a racial issue in Georgia, but go figure in mostly white wealthy Marin County?

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1741163727086.2099141.1178469840

  18. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Kt Moxie: what makes something illegal? That’s a good question – anything that is on the books considered unlawful. What’s considered unlawful? Something that is morally challenged. Jay walking in the street is illegal; it causes a distraction. Drinking in public is illegal. Littering is illegal. Dressing half-naked in the streeet is a distraction. I would be think anything against a ‘moral ethic code’ and/or out of traditional normalcy is considered inappropriate behavior. As I mentioned in my previous posts, it depends on one’s geographical location. If you go the Caribbean Islands, people are dressed with little clothing due to the climate and culture. They’re nudist beaches around the world. Again, it depends on the culture and one’s geographically location. Living in big cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta, dressing half naked or exposing too much flesh in the street is inappropriate. Riding the NYC subway trains just in boxer shorts, you would be considered a flasher. Walking in Florida bare footed probably would not raise an eye brow. But if you lived somewhere else, it would be disturbing and considered out of the norm. It all depends on the environment, audience and clientele of people.

  19. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Kt Moxie: You stated in your post: “The truth was: the owner didn’t want a worker delivering to white neighborhoods who “dressed black.”

    That’s a problem. All black people don’t dress this way. It’s becoming a bad stigma. What’s dressing black? None of my black friends dress with their pants hanging off their behind. I have two brothers who are repulse by this new fashion trend. They think it’s disturbing and disrespectful toward themselves and others. My brothers are black. They wouldn’t dare dress that way. Based on your statement, the saggy of pants is now becoming a typical dressed code for ‘blacks’, and that is simply not true. This is why it so important to ban this kind of dressing to avoid distorted stereotypes. So, wearing man tailored shirts and slacks, etc. is dressing white.

  20. Jeremiah Doctson

    July 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Here’s a consideration for everyone who has thus far been against them fining these kids; if they were wearing thongs underneath those jeans, would you still be supportive of this? I’d venture to say you wouldn’t (hopefully). Let them do this if they want, but perhaps what we should be thinking about what they wear under those jeans that everyone has to see? If they were wearing basketball shorts it wouldn’t be an issue would it?

  21. Brain user

    July 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    You all need to stop with the “oh it must be racism”crap! All colors and creeds are wearing this style for the past 10 plus years thanks to videos and Hip-POP! And they all look like jack asses! And yes I Said Hip-Pop because that’s what it has become. Pop short for popular like any trendy style IE saggy inmate pants. I live in the Bronx NY so I see it allllll day with every ethnic back ground so stop with the Racism cop out!

  22. Rene Syler

    July 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    @Brain User: Thanks for commenting and I’m actually terrified to ask this next question but I will anyway. By “You all” who exactly are you referring to? The multi-racial readers of Good Enough Mother or (girding my loins) Black people? Thanks in advance for clarifying.

  23. kt moxie

    July 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Elizabeth: Actually, my point was that my relative, despite being white, was fired for racist reasons. The owner saw the way he dressed as “being black” (I will not use the vulgar name used to describe young white kids who dress like young black rappers, but it’s not a good word) — this is what my relative was being labeled as. And yes — that’s a problem. That’s what racist people do — stereotype. They assume negative traits of people on the way that they look.

    My relative only saw himself as emulating the artists (rappers) that he liked. He didn’t think he was “dressing black.”

    Also… baggy, saggy jeans are not a new fashion! I have pictures of my relative in them in 1997! When he wanted to get my family to laugh? He squeezed in his hips, and his pants dropped to the floor. Still makes me laugh today.

  24. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    That’s what racist people do — stereotype. They assume “negative traits” of people on the way that they look.

    And, this is my point exactly. That’s why it should be banned. Some people may think it is funny, cute, sexy or what have you to see other people’s underwear and behind while walking in the street. For some, it’s inappropriate. It elicits a negative trait and message as you clearly mentioned.

  25. April Brucker

    July 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Look, I don’t like the trend either but the thing is, it is just a fashion trend. If one city starts fining people for it then it will be another excuse for the veil of racism.

    However, on the flipside there are all sorts of fashion trends that are mistakes that women don’t get fined for. Women don’t get fined for wearing a skirt so short we can see their panties or a shirt so low we all sort of go to second base without wanting to. We don’t fine them.

    If we start fining these guys for letting their pants sag then soon we will be fining fat men who take off their shirts and have man tits. This is rediculous.

    Then again, what do I expect? It’s Georgia. Back in the day it was the state next to Georgia with the most blantant mistreatment of African Americans. Sigh, somethings never change

  26. Katherine

    July 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    First of all, I want to congratulate the city of Hampton, GA for having nothing better to do with their time and tax dollars….

    I’m going to be brutally honest; I am DISGUSTED and APPALLED when fat girls wear the midriff exposing shirts that have recently come back in style. No one wants to see their stomachs jiggling back and forth as they walk and I genuinely don’t like it…but you know what?

    They didn’t ask me what I thought about their outfit when they got dressed this morning. While it is not a pleasant sight, it will not literally make my eyes bleed or cause me any harm. So I have two options: 1. Make a huge stink about it and try to push a ban of belly-shirt sales to people over a certain BMI, or 2. Turn my damn head if I don’t like it.

    Furthermore, I may disagree with that as her choice of attire for the day, but she has full right to go out of her house looking like that if she so chooses. And I stand by her right

    Bottom line: You are not always going to like what others are wearing. Get over it and keep it moving.

  27. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    But they’re not wearing it, it’s falling off their behind.

  28. Vanzell

    July 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I don’t agree with the dress and I embarrassed my 14 year old by pulling up his pants in front of his friends. As follow up, he was warned that a switch would make its way to his exposed behind without warning. I don’t agree they should be fined, but if they must, then the fine should be 10 days to complete 20 hours of litter pickup for the 1st offense and escalating hours and degree of disgusting work like clean up at the local waste water treatment facility or landfill or garbage depot, since they have already decided to ticket and fine them. but that ticket and fine has to cut across all communities including spare tire carrying plumbers who truly expose the dark side of their moon…

  29. MG

    July 29, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    This is only a good idea, if you will also fine women for skirts too short, too much cleavage, men without shirts and anyone who shows the crack of their ass. If not then this is a violation of a persons rights and there is no two ways about it. I don’t like sagging and I tell all I mentor about impressions, but they have a right to do it.

  30. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Well, the state of Florida pass a law against sagging pants. So, the idea of fining is not that ridiculous as other states have already put laws against it.

    http://newsone.com/nation/newsonestaff2/florida-sagging-pants-baggy-bill-passes/

  31. Victor Hogan

    July 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

    i think its ridiculous to fine someone for how they wear their clothes. my son tries to sag his pants all the time. i simply say, “son, pull ur damn pants up. u’re sagging them too low”. when i was a teenager in the 80′s, I sagged my pants… not below my ass, but i sagged. I told my son, its ok to let ur pants hang off ur waist just a little a bit. but if i can see ur butt they’re waaaay too low. no kid wants to walk around looking like Steve Urkel!
    as a creative person, i understand and respect fashion choices and trends. i may not AGREE with all of them. but, i understand what it is. sagging pants is not a crime. its a fashion trend. yeah yeah yeah, i understand that it started in jail. but damn, these kids aren’t sagging for the same reason. HELL, high end designers design jeans for the purpose of sagging!!! its not a crime its a fashion choice! and yes I DO believe its a racist law even though white, asian, hispanic kids do it too… it started in the streets on NYC amongst young blacks who were/are part of the generation that DEFINED an era that altered the globe through HIP HOP! and i’m proud to be part of that generation.

  32. keith

    July 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    @ Elizabeth— I hate to say it, but if I were running a state or even a small county, i would feel very comfortable point to everything FL and GA is doing and tell my team “Lets do the opposite.” Just because Florida is on board doesnt make the idea a good one. I would go as far as to say it drives home the point that fining people really isnt the answer.

    The reality is this: bad dress is not an offense that should be eligible to financial penalty. This goes beyond good common sense and anyone that can afford even a bad attorney would never have to a pay a fine for this as it is unconstitutional and frankly….its just stupid.

    With that said, anyone that TRULY believes this fad started anywhere but in the jail systems for the reasons myself and Barry above have already outlined, should really do their homework. This was never about hip hop, and there was hip hop before people were wearing their pants like that. I too was part of that generation too, even though I am not black. Frankly I love hip hop too much to blame it for this fad.

  33. Liz

    July 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    The kids should not be fined – the parent/s should! I think the police should find better things to do. I’m surprised manufacturers haven’t started making jeans with the boxers attached automatically like that. If any one makes money off that idea send me a few bucks okay?

  34. Rene Syler

    July 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    @Liz: OMG I’m ON IT! LOL

  35. Doyle

    July 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I have to say I really do think less of people who wear PJ in public, I think it is trash. When my brother remarried after is 1st wife died. The new wife wore PJ’s for thankgivings. I leaned over to my mother, whom I am close with and told her my brother married trash. I still to this day view this person was lower class.

    I think anyone who wears PJ is public is lazy, no self respect. But I dont think we really should fine them. Just have John Water do a movie about them.

    My two cents worth.

  36. Victor Hogan

    July 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    @ Keith: since i’m the only one who mentioned hip – hop in my comment i’ll assume the latter part of ur comment was directed towards me. if it wasn’t, i’ll still address it.

    no, hip hop didn’t start it. but hip hop gave it legs. yes, it started in the jail system. that is widely known. every time this subject comes up someone says…. “you know that started in prison, right? it means you want another inmate to have your man butt”. but, just b/c it started in prison doesn’t mean that it hasn’t grown past its origins. i remember growing up with hip hop in the 80s living in Queens. a lot of people would wear their sneakers(pumas and adidas) without laces in them. that started in prison too. SO WHAT? it doesn’t mean that the kids that didn’t wear shoelaces were a suicide risk.

    no need for me to do homework on the subject. i was there. bottom line…. this is nothing more than a fashion statement that was made popular by the hip hop community(that’s a whole other discussion by itself). Just like rock made hair moose and awful haircuts famous in the 80′s…. fashion. nothing more, nothing less.

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