Sagging is a manner of wearing trousers or jeans which sag so that the top of the trousers or jeans are significantly below the waist, sometimes revealing much of the underwear. Sagging is predominantly a male fashion. Women's wearing of low-rise jeans to reveal their G-string underwear (the "whale tail") is not generally described as sagging.
A person wearing sagging trousers is sometimes called a "sagger".
According to Greg Mathis, sagging was adopted from the United States prison system where belts are sometimes prohibited to prevent prisoners from using them as weapons or committing suicide by hanging themselves. The style was later popularized by hip-hop artists in the 1990s. It later became a symbol of freedom and cultural awareness among some youths or a symbol of their rejection of the values of mainstream society.
During the first decade of the 21st century, many North American local governments, school systems, transit agencies, and even airlines passed laws and regulations against the practice of wearing sagging pants, although no state or federal laws have been enacted banning the practice. US presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking just before the 2008 US Presidential Election appeared on MTV and said that laws banning the practice of wearing low-slung pants that expose one's underwear were "a waste of time ... Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. 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."
In March 2008 the Hahira, Georgia City Council passed a controversial clothing ordinance, in the name of public safety, that bans citizens from wearing pants with top below the waist that reveal skin or undergarments. The council was split 2–2, but the tie was broken by the mayor.
Benetta Standly, statewide organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia stated, "In Atlanta, we see this as racial profiling ... It's going to target African-American male youths. There's a fear with people associating the way you dress with crimes being committed." The interim police chief of Flint, Michigan ordered the arrest of saggers for disorderly conduct; however, as of August 2008[update], only warnings had been issued. The local chapter of the ACLU threatened legal action in response, saying that sagging did not violate the Flint disorderly conduct ordinance.
Two weeks after the "Pants on the Ground" video became popular thanks to American Idol (see below), a billboard campaign against the style of sagging pants was launched in the Dallas, Texas, area. The billboards feature Big Mama Joseph from the 1997 film Soul Food saying, "Pull 'Em Up!" and asks youngsters to "Keep it a secret!" The campaign is the brainchild of Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine R. Caraway, and uses advertising space donated by Clear Channel Outdoor. Another billboard campaign against sagging pants was launched in Brooklyn by New York State Senator Eric Adams on March 28, 2010. In May 2010 New York State Senate President Malcolm Smith used US$2,200 from his campaign fund to launch a similar campaign in Queens.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Japanese snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo was barred from participating in the opening ceremonies due to dressing sloppily, including a loosened tie, shirt hanging out, and sagging pants.
In the fall of 2010 at Westside Middle School in Memphis, Tennessee, the policy on handling sagging pants is for students to pull them up or get "Urkeled", a reference to the character Steve Urkel of the 1990s television show Family Matters. In this practice, teachers would pull their pants up and attach them there using zip ties. Students would also have their photo taken and posted on a board in the hallway, for all of their classmates to see. In an interview with WMC-TV, Principal Bobby White stated that the general idea is to fight pop culture with pop culture. One teacher at the school claimed to have "Urkeled" up to 80 students per week, although after five weeks students got the message, and the number dropped to 18.
On November 23, 2010, Albany, Georgia passed a city ordinance that banned the wearing of pants or skirts with top more than three inches below the top of the hips, and imposed a fine of $25 for the first offense, increasing to up to $250 for subsequent offenses. By September 2011, City Attorney Nathan Davis reported that 187 citations had been issued and fines of $3,916 collected.
In Fort Worth, Texas, the local transportation authority implemented a new policy in June 2011 that prohibited any passenger from boarding a bus while wearing sagging pants that exposes their underwear or buttocks. Signs were posted on buses saying, "Pull 'em up or find another ride", and one City Council member was looking for funds for a billboard campaign. The communications manager for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority said that on the first day the policy was enforced, 50 people were removed from buses for wearing improper pants. Some complained about the policy, but the overall response was positive.
A new state law in Florida recently went into effect for the 2011-2012 school year banning the practice of sagging while at school. Pupils found in violation receive a verbal warning for the first offense, followed by parental notification by the principal for the second offense, which will require the parent to bring a change of clothing to school. Students would then face in-school suspension for subsequent violations.
University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman was removed from a U.S. Airways flight bound for Albuquerque, New Mexico for wearing sagging pants. A few months later Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank, California for the same reason.
In April 2012 Alabama County Circuit Judge John Bush sentenced 20-year-old LaMarcus Ramsey to three days in jail for appearing in court with sagging blue jeans that exposed his underwear, telling him, "You are in contempt of court because you showed your butt in court."
Afro-Créole protest origins
Louisiana's status as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation, coupled with Louisiana's history of enslavement and sumptuary law, may provide clues to saggin' as a continuation of an Afro-Créole protest tradition dating back to 1786, one scholar suggests. In that year, Spanish Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró issued the tignon law, intending that "free women of color" would henceforth wear a kerchief to mark their status as subservient to whites. Historian Virginia M. Gould notes that Miró hoped the law would control women “who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who, in reality, competed too freely with white women for status and thus threatened the social order.”
Miró's intent of having the tignon mark inferiority had a somewhat different effect, according to historian Carolyn Long who noted: "Instead of being considered a badge of dishonor, the tignon…became a fashion statement. The bright reds, blues, and yellows of the scarves, and the imaginative wrapping techniques employed by their wearers, are said to have enhanced the beauty of the women of color."
Historian Fernin F. Eaton, a Louisiana native using that scholarship, suggests saggin' may be an ironic twist on that act of Afro-Créole defiance, initially begun as a women's protest movement against a law singling out women for acting "too white," to a modern-day version of a law singling out (largely) black males for not acting "white enough." Saggin' may evidence a continuation of that Afro-Créole defiance, in recognition that African-American males, especially in Louisiana, are disproportionately incarcerated.
Sagging has been ridiculed in music videos, first, in the 1996 song Back Pockets on the Floor performed by The Green Brothers of Highland Park, Michigan. Another song in 2007 by Dewayne Brown of Dallas, Texas entitled Pull Your Pants Up has a similar message. On January 13, 2010, "General" Larry Platt performed "Pants on the Ground" during auditions for the ninth season of American Idol in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2012 a 9-year-old rapper named Amor "Lilman" Arteaga wrote a song titled "Pull Ya Pants Up," and made a music video with an appearance by Brooklyn president Marty Markowitz. In 2010 American rapper Hopsin made his hit music video Sag My Pants
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