Sagging popularity: Pants' style just might be its own undoing

What do I know about fashion, right? At work I’m always in a white shirt and a tie. At home – well, put it this way: I walked downstairs recently wearing a polo shirt, and my wildly amusing son looked up from the couch and said, “You’re wearing a shirt with a collar. Are we going somewhere?”

So I’m not a clothes horse. That usually makes me loath to criticize other people’s fashion choices, but on one point I think I stand on solid ground with most of America.

Sagging pants look dumb.

Doesn’t sound like a bold statement, does it? It’s not. Because, odds are, you agree with me. It’s like saying gravity exists, or the sun rises in the east. Sagging pants look dumb.

But urban kids, or suburban kids eager to embrace an urban image, have concluded that it’s superior fashion sense to wear pants with a waistline halfway to the knees, exposing the wearer’s underwear.

So file it under the list of things in America that are stupid, but legal.

For now.

As Americans are wont to do, when an activity offends a segment of the population, there’s a push to make that activity against the law.

Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson proposed a city ordinance dealing with saggy pants back in 2008, but he asked to withdraw it when it finally came up for a vote. The commission unanimously obliged.

But the south Georgia city of Moultrie passed an anti-sagging-pants law earlier this summer. Brunswick did it last fall. Cities all over the country are enacting similar laws.

There’s even a lawsuit brewing over saggy pants. In June, former University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman filed suit against US Airways over a 2011 incident in which he was ordered off a flight leaving San Francisco because his pants exposed his underwear below his butt. Tempers appeared to have flared, and he spent a night in jail.

And Marman just might have a case, if he can prove US Airways has a double-standard on enforcing appropriate dress. Apparently, just a few days before the airline upbraided Marman for his fashion choice, US Airways employees let another passenger fly – over several other passengers’ complaints. This particular passenger wore only a blue bra top and matching panties, a sheer white shrug, black knee-high stockings and black platform heels.

I also should mention that this particular passenger was a middle-aged guy.

So what makes Marman an offensive nuisance, but not Mr. Panties-and-Heels? And why couldn’t he just wear a comfortable pair of flats?

Onika K. Williams, of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, devoted a whole article to saggy pants in the Indiana Law Journal in 2010. She called them “a form of unconventional, expressive conduct that should receive First Amendment protection.”

“Expressive conduct,” as in, you’re expressing to everyone that you don’t own a belt.

Until recently, I would’ve been on the bandwagon of folks who want to legislate saggy pants out of existence. Then I realized something.

The guys wearing saggy pants are getting rid of themselves.

On July 5 near Atlanta, Clayton County police pursued a carjacking suspect who wrecked the car and tried to flee on foot. But he didn’t get far – he tripped over his increasingly saggy pants.

In May, two thieves in Nottinghamshire, England, stole alcohol and cigarettes from a newsstand. A pair of teens bragged about the theft over social media, and police made a positive ID after precisely matching the teens’ underwear to the saggy-pantsed thieves captured on a security camera.

In April, also near Atlanta: A man fleeing a marijuana-hazed traffic stop in Fairburn tried to turn a corner at a nearby shopping center, and tripped over his saggy pants.

A similar thing happened to a guy in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2011. And in Lake Wales, Fla., in 2011.

“Just about every other week, Jim Matheny, a 41-year-old police lieutenant in Stamford, Conn., says he gets into foot chases with youths,” reported Serena Ng in The Wall Street Journal. “He says it’s getting easier to capture them because they can’t run fast or far in those loose jeans.”

And this story was from 2006.

I’m not saying that everyone who wears saggy pants is a criminal. What I am saying is this: If saggy pants are outlawed, it’s a victory for self-respect and good taste. If saggy pants stay legal, it’s a victory in the war on crime. A win-win situation.

That frees up society to declare war on those rubber Crocs.

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