final draft the influence of sagging pants on hip hop and american society

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					Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

                 The Influence of Sagging Pants on Hip Hop and American Society

        In many places, sagging pants has become a way of life. Millions of people of all

ethnicities, black, white, and Hispanic sag their pants every day. This new trend has been and is

most recognizably connected with hip hop. Rappers have long been sagging their pants and

perpetuating this image to American teens. But because of this connection with hip hop, sagging

pants have often been connected with rebelliousness and delinquency. As a result, legislatures all

across the country are up in arms against this new trend. New laws are springing up all across the

nation to regulate this new style of dress. But are these laws legal? Do they violate your freedom

of expression? Do they discriminate against minorities? These are just a few of the issues these

laws raise. Sagging pants in the United States have a bad reputation and is often associated with

minorities, hip hop, rebelliousness and delinquency causing law makers to invoke legislation to

regulate it.

        But firstly, what is “sagging”? Urban defines sagging as “wearing ones

pants below the waist to make pants baggier.” Hip hop artists have introduced this new style of

dress into the mainstream. But the style itself has a longer and more intricate background.

Sagging can trace its roots all the way back to prison in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. But how

do two things whose origin are so different end up often associated with one another? Crack.

        It can be argued that the history of pants sagging began with the introduction of the

highly addictive narcotic, crack cocaine into predominantly black neighborhoods. Because of

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

this new and deadly trade on the streets, law enforcement intensified anti-drug laws sending

larger waves of black men into the already over-burdened prison network. Once in these prisons,

inmates were issued often oversized uniforms and denied simple luxuries that you and I take for

granted such as belts and shoe strings. This was seen as a precaution to prevent inmates from

using these items to harm each other and to prevent the inmates from committing suicide by

hanging. Because the inmates had no belts to keep their pants at their waists, their pants would

often sag. In these prisons, sagging was often seen as an indicator of homosexual tendencies

among the inmates. Sagging pants was something gay inmates used to inform other inmates of

their sexual orientation. When these men were released, they brought their prison customs with

them back onto the streets with them.

       But how has this trend influenced Hip Hop? These newly released inmates brought their

prison culture back on to the streets of the black community. This is where the cross

contamination occurred in one of two ways. One: either the hip hop artist experienced this new

prison culture first hand or two: it was introduced to him through his environment. Pants sagging

was spread by these artists when they exposed themselves to the main stream in music videos,

concerts and television interviews. This exposure allowed the trend to present itself to young

influenceable American teens. Through this new cross with hip hop, the trend continued to

spread from the inner cities eventually into the suburbs. Today this trend knows no specific race

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

or demographic. It can be found not only in prisons but also on the streets of just about every city

in just about every state.

        But what kind of image does this style of dress perpetuate? Because of its early

background, pants sagging is most often associated with rebelliousness and delinquency and is

most commonly frowned upon. Such style of dress is most often associated with the “hood” or

the “ghettos” across the United States which has thus earned it an even worse reputation. From

the distinctive “thug” walk to the care free attitude it perpetuates, sagging pants have been

irrevocably branded with the stamp of delinquency. Youngsters wearing their clothing in such a

manner invite unwanted negative attention and especially in the case of minority teens –


        Because of this image, many legislatures and law enforcement agencies have banded

together to stop the trend before it goes any further. Legislatures in states such as Virginia and

Louisiana have gone as far as to enact laws that ban sagging pants. In June 2007, such a law was

enacted in the small town of Delcambre, Louisiana, 80 miles west of Baton Rouge. In

Delcambre, sagging your pants could now cost you even more. The punishment for sagging your

pants, can at the most severe, cost you up to $500 in fines and up to six months jail time. In other

areas such as the nearby town of Mansfield, similar laws have also been put into place. In

Mansfield, Louisiana, a small town with a population of 5,496, pants sagging carries a fine of

$150 plus court costs and offenders can spend up 15 days in jail. These are just a few examples

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

of the new “no pants sagging” laws all across the United States. But in a few places even bigger

measures have been taken against the trend.

       In early October of this year, the prestigious HBCU Morehouse College enacted a dress

code that bans stereotypical styles of black dress. Items such as du-rags, grills, hats, “stunna

shades”, or pajamas were banned in the classroom. Sagging pants were also found on the listen

of banned attire. Morehouse President Robert Franklin is responsible for the new “Appropriate

Attire Policy” which is aimed at reestablishing the idea of the modern “Renaissance Man”.

“According to Franklin this individual must represent the ‘5 Wells’. He must be well-spoken,

well-read, well-traveled, well-dressed, and well-balanced.” (

       Laws such as these often stem from the expansion of indecent exposure laws already in

place. Indecent exposure is defined as “the intentional exposure of one's body's privates in a

manner that gives offense against accepted or prescribed behavior”. This is the largest argument

against the popular trouser trend. One of the legislatures against the trend is Councilwoman

Annette Lartigue of the West Ward of Trenton. She sums up the greatest argument of the

naysayers. “It’s a fad like hot pants; however, I think it crosses the line when a person shows

their backside,” Ms. Lartigue said. “You can’t legislate how people dress, but you can legislate

when people begin to become indecent by exposing their body parts.” ( This view

is shared by many Americans across the nation. Not only is pant sagging seen a sign of

delinquency, it is also seen as a form of indecent exposure.

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

       On the other hand, laws such as these can be seen as racial discrimination and a vendetta

against hip hop itself. This is a largely minority style of dress and these laws target American

minorities with exuberant fines and unnecessary jail time. Because of this, opponents call these

laws unconstitutional not to mention highly unnecessary. Chief of the Flint, Michigan Police

Department, David Dicks offered an interpretation of the laws to help clear up confusion. “Pants

pulled completely below the buttocks with underwear showing is disorderly conduct; saggy pants

with skin of the buttocks showing is indecent exposure, and saggy pants, not completely below

the buttocks with underwear exposed would merit a warning.” ( But

lawyer and chair of the ACLU Flint chapter, Greg Gibbs, disagrees with Dicks. “You can’t arrest

people because of their style of dress,” he said. ( Laws such as these

violate the personal freedoms of all Americans guaranteed to them by the United States

Constitution. They hamper the individual’s freedom of expression given to them in the First

Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Freedom of Expression is a Core Democratic

Value and is one of the cornerstones of the United States itself.

       Although jail time and fines may seem like a likely deterrent to sagging pants, it is highly

unlikely that this could be a permanent solution. Placing exuberant fines upon citizens who likely

cannot afford to pay them does not solve anything. Those who cannot afford to pay a $500 fine

will most often end up serving the jail time. This will overwhelm an already crowded prison

system and place unnecessary pressure on tax payers who must support the excess of prisoners.

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

Also it is also a waste of the police department’s resources to have to respond to a call about

such a trivial issue when there are other places they are needed. Also a law of this nature is

virtually impossible to enforce because you cannot monitor an individual at all hours of the day

to ensure the state of their pants. Enforcing a law such as this would require monumental man

power and once again the bill would be placed upon the unfortunate tax payers. And, a

punishment such as fines or jail time would also mar an otherwise spotless record, especially

with children who do not have a criminal history, but just choose to express themselves in this


       A better solution would be to remove the fines and jail time altogether. Instead of

punishing these teens, a better option would be to try and teach good hygiene and habits by

enacting a dress code in all public schools. This way, the child learns early what the appropriate

style of dress should be and also how to respect themselves and their body by not exposing their

underwear. Also, extreme cases, such as where skin and/or the genitals are visible, should be

handled as a misdemeanor with a punishment of community service and probation. Community

service would be a better punishment than jail time or fines because while the offender is helping

upkeep his hometown, he has plenty of time to consider his actions and decide if pants sagging is

really worth all of the work and community service hours. By taking this approach, it lightens the

load on the average tax payer because they no longer have to support an excess of prison

inmates. It also frees up policemen to do other tasks instead of monitoring pedestrian’s street

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

wear. Also the community service would help keep the city clean and greater motivate the

offender to change while not marring their record.

       As a result of the new pants sagging style trend, all across the United States many

legislatures have enacted laws against it. Sagging pants has a bad reputation and is often

associated with rebelliousness and delinquency. To combat this, these laws have heavy

punishments such as fines and jail time. But the laws themselves often come off as racial

discrimination because most of those who sag their pants come from minority backgrounds and

poor neighborhoods. I believe a better solution would be community service because it would

better service the community in a way jail time and fines would not. This would also prevent

unnecessary marks on a young minority male’s record. Sagging pants can be compared to afros

or bell bottoms or even “hot pants”. It is a trend. A trend who will one day pass. But until that

day the rest of us will have to just sit tight, and wait for a new trend where belts are included.

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

                                  Works Cited

Koppel, Niko. “Are Your Jeans Sagging? Go Directly to Jail”. New York Times. 30 Aug. 2007.

       10 Nov. 2009.

Shamontiel. “Sagging Pants: Hip Hop Trend or Prison Trend?”. Associated Content. 27 May.

       2007. 10 Nov. 2009.


Mungin, Lateef. “All Male College Cracks Down on Cross Dressing”. CNN. 17 Oct. 2009. 10



Carroll, Jennifer. “The Origins of Sagging Your Jeans…”. So Jones.13 Feb. 2009. 10 Nov. 2009.

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Gabrielle Pace

Professor Cherrise Montgomery

English 1020

9 November 2009

“Morehouse College Bans Pants Sagging”. Keep It Trill. 26 Oct. 2009. 10 Nov. 2009.


Muhammad, Nisa. “Sagging Pants Law Unconstitutional.” 07 Oct. 2008. 10 Nov. 2009.


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