Acton Institute Powerblog

Outlawing Baggy and Saggy Pants Won’t Work

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The City of Atlanta, and several other cities, have been debating whether or not to pass a law prohibiting saggy pants. Here’s the story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Atlanta officials did not decide Tuesday whether they should become fashion police.

However, they did agree to continue to debate whether the city should regulate whether folks can walk around Atlanta with saggy pants and exposed undies. Council members expect to create a 10- to 12-member task force soon to further the debate and decide whether Atlanta should — or can — pass a law to control fashion.

Either way, the issue drew heated discussion from a crowd of about 55 who packed the first City Council committee debate on the subject Tuesday afternoon. Here’s what some folks had to say:

Dave Walker, East Atlanta:
“We got old and forgot there are fads. They come and they go and no legislation is going to get rid of natural trends. We have no right to legislate what folks wear.”

James Allen, Atlanta: “It bothers me as a black man. They dress down. They talk down. Some of the things they do are downright low down. It sickens me. We need to teach them in a way they will become prospects, not suspects.”

Yemaya Bourdain, senior at Clark Atlanta University: “This is absolutely asinine. I can’t believe this is the best you guys can come up with. As if we don’t have enough already targeting our black youth. Who can this help?”

Clyde Wilson, Atlanta:
“It is a problem. Not just the men wear their clothes down; the women do. If you dress like a prostitute, they are going to treat you like one.”

Naomi Ward, Atlanta:
“I am supportive of the ordinance. It is not just unsightly. It is what it represents. It is restrictive and constrictive. It restricts the physical movement. And it constricts the mind.”

Are you kidding me? A law? Is this the best use of the law? We are moving closer and closer to a police state. Here’s why this is silly:

(1) The law won’t change the mentality that says, “wearing pants below my butt is a good thing.” How is a law going to change that? Oh wait, this does work, right? Making the drinking age 21 sure has curbed “under age drinking.”

(2) How do you enforce a crazy law like this? How many inches below the waist will be illegal? Will police officers need to get outfitted with a special holster for tape measure alongside their guns and handcuffs?

Ok, saggy pants are unpleasant to look at but I’m not sure wearing pants low should be illegal. What aren’t we, instead, seeking to affect the mentality that embraces saggy pants as good? Maybe we want to pass a law because changing a mind-set would require getting personally involved in the lives of people who wear saggy pants. We would much rather pass a silly law than to roll up our sleeves and sacrifice our own time to offer those individuals a different vision for their own dignity. This requires time and energy and it comes with with no guarantees for change. It’s risky.

Laws of this type expose our own apathy to show real compassion and commitment to those people with whom we disapprove. Is it possible that those who seek such laws don’t see those that wear baggy pants as human beings who can be reasoned with and persuaded to behave otherwise? “These people are stupid, pass a law,” the law-seekers conclude. If you want a kid to stop wearing his pants below his butt then personally get involved in his life. This is how true virtue is cultivated–from one person to another. Passing fashion laws will not cultivate character, virtue, nor wisdom. It’s an impersonal, materialist solution to a problem that needs personal attention and care.

Has anyone ever thought about the fact that saggy pants may be cry for help?

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.


  • skyler

    baggy pants
    come on if u make it illegal you better build a couple more jails because guess what it will still happen, why dont we make tight pants illegal when there so tight u can see the crotch thats even worse, at and boxers arent bad showin there like shorts. come on. what next no tanktops because it shows bra straps
    get real

  • tommybear

    I heard of a much better tactic used in seaside resort in England: elderly men started wearing their baseball caps backwards, which killed that fad pronto.

  • Josh Lovetere

    Let the kids have their baggy pants and any other idiocy they like. Purple hair, excessive body piercing and gold trimmed teeth are all signs pointing to a person’s inability to make sound decisions.

    It is better and quicker for them to identify themselves voluntarily.

  • Nick

    If they ban baggy pants, where else am i gonna keep my gat stashed?

  • debi hepler

    My saggy drawers are here to stay ,just give me a ticket …I’d rather pay.

    If my butt crack shows ,or my undies display ;too bad for you ,gots mo’ urgent problems today.

    ‘Course I heard dat da cops ‘er crackin’ down ;dang if I ain’t law-breakin’ now!

    Well ,you know I bin in trubba bafo’…and I’m outta cash ,in the slammer I’ll go.

    Tell Bubba ‘hi’ ,I’m on my way ,’cause here cum da cops ,and I can’t run away! by Debi Hepler 10/15/07

  • Brian

    Trying to outlaw baggy/sagging/drooping pants its completely insane. Wearing clothes is a personal statement of yourself, and not the others around you. If you feel like wearing a jacket on a warm day should someone stop you? No, I don’t think so. So why should someone stop you for wearing overly large pants? The answer is they shouldn’t. It’s all based on freedom and rights, and well this is America, and not Cuba.

    I read somewhere that if the ban on baggy pants goes though, then so should a ban on fat women wearing tight clothes. Now, with that said, how many of you are fat women wearing tight pants? Probably all of you…So shut your mouths and stop telling everyone else what to wear.

    Point is, whoever you are, or whatever someone is wearing, there is going to be someone with a problem about someone elses clothing.

    Just let it go.

  • Sophia

    It’s so dumb how people are trying to make wearing your pants below your waist illegal. I just think people have nothing better to do with there boring lives. Either way people mostly teens are not going to pay any attention to these rules. That rule will so be over ruled. The sad thing about it is that even higher people like judges, Police officers, School teacher wear there pants, short anything below there waist.

  • Anonymous

    Oh give it a rest. You people never seem to shut up no matter what “rights” you think are being trampled on.

    The fact is that this saggy pants fad started in prisons, so if you really are concerned about whether teenagers should be allowed to wear their prison fashions on the other side of the wall, perhaps they should consider dressing a lot less like convicted felons. I mean seriously. Are you just stupid?

    You see, people that don’t aspire to be thugs have lives and personal levels of comfort too, which are as valued as your

    Personally, I applaud the ordinance and I hope it catches on in every city in the U.S. Glamorizing subversive lifestyle choices isn’t cool, and the “fashion” is nothing of the sort. It IS a cry for help, but most of you are too ignorant to realize it.

  • Lawrence Stevenson

    I personally believe that the ban anywhere is rediculous. I’m a 17 year old teenager, and I’ve strived too much to get where I am today. Honor Roll, National Honor Roll, HS AP classes, etc. But that hasn’t stopped the fact that I wear what I wear. I do, infact, wear my pants below my waist, I wear larger t-shirts, and maybe my shoes are untied from time to time. Honestly, that’s how I’ve dressed for years. It’s no fad for me, it’s just what I did. I’m not going to change that soon, but I know how to dress when I come to an interview. It’s common sense, then. But making a law to ban this is taking away a self-expression of freedom that some teenagers like to hold onto. Maybe some do it because it’s cool, and some do it because they want to, it’s comfortable. Let them. I mean, how many things can be legally outlaw because a larger majority of people dissagree with it and believe it’s “indecent”? Really, this could be done with a lot of things. Cigarettes, alcohol, and even tight clothes or small clothes. I don’t like cigarettes; ban them completely. I hate alcoholics; make that illegal for me. And it could go on forever.
    Lol, sorry for making it a bit long, I just have a lot on my mind considering the fact that I have a speech to do over this exact subject. Thanks.


  • Bob

    You got it right!

  • Ms. T

    Lawrence: You sound like a nice kid and I think you have a point about harmless fashion trends vs. how you would dress on an interview. However, there has been no mention made of these droopy drawers being constantly touched or held up at the crotch, making the person wearing the “fad” look like he has an urgent need to urinate. There is nothing cool or attractive about that. I would also suggest that before you write that speech for AP class, use your spellcheck or a dictionary…for words like ‘rediculous’ and ‘dissagree’…I wish you the best of luck.


  • i tihnk it shouldn’t be much of a problem because its not like they doin anything wrong i guess others just wanna find things to do meanin these police cause its more of blacks then any that does this so whats really goin on with this in take awhile to think about it more like a race thing at lease thats what it look like.

  • Em

    I’ve got one phrase: Slippery-slope. Please, if you outlaw sagging pants, also outlaw pants that show girls’ G-strings, or see-through tops, or mini-skirts that when walking up a flight of stairs you see things only God Himself has a right to know about…

    And fellas, wear a belt. Your hands can be doing more productive things than holding onto your waistline.

  • Sly

    Kids are lucky nowadays to even get away with wearing their pants as low as they do. 30 years ago (or even 20) for that matter, alot of parents would beat your ass for wearing your pants that low (and that was in the projects)! It just looks dam silly and then when you see these same ones up the county or state, they have them pulled up, cause they know what would happen. This trend started when gangsta rap broke out in the late 80’s/early 90’s and (unfortunately) the fad hasn’t left, but it will! Like #5 said, you can’t hide your gat without them. Back in the day, kids would throw down with their fists and didn’t need anything else. Nowadays, they don’t know how to fight and are too scared, thus the baggy pants carrying whatever! Hell yeh, they should ban baggy pants in every state. Maybe they will (many places already have), and maybe they won’t. But just to be fair, these kids nowadays weren’t the first ones to wear their pants down. Plumbers usually have their ass hanging out too! Just like any other stupid fad, it’ll disappear. It’s just a matter of time!

  • carmen torres

    well i do agree with them they should make a law…

  • Anonymous

    i do hope you are joking…

  • Khrystal

    I am a young black female who thinks the trend is a lil dumb too, but it is completely unfair to single out a single trend. Im sure it does bother people to see a mans boxers but what about seeing a womans cheeks hanging out her shorts? or breast one bounce from falling out? What about a mans pants so tight the print is the only thing you notice? What about men that wear short shorts? Or men that wear spandex? (now that should be outlawed lol!!!) My point is that someone somewhere will always be bothered by something someone else wears. No matter what we do everyone will never be satisfied. Before we know it, we all be lookin like part of the Amish Community (no offense).

  • but skler the reason they should is becuase you don’t want to be seeing any body underwear so they make as many jails as theuy need 2

  • ProfessorWoland

    They should outlaw Marxist Pants