Miami City Bans Saggy Pants Fashion
Hold on to your pants folks, the fashion police are on the prowl. Literally. This week, the city of Opa-Locka, passed a controversial dress code by actually banning what can be worn on city property.
Following similar bans in Texas, Georgia, New York and Louisiana, city officials passed the 4-1 vote that aims at eliminating the saggy pants fashion statement. The baggy, sagging pants purpose: brazenly showing off a man’s boxer shorts. Typically bottoms are lowered to have the waste-line of pants or shorts fall just below the butt exposing the underwear. The pants are held there by a belt at the wearer’s thighs.
Sagging pants popularized in the 1990s by hip-hop artists, have become the style for much of today’s youth. This is especially true for African American communities, but in the north Miami-Dade county city of Opa-Locka, where over 74% of it’s residents are African American, the questionable style is now an offense.
Opa-Locka officials argue that the look was not originated in music videos by rap moguls but rather in seedy prison cells; and tomorrow’s future need not imitate or promote something associated with violence and crime. In prisons, oversized uniforms were issued without belts to prevent suicide and use as weapons. The style simply spread through rappers, from the ghetto to the suburbs and around the world. “I don’t think they really understand where it really started from, and what image,” Opa-Locka Vice-Mayor Dorothy Johnson said. “Employers are not really going to hire you looking like that.”
On Wednesday October 24th, the ordinance was passed making Opa-Locka the first city in the state with bona fide fashion police. The ban prohibits people from exposing boxers, briefs, or bare skin below the belt. The urban fashion is not allowed in parks, schools, libraries - any city owned property. Currently, the ban empowers officers to evict people violating the ordinance from city-owned grounds. The offense is not criminal so there is no fine or jail time associated with the violations but city leaders will be working out penalties for anyone who violates the ordinance. Signs will also be posted around Opa-Locka with images depicting the fashion faux-pas.
But, of course, the issue has been met with some resistance and people really are up in arms about it. There are those that say clothes don’t make the man; that people should be judged by their behavior. Also being thrown around is the larger issue of freedom of expression not to mention those that ask how does fashion move from being objectionable to illegal. Then there are those that criticize saying the sagging prohibition is unconstitutional and unjustly encourages racial profiling because the wearers are young, predominantly African-American men and that this is unwarranted governmental intrusion.
Actually, nationwide, it’s African-American officials who are embracing similar laws. Measures in other states are being backed by arguments stating the fashion statement contributes to crime, poor grades and low self-esteem.
The measure’s sponsor, African-American Commissioner Timothy Holmes also argues that discrimination is not the case here. “It’s not decent. It’s not respectful. Showing your butt sends a terrible message.” Additionally, city officials argue though that their goal is to on clean up the social conditions that the sagging pants come out of noting the look epitomizes an offensive lifestyle which often foreshadows destructive behavior. Incidentally, although she dislikes the look, the only unfavorable vote on the ban came from Vice-Mayor Johnson saying she didn’t agree with legislating morality.
Behind the indecency law, there may actually be another issue on the table here. Hip-hop style itself, which critics say is sometimes displayed delinquently, with a distinctive thuggish swagger and disrespect for authority and almost always associated with violence, drugs and crime.
It does seem a fine line this waist line issue is crossing and it’s clear as day that this ban is aimed at a specific generation gap so I can understand the words constitutional, amendment and right being thrown about with respect to what people should wear. It really is true though that people judge you by what you wear but it remains that this dress code is merely a way to prevent indecent exposure. Is it not, after all, illegal for me to walk around with my pants dropped exposing my underwear and gluteus maximus? Ok, sure people would look, but eventually an officer would give me some really shiny bracelets and a pleather ride to a grey building surrounded by barbed wire.
In a nutshell, that’s all the saggy pants look is, people showing off their underwear and asses. I shouldn’t have to look at anyone’s behind unless I choose to. Mothers shouldn’t be obligated to take their 7 year-old daughters to parks where grown men are walking around in their underwear and the same applies to libraries and schools. Really, it should apply anywhere in public.
It’s arguments similar to that that Opa-Locka officials contend is the reason for this ban.
In a week where a fashion police was really created causing people to say their rights are being violated, the issue begs the question: whose right becomes more important? Is it your right to walk dressed however you choose? Or, is it my right to walk around without having to be exposed to indecency (and tacky underwear)?
Discussion at “Klotz” as in “Blood”
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"Miami City Bans Saggy Pants Fashion"