Over the past month, New York State Senator Eric Adams has drawn national headlines by unveiling the â€œStop Saggingâ€ campaign, a series of billboards and viral web videos that decry the hip-hop fashion trend of wearing pants below the waist. Although Senator Adams is the most visible opponent of sagging, he is far from alone. In states like Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, politicians have taken the anti-sagging movement to the next level by passing laws that criminalize the fashion trend by creating public decency ordinances.
The outrage over sagging pants is rooted in a belief that the trend is an outgrowth of prison culture, where inmates are forced to sag their pants because they arenâ€™t permitted to wear belts. Others argue that sagging pants are a sign of prison homosexuality, as gay inmates expose their buttocks to let others know that they are sexually available.
While the claims about prison culture may be true, there is little credible evidence that they provide the origins of the current hip-hop trend. There is even less evidence that the youth who wear this fashion are consciously or unconsciously attempted to mimic the practices of prisoners. Instead, these arguments are nothing more than red herrings that play on a cynical, unsophisticated, and reactionary vision of our youth.
By linking sagging pants to prison culture, opponents are able to scare the public into believing in a one-to-one relationship between fashion choices and social deviance. By connecting it to homosexuality, they are able to play on the homophobic myth that being gay is a social contagion that can be avoided through the use of a sturdy belt.