Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Louisiana Town, Wearing Low-Rider Pants May Cost You

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Louisiana Town, Wearing Low-Rider Pants May Cost You

Article excerpt

Buying jeans three sizes too big, young men across America, many of them black, are taunting both the laws of gravity and fashion by wearing their pants below their behinds.

But if they won't heed the age-old mother's lament to "pull your pants up," will judges have to step in to enforce a general belt- tightening?

As states, cities, and activists across the country either outlaw or hold belt rallies to draw attention to the trend of "saggin'," Delcambre, La. (pop. 1,700) last week took the boldest step yet. Getting caught with one's pants too far down could now cost $500 in fines - or six months in jail - at least on this side of Bayou Carlin.

"It's just unbelievable what they do with their pants," says Carol Broussard, the town's mayor. "What's next? Are they going to take their pants off completely?"

To be sure, it's not the first time middle America has kvetched - and even passed laws - about fashions from bell-bottoms to G- strings.

But in its zeal to right what they see as a fashion wrong that touches on immorality and indecency, critics say this gritty Cajun shrimp-and-oil village has waded into a racial and generational morass.

"This isn't so much about comfort or carelessness or letting something fall where it naturally falls, it's a specific look and a statement which some people have to work hard to affect, sometimes seeming to defy gravitational laws," says Robert Thompson, a pop- culture expert at Syracuse University in New York. "It represents a certain attitude and style that people are very nervous about."

Trend's origins

Taking cues from prison culture, where belts are banned, the trend has been around for several years, moving from urban hip-hop centers like Atlanta and New York out into the boonies, and emulated not just by blacks, but Anglos, Mexicans, and Vietnamese. Some kids say it's more for comfort than a statement, even though some take on a peculiar swinging gait to create enough thigh pressure to hold on. Others just hold them up.

"It's just a habit or something," says Tony, a young man in Delcambre with fuzzy corn rows and plenty of boxers showing. His mom, who didn't want to give her name, is blase. "They see it on TV," she says. "I don't see anything wrong with saggin'."

But many people, especially older ones, see it as a precursor to a dark, urban, hipster culture that brings with it crime and drugs, says Sylvester George, a retired oil field worker in Delcambre who supports the new ordinance. "It's not about fashion," he says. "It's indecent and worst of all it's disrespectful. I don't need to see that."

When a similar law with a $50 fine passed the House of Delegates in Virginia in 2005, editorialists panned it and the Senate declined to put it through to the governor. But its sponsor, Algie Howell, says attitudes have changed as the trend has expanded into middle and rural America. …

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