The underwear might be under there, but showing your bottom is behind the times. That's what the experts — from kids to fashion historians...
DALLAS — The underwear might be under there, but showing your bottom is behind the times. That’s what the experts — from kids to fashion historians — say in response to the Dallas City Council’s plan to ban saggy pants in public.
While wearing pants so loose that underwear is visible isn’t a dead trend yet — go to any mall on a Friday night — fashionistas say obvious undies are on the outs.
“It’s over and overrated,” said 20-year-old fashion plate Christopher Collins, wearing designer sunglasses as he shopped at Valley View Center in Dallas. “You won’t find it that much anymore.”
But Dallas isn’t alone in its public denouncement of public displays of underwear. Last year, the Virginia Senate considered imposing a $50 fine on people who revealed their skivvies to the masses. The bill didn’t pass, which was no surprise to the clothes-minded.
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Irving Campbell, who works at Man Alive clothing store in Valley View, said the fashion police would have a harder time finding offenders today than a decade ago. Saggy pants are still here, he said, but they’re often covered by “tall tees,” popular T-shirts that are so long they brush the knee.
“Tall tees are the biggest thing out now,” Campbell said. “Wasn’t the underwear thing in the ’90s with Kris Kross?”
The origin of saggy pants is up for debate, but many believe it’s an evolution of ill-fitting prison garb. Since belts are often banned in the big house and uniforms aren’t tailor-made, pants would sag. Former inmates might have brought the fashion to the streets. Experts said the fashion caught on among young black men in the hip-hop culture of the 1990s, with young rap duo Kris Kross taking the trend to an extreme by wearing clothes both loose and backward.
Other subcultures — including skaters and punks — joined in, and the sagging phenomenon was born. “I believe that the kids that are buying the clothes are completely unaware that it’s related to prison fashion,” said Myra Walker, a professor of fashion history at the University of North Texas. At the trend’s ultimate, men’s pants sag below their bottoms, which gives the wearer a distinctive — and coveted — halting gait.
“It’s just the look,” said 19-year-old Darnell Williams, who said he believes the fashion is alive. “How’s it different from seeing a lady’s thongs above her jeans? I don’t see anyone having a problem with that.”
William Scheick, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin with expertise in American literature and culture, said there’s probably more at stake in this saggy-pants debate. “Attacks on fashion in clothing are finally not about the clothes themselves, but about what people interpret these clothes to mean,” he said. “What these fashions mean to the people who wear them may have no bearing whatsoever on what these clothes mean to those who do not like them.”
And in these uncertain times, droopy drawers might be easier to take on than social injustices. “During times of societal discomfort and anxiety, especially if a war is under way or people merely perceive some outside threat, fashion has been a recurrent target for people in authority who hope to exert some sort of control in a world that seems in so many ways out of control,” Scheick said.
But for Kevyn Rand, 18, in baggy pants and a shirt down to his knees, a ban is pointless. “We sag, but we wear shirts so you can’t see the underwear,” said the recent graduate of Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas. “Yeah,” added his friend Andrew Mgbenu, also 18, as they sat together at the Valley View food court. “Kids haven’t done that since eighth grade.”