Sagging (fashion)

Sagging (fashion)
Sagging in London, 2010.

Sagging is a manner of wearing trousers (slacks, shorts, pants or jeans) below the waist, hanging below the waist area and therefore revealing much of the underwear. Sagging is predominantly a male fashion. Women wearing low-rise jeans to reveal their G-string underwear (the "whale tail") is not generally considered sagging.[1]

An individual that participates in the practice of sagging may be referred to as a sagger.[2]



Lee D. Baker, Dean of Academic Affairs at Duke University, states that it is widely believed that sagging was adopted from the United States prison system where belts are prohibited.[3] Belts are sometimes prohibited to keep prisoners from using them as weapons or in committing suicide by hanging themselves.[4][5] The style was later popularized by hip-hop artists in the 1990s.[4] It has since become a symbol of freedom and cultural awareness among many youths[6] or a symbol of their rejection of the values of mainstream society.[7]


During the first decade of the 21st century, many local governments, school systems, transit agencies, and even airlines passed laws and regulations against the practice of wearing sagging pants, although no state or federal laws have been enacted banning the practice. This is primarily due to the fact that the practice is commonly associated with a part of hip-hop culture that belittles women, glamorizes violence, and violates "traditional" clothing standards.[dubious ][8] Barack Obama, speaking just prior to the 2008 US Presidential Election appeared on MTV and stated that laws banning the practice of wearing low-slung pants that expose one's underwear were "a waste of time". However, he did follow that up with the statement: "Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What's wrong with that? Come on. Some people might not want to see your underwear. I’m one of them."[9]

In June 2007, the Town Council of Delcambre, Louisiana, passed an indecent exposure ordinance, which prohibited intentionally wearing one's pants in such a way as to show underwear.[10]

In March 2008, the Hahira, Georgia, City Council passed a controversial clothing ordinance, in the name of public safety, that bans citizens from wearing pants that are below the waist and reveal skin or undergarments. The council was split 2–2, but the tie was broken by the mayor.[11]

Benetta Standly, statewide organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia stated, "In Atlanta, we see this as racial profiling ... It's going to target African-American male youths. There's a fear with people associating the way you dress with crimes being committed."[12] The interim police chief of Flint, Michigan, ordered the arrest of saggers for disorderly conduct; however, as of August 2008, only warnings had been issued. The local chapter of the ACLU has threatened legal action in response, saying that sagging does not violate the Flint disorderly conduct ordinance.[13]

Sagging clothing is a violation of some school dress codes,[14][15][16] and the prohibition has been supported in the court system.[17]

Just two weeks after the "Pants on the Ground" video became popular thanks to American Idol (See below), a billboard campaign against the style of sagging pants was launched in the Dallas, Texas, area. The billboards feature Big Mama Joseph from the 1997 film Soul Food saying, "Pull 'Em Up!" and asks youngsters to "Keep it a secret!" The campaign is the brainchild of Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine R. Caraway, and uses advertising space donated by Clear Channel Outdoor.[18] Another billboard campaign against sagging pants was launched in Brooklyn by New York State Senator Eric Adams on March 28, 2010.[19] In May 2010, New York State Senate President Malcolm Smith used $2,200 from his campaign fund to launch a similar campaign in Queens.[20]

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Japanese snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo was barred from participating in the opening ceremonies due to dressing sloppily, including a loosened tie, shirt hanging out, and sagging pants.[21]

In the Fall of 2010 at Westside Middle School in Memphis, Tennessee, the policy on handling sagging pants is for students to pull them up or get "Urkeled", a reference to the character Steve Urkel of the 1990s television show Family Matters. In this practice, teachers would pull their pants up and attach them there using zip ties. Students would also have their photo taken and posted on a board in the hallway, for all of their classmates to see. In an interview with WMC-TV, Principal Bobby White stated that the general idea is to fight pop culture with pop culture.[22] One teacher at the school claimed to have "Urkeled" up to 80 students per week, although after five weeks, students got the message and that number dropped to 18.[23]

On November 23, 2010, Albany, Georgia passed a city ordinance that banned the wearing of pants or skirts more than three inches below the top of the hips, and placed a fine of $25 for the first offense up to $250 for subsequent offenses. By September 2011, City Attorney Nathan Davis reported that 187 citations have been issued and fines collected of $3,916 since the ordinance went into effect.[24]

On December 8, 2010, the city of Opa-Locka, Florida voted unanimously on a $250 fine or 10 hours of community service for individuals who do not pull their pants up.[25]

In Fort Worth, Texas, the local transportation authority implemented a new policy in June 2011 that prohibits any passenger from boarding a bus while wearing sagging pants that exposes their underwear or buttocks. Signs were posted on buses saying, "Pull 'em up or find another ride" and one City Council member is looking for funds for a billboard campaign. The communications manager for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority said that on the first day the policy was enforced, 50 people were removed from buses for wearing improper pants. Some complained about the policy, but the overall response has been positive.[6]

A new state law in Florida recently went into effect for the 2011-2012 school year banning the practice of sagging while at school. Pupils found in violation will receive a verbal warning for the first offense, followed by parental notification by the principal for the second offense, which will require the parent to bring a change of clothing to school. Students would then face in-school suspension for the third (and later) violations.[26] Several US airlines have also reportedly kicked flyers off of flights for wearing pants too low. In June 2011, The University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman was removed from a U.S. Airways flight bound for Albuquerque, New Mexico for wearing sagging pants. This was followed a few months later when Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank, California for wearing saggy pants.[27]

Music videos

This practice has been ridiculed in music videos. First, in the 1996 song Back Pockets on the Floor performed by The Green Brothers of Highland Park, Michigan.[28] Another song in 2007 by Dewayne Brown of Dallas, Texas entitled Pull Your Pants Up has a similar message.[29] In January 2010, "General" Larry Platt performed, Pants on the Ground, during the January 13, 2010, auditions for the ninth season of American Idol in Atlanta, Georgia.[30]


  1. ^ "In Pictures: Sagging Pants". BBC News. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ Lung, Haha (2008). Mind Fist: The Asian Art of the Ninja Masters.. Kensington Publishing Corp.. pp. 168. ISBN 0-8065-3062-6. 
  3. ^ Baker, Lee D (2009). "Saggin' and Braggin". In Waterston, Alisse; Vesperi, Maria D.. Anthropology off the Shelf: Anthropologists and Writing. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 47. ISBN 9781405189200. 
  4. ^ a b Koppel, Niko (August 30, 2007). "Are Your Jeans Sagging? Go Directly to Jail.". New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (October 15, 2005). "Sag Harbored". Snopes. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Forsyth, Jim (June 2, 2011). "Saggy pants mean no ride on one Texas bus system.". Reuters. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  7. ^ Westbury, Anthony (October 21, 2010). "Saggy pants symbolize what's gone wrong in black community, kids say". TCPalm (Florida). Retrieved August 24, 2011. 
  8. ^ Thomas, Robert Murray (2008). What schools ban and why.. Westport, CT 06881: Praeger Publishers: An Imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.. pp. 85. ISBN 978-0-313-35298-0. 
  9. ^ Haberman, Clyde (November 13, 2008). "Can Obama Help Kill Baggy Pants Look?". New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  10. ^ Siddique, Haroon (June 14, 2007). "US town bans saggy pants". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group).,,2103190,00.html. Retrieved June 15, 2007. 
  11. ^ Fulton, Malynda (March 6, 2008). "Hahira passes clothing ordinance". Valdosta Daily Times (Associated Press). Retrieved March 6, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Crackdown! - Cities begin to belt wearers of saggy pants — but do laws violate rights?". Associated Press. September 17, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2008. 
  13. ^ Bennett, Jessica; Mary Chapman (18 August 2008). "Fashion Police: Flint Cracks Down on Sagging". Newsweek. Retrieved November 10, 2008. 
  14. ^ Board Approves Dress Code Changes, Fresno Unified School District, 1993, retrieved 2008-11-23
  15. ^ Central Unified School District Dress Code, Central Unified School District, retrieved 2008-11-23
  16. ^ Anderson Union High School District Dress Code Guidelines, Anderson Union High School district, 2008-08-20, retrieved 2008-11-23
  17. ^ Brunsma, David L. (2004). The school uniform movement and what it tells us about American education: a symbolic crusade. Scarecrow Education. pp. 60. ISBN 1-57886-125-X. 
  18. ^ Heinz, Frank (January 26, 2010). "City Begins Battle Against Saggy Drawers". Retrieved February 3, 2010. 
  19. ^ Pearson, Jake (March 28, 2010). "Sen. Eric Adams fights 'crack' epidemic by launching ads urging youth to pull up saggy pants.". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 29, 2010. 
  20. ^ Schneiderman, R.M. (May 17, 2010). "Ad Campaign Asks Queens Bus Riders to Pull Up Their Pants". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 28, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Japan rider apologises for hip-hop dress attire". AFP. February 12, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  22. ^ Bruce, Becky (December 7, 2010). "Threat of 'Urkel' solves sagging pants problem". Retrieved December 8, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Students get 'Urkeled' for baggy pants". ABC2. December 7, 2010.'urkeled'-for-baggy-pants. Retrieved December 8, 2010. 
  24. ^ "City Makes Thousands From Sagging Pants.". WYFF-TV. September 27, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  25. ^ "'Pull Your Pants Up,' City Officials Say". WPLG Local 10. December 8, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  26. ^ Valero, Marc (August 2, 2011). "Droopy drawers' law is mixed bag.". The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong Kicked Off Plane for Saggy Pants.". US Magazine. September 3, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  28. ^ "'Pants on the Ground' similar to 'Back Pockets on the Floor?'". USA Today. January 26, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  29. ^ Goodwyn, Wade (October 24, 2007). "In Dallas, a Hip-Hop Plea: Pull Your Pants Up". NPR. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  30. ^ Jonsson, Patrik (January 16, 2010). "‘Pants on the ground’ goes viral: Top five Larry Platt covers". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved January 16, 2010. 

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