Shreveport, Louisiana has repealed its ban on so-called “saggy pants,” that is, pants that rest well below the wearer’s hips, revealing their butts and/or underpants, in part because the law disproportionately affects black males, Baton Rouge’s WBRZ-TV reports. The repeal comes months after a young black man was shot and killed by a police officer who was attempting to stop him for violating the saggy pants law.
The late 2000s saw a wave of cities and counties across the U.S. enacting bans on the fashion trend, which is mostly confined to young men, particularly black men. Shreveport’s law, passed in 2007, allowed the courts to impose fines of between $100 and $250 on the offenders, Vice News reports.
In the 12 years that the ban was in place, 699 black men, and 12 white men, were prosecuted and fined under that law.
However, things came to a head over the law in Shreveport in February 2019. At the time, Officer Traveion Brooks was attempting to detain 31-year-old Anthony Childs over Childs’ sagging pants. Childs fled, and Brooks gave chase, shooting Childs three times. He was later found dead. Authorities say the gunshot wound that killed him was self-inflicted.
That was enough for the Shreveport City Council. On Tuesday night, the city voted 6-1 to abolish the law.
Shreveport City Council votes on saggy pants ordinance Tuesday https://t.co/camhY9rCyo— KSLA News 12 (@KSLA) June 11, 2019
Where Did The Saggy Pants Trend Come From?
According to Snopes, an urban legend claimed that the look emerged from prisons, where wearing one’s pants low was an indication of sexual availability. That’s not true. It did originate in prison, however; the sagging pants are a reference to ill-fitting prison clothes and the lack of availability of belts to hold them up.
Early ’90s rappers like Ice-T and Too Short popularized the look, and it soon became a fashion statement among young men, particularly young African American men.
Of course, not everyone is impressed with the fashion statement these men are making. The internet is filled with signs that hang on business doors comparing wearing baggy pants to diapers, or similar mockery, while banning customers from wearing them that way.
But in the late 2000s, cities began criminalizing the fashion statement. Pine Lawn, Missouri enacted a ban. Atlanta considered one. So did South Carolina’s state legislature.
However, those bans may be unconstitutional, writes law professor Neil Richards in Manhattan Makeovers. He writes that these laws are attempts to placate people who “have their feelings hurt” by seeing young black men in sagging pants and that they are unlikely to stand up to constitutional scrutiny.