NEWS

Editorial: Attempt to outlaw low-hanging pants misguided

Robert Buck

Watch out for the fashion police. They’re watching out for you.

Once thought to be the purview of teenage girls and elite, social-climbing yuppies, fashion policing has, alas, become a reality. And it has come to Illinois.

The Chicago suburb of Lynwood has joined a handful of communities across the country that have decided to institute a dress code. Specifically, Lynwood — and Flint, Mich., and Shreveport, La., among others — have made it a minor crime to wear baggy, low-hanging pants that expose more than a couple of inches of underwear. Civic officials say these laws, typically punishable only by fine, are intended to clean up their town’s image and instill some pride in the community. After all, what prospective business would want to locate there after seeing some young punks strolling down the street showing off their boxers? (Perhaps Hanes or Fruit of the Loom.)

The notion that such an image, ubiquitous as it is today, would ward off a potential developer is ludicrous. And yet, Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams said the ordinance was an effort to encourage development. And barber Jonathan Gammon told UPI he supported the new law. “I don’t want to see their drawers, personally,” he said. “It probably would scare people from out of town.”

Yeah, because downstaters haven’t seen such silly attire. Well, we have. And we’re not necessarily fond of it, either. But legislating public attire in this manner seems excessive. What’s next, shorts and skirts can’t rise above the knee? Shall we impose a ban on cleavage? Such a display of flesh could attract the wrong kind of business interests, you know.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said baggy-pants bans target young minority males. That may be, but we’ve seen kids of all descriptions wearing droopy drawers even below the buttocks. Frankly, it doesn’t look very comfortable. Of course, neither do neckties.

Strict clothing laws are not a new thing, to be sure. Los Angeles once considered the idea of banning baggy clothes — though not because they were too revealing. Zoot suits came under fire after the 1943 zoot suit riots. Certainly there were a variety of factors involved there, from racial tensions to patriotism (given the rationing of nearly everything, including fabric, during World War II).

It seems public officials in these towns simply don’t like the latest fashion trend — nor do we, to be honest — so they’ve decided to legislate it out of fashion. But that’s not the way to go about it. Perhaps if we really want to make baggy pants and billowing boxers a thing of the past, we should consider the advice of an anonymous commentor on the (Bloomington) Pantagraph’s Web site: “Here’s the solution to the problem courtesy of ‘South Park.’ All the parents and adults should start emulating the fashion. Once kids see adults doing the same thing, they will stop immediately.” (posted Aug. 30, 2007)

Go ahead, give it a try.

Galesburg Register-Mail