As I come to my half-century+1 birthday this week, I find myself both amused and troubled by the proposed No-Sagging ordinance in the city of St. Louis. No fashion style is more confusing to me than what is popularly called “sagging” and no initiative more counter-productive than banning it. As a woman old enough to remember the scandal of boys with long hair, I need to weigh in on the ridiculousness of the proposed ordinance.
I’ll skip the commentary about the embedded racism of the ordinance; it’s a question asked and answered and those who have ears have already heard. Choosing to ban a fashion that is worn by one particular subset of our culture and then claiming that it isn’t a reflection of our attitude about that subset is absurd, but I’ll let someone else take up that argument.
And I want to be clear that my support of ‘sagging’ (or rather my opposition to banning it) is not a vote for male exposure. I’d be the first to admit that lewdness makes me queasy, but that’s not what we’re talking about with an anti-sagging ordinance. When the “style” morphs into exposure as it unfortunately can, there are plenty of ordinances about indecency that can be called in to assist. We have plenty of rules and laws to enforce the coverage of private parts (ask Janet Jackson about “wardrobe malfunctions”).
As I ponder Jackson’s unfortunate encounter with America’s bizarre and conflicting standards regarding fashion, it strikes me that banning “sagging” is akin to banning “bikini straps”. Like bikini straps, sagging is a style whose domain are svelte young bodies that most of us will never again know. Quite frankly, sagging isn’t a fashion that is in danger of catching the rest of us. Trust me. Although youthful bodies sport skimpy swimsuits and sagging pants, those of us with the markers of time will continue to opt for the coverage available from the likes of LL Bean rather than the more revealing fare offered at Old Navy.
As a casual observer, I have a confession: I have begun to develop an appreciation of the fashion. Before you judge me, hear me out. First of all, there is remarkable creativity and color in the boxer department. The quilter in me can’t help but appreciate the array of cotton colors. But even more intriguing than the fabrics is the grace exhibited when walking with a belt around your thighs. If we all had to try it before we threw stones, the pile would never empty. In terms of giving credit where due, let’s face it – credit is due here.
But what if we simply don’t like the fashion? Say it offends our sense of style and/or taste? If disdain is a reason to criminalize fashion, I’m going to add gingham and eyelet to the list. I wore too much of it in my early years, trying to be something I’m not. It’s taken literally decades of Goldilocks style trial and error to find fashion forms that fit both my body and my spirit. Which is really the point. This is a fad that our youth are trying on as they explore who they are and what feels good on their bodies. I highly doubt this is a fashion that they’ll still be sporting when they’re 50!
What I do know about teens is that the more the elders’ rail, the more the teens push back. The more we try to outlaw a behavior, the more tempting it becomes. If we really don’t want our teens to sag, we’ll buy them lots of colorful boxers and baggy pants. Or better yet, the braver among us could try sporting the fashion to show our support. With our embodied support (especially when our bodies sag as deeply as our pants), the fashion will lose its luster in short order.
In the meantime, lets empower our civil servants to work on the issues that really matter… some of the many issues include local control of our quality water, expanded recycling and composting programs, and cutting edge technology in our schools. Focused on what we do want, we’ll be offering less enticement for what we don’t.