I remember when I first saw young men with denim jeans that appeared to be two-three sizes too large. Immediately I thought of Fat Albert and the Gang because when I first saw those cartoon characters I had the same disturbing gut reaction as when I saw the sagging jeans. When I saw the Fat Albert kids, I wondered what in the world possessed the creators to dress the young inner-city characters so sloppily? I mean, why were all of the garments over sized? I think I decided that they were dressed that way because they had to keep their clothes for so long before they were replaced, that they had to be large enough to grow into.
But, clearly, lack of funds is not the reason for the popularity of the over sized denims worn throughout inner city communities for over ten years, now. Many of the young people have more money to spend on their wardrobes than most of us born before 1965 could ever imagine. In fact, they often match these huge pants with $400 shoes, $200, and diamond earrings as large as your earlobes. So ,what would possess someone with an apparent fashion sense that results in a single, everyday, casual outfit costing upwards of $1,000, to compliment that outfit with huge, sagging pants that drag the ground, and hide much of the $400 shoes while revealing so much of their underwear that law enforcement would have deemed them indecent just 20 years ago?
For years, while this fashion trend disturbed me on so many levels, I refrained from criticizing because my teenage years were spent rebelling against the status quo by being one of the first in my circle to wear an Afro hairstyle, large hip-huger, elephant-leg pants and stomach revealing mid-drift blouses. Wow, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t the best dressed young lady in the neighborhood. Yet, my parents, my friends’ parents, my teachers and practically all other adults, despised my fashion sense and tried with all of their might to restrict when and where I could wear my favorite outfits. They never got use to the Afro, even after it became a nationally accepted hairstyle. I swore that when I became an adult I would not attempt to influence the personal style choices of the youth in my circle. Yet, as the sagging became more and more extreme, with either no belt or with the underwear becoming as much a part of the ‘look’ as the jeans, I realized that I didn’t only think that the fashion is ugly, I think it is asinine.
As a child of the sixties, I lived through the civil rights movement when black males were the target of racists wearing different uniforms, especially law enforcement uniforms. As such, we didn’t believe in calling the police on a black man; we would be more inclined to handle the situation ourselves. And we encouraged black males to run from the police as fast as their strong, muscular, legs could carry them. When I first saw a guy wearing a sagging pair of jeans with the belt tight around his thighs, he resembled a lassoed calf – a self-lassoed calf! Why, I wondered, would anyone want to willingly stymie his own movements? More recently I’ve noticed that those young men who remain in a time warp and continue to sag (even while their hip hop rapping role models have moved on to Brooks Brothers), have removed the belt, but now use one of their two hands to hold up the pants at the crouch.
Again, I ask myself, why would someone not only stymie their own movements, but occupy one of their only two hands with holding up a piece of clothing that has for over two centuries been secured with accessories created for the very purpose of freeing the hands for far more important activities? So, let me get this right – inner-city youth, especially if they are trying to make a statement regarding their toughness, choose, on their own volition, to function with both of their legs and one of their hands restricted at all times. And, they have no concept that this might just be the absolute worst use of their hands and legs – especially if tough is what they are after.
It Just Occurred to me that these young folk have become psychologically influenced to believe that they must, at all times, remain restricted. That they must never be allowed to move, at will, from point A to point B. That they must never have total use of their limbs to deconstruct their decaying environment; to rebuild new communities; to create beauty in the midst of chaos; to invent tools and technology to help them soar beyond their wildest dreams, and to assist, with both hands and feet, all of the broken, weak, and disabled among them.