Florida mayor wants saggy pants ban

10:03 AM, Aug 9, 2010   |    comments
A man walks down the street sporting saggy, baggy pants.
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COCOA, Florida - The mayor's ire at saggy, baggy pants that reveal underwear or boxer shorts could hit some of his constituents below the belt.

"It's inappropriate," Cocoa Mayor Mike Blake said. "That's a fashion fad I cannot participate in. I don't want to see yours, and you don't want to see mine."

After he received numerous complaints, Blake asked the city attorney to research how Cocoa might regulate below-the-rear end pants worn by young men or women that show off their underwear or boxer shorts.

Nothing has been presented to the city council yet.

Since 2007, dozens of cities across the U.S. have considered or passed indecency laws that ban low-slung pants that sit below the waist. Bans are already in place in six cities in Louisiana, Virginia and Georgia. Bans also have been considered or are in place in Dallas, Baltimore and Atlanta. The laws carry penalties ranging from warnings to fines to jail time.

Some view the bans, or even proposed bans, as an attack against an individual's Constitutional rights to freedom of expression. Others are embracing the limitations as a way to help restore good manners and improve their cities' images.

At the Joe Lee Smith Center, where elementary-aged children played games and swam in the outdoor pool, a group of about 10 women of a different generation who call themselves the "Magnolia Blossoms" made crafts and said the city couldn't move fast enough to pass a ban.

"It's another form of indecent exposure," said Lillie Clark, 60. "They have no self respect."

Sagging pants originated among inmates in prison. The look gained hold in 1990s hip-hop culture. Black youth began emulating the style, which eventually expanded into mainstream culture. Many young men today who wear sagging pants, with or without belts, often wear long T-shirts or dress shirts, which cover their undergarments.

It irks Rosa Kelly, 64, when she sees young men hook their pinky finger in the belt loop to keep their pants from falling down as they run across streets.

"Some don't have on a long T-shirt and you're looking at half their behind. It's ridiculous," she said.

Deputy Mayor Jim McCarthy said the style of dress should be disallowed in some public places.

"You want to wear your boxers, stay at home," McCarthy said. "I think we need to address it in certain public places, like libraries. It can't hurt. Maybe give people a warning."

LaShera McDowell, 24, works with young people at Crosswinds Youth Services. Her friends dressed that way when she was younger, she said.

"Now that I'm older and mature, I see it as disrespectful," she said.

McDowell was with a number of young people under 18 at Carl Anderson Park. The mention of a possible city regulation set off a number of objections from the teens, including a couple of them who were wearing saggy pants with shirts that covered their underwear.

They said such a ban could inflame young people's relations with police; they argued that people have a right to wear what they want.

Some also think such regulations can cause profiling, either racially or against young men in general, assuming that wearing saggy pants means they are part of a drug or gang culture.

Delores McLaughlin, who works with young people in the Weed and Seed anti-crime program, said she questions if a city ban is the answer.

"It's going to take parents, teachers, everyone who impacts a child's life to let them know at an early age that it's unacceptable," she said.

Rebecca Basu, Florida Today

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