Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 17, 2013

Pull Up Your Pants!

Outreach minister asks J’Ville city council to ban droopy drawers practice known as ‘sagging’

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — A Jacksonville outreach minister plans to lobby the city council to prohibit the practice of “sagging” – wearing drooping britches that expose underwear.

Calvin Brown, founder of the recently-established men's outreach ministry “Brothers On The Move,” initially approached the Jacksonville City Council about the matter during the public comments portion of their July 9 meeting. Brown later told a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter he is looking to collect enough signatures on a petition to convince the council it is the will of the people.

Brown, 41, said he considers sagging to be a very real and dangerous problem for kids.

“Many of the kids who do this don't know its history – that it started in the prison system,” Brown said.

City Manager Mo Raissi said he immediately started looking into the issue after hearing from Brown. Raissi said Tuesday that private businesses such as various airlines and bus authorities have had more success prohibiting sagging than government entities.

And actually, city councils and legislatures have hit a few walls trying to prohibit sagging in the past because it revolves around the issue of civil rights, he said.

“This is a constitutional right,” Raissi explained. “We had our attorney look into it a few years ago. After the last council meeting I asked Police Chief Reece Daniel to call his fellow chiefs around Texas and ask if anything has been done about it since then. We have yet to find a city that has done anything.”

“Sagging” is, by definition, the practice of wearing slacks, shorts, pants or jeans that sag so low they hang below the waist and often reveal, for instance, brightly colored and pattered boxer underwear.

Snopes.com – a reference website for urban legends, Internet rumors and other stories –  has verified that Brown is correct: the practice of sagging did originate in United States prisons.

This practice became very common because of the lack of belts in prison. Belts were prohibited there so they could not be used as instruments of suicide or to harm others.

In the 1990s, many hip-hop artists such as Ice-T adopted the style outside prison walls, according to Snopes.

While “sagging” is practiced primarily by men, some women have adopted a variation of it. This involves wearing low-rise jeans that display G-string underwear.  

Brown, who grew up in Jacksonville, said he watched the practice of sagging evolve and it was very disheartening. Brown graduated from Jacksonville High School around 1990. He attends  White's Temple Church of God in Christ. He has been married to his wife Crystal for five years and has six children.

Brown said ultimately he worries about the influence sagging will have on youngsters – specifically the negative effect it could have on one's work ethic and ability to function normally in today's society.

“Think about it like this: A young person applies for a job,” Brown said. “Say you're the boss. Would you as that boss be willing to hire someone who dresses like that? This boy could be the best worker you'd ever meet. But could you bring yourself to hire someone whose pants droop like that? I really don't think that I could.”

Brown said youngsters who practice sagging become part of a mob mentality, which he perceives as problematic. “They are only doing this because everyone else does,” he said. “And I wonder: do they know they are perpetuating a prison practice? And if so, do they care? It's really getting out of hand.”

Other cities and states around the country have made their own attempts to prohibit sagging.

For example, on June 12, 2013, the Wildwood New Jersey Town council unanimously voted to ban sagging pants from its boardwalk. That issue is still evolving.

The legislatures in Texas and Virginia apparently halted efforts to ban sagging when they learned state residents greatly opposed such a measure, reports show.

As Raissi said, private businesses have had significantly more success banning sagging than governmental entities.  

“The issue is being careful not to violate any state or federal laws in the process because if you do that, you're in a lot of trouble,” Raissi said.

Some efforts to curb sagging in recent memory:

• In Fort Worth in June 2011, the transportation authority – known as “The T” – created a policy that prohibited any passengers from coming aboard a bus with sagging pants – particularly if it exposes their underwear or rear end.

Slogans for the effort included “Pull 'em up or find another ride.” As many as 50 people were removed from the city bus the first day the pouchy was enforced.

• In May 2004,  Louisiana legislators tried to create House Bill 1626. This HB would have made it illegal to wear, in public, clothing that “intentionally exposes undergarments or intentionally exposes any portion of the pubic hair, cleft of the buttocks or genitals.” HB 1626 was ultimately killed by the state's senate.

• In February 2005, the Virginia House of Delegates passed the “Droopy Drawers Bill.” This legislation created a $50 fine that could be imposed on on people who were “sagging” to the point their underwear was visible in a “lewd or indecent manner.”

However, the Droopy Drawers Bill was killed by a senate committee a couple of days later.

• In Florida, a state law was created prohibiting sagging at any school. First time offenders were verbally warned, while second timers had their parents notified by the school principal. Further offenses resulted in in school suspension.

• Airlines adopted similar policies. A University of New Mexico football player was kicked off a U.S. Airways flight en route to Albuquerque, New Mexico for wearing sagging pants.

Months later, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight en route from Oakland to Burbank, California. He, too, was sagging.

• An Alabama County circuit judge sentenced a 20-year-old man to three days in jail in April 2012 for wearing sagging blue jeans in court that exposed his underwear.

The judge, John Bush, told the defendant, “You are in contempt of court because you showed your (rear end) in court.”

Ultimately, Brown said he sees sagging as a very bad influence and a major problem for both children and parents.

Brown intends to personally create a website to help monitor the issue through his new outreach ministry.

He can be reached at calvinlbrown39@yahoo.com or by cell at 903-372-6080.

“It's time to pull those pants up off the ground,” Brown said.