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What Is Sagging?

Belts may help hold pants in place.
Sagging pants became a form of hip hop fashion.
It is accepted that sagging began in the U.S. prison system.
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  • Written By: Grayson Millar
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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Sagging is a largely male fashion trend that involves wearing the pants at a level on the body below the traditional position on the waist. The style is traditionally worn with baggy clothing and is associated with American hip hop culture, though it has been adopted by several other subcultures. It is commonly accepted that wearing low-slung pants originated in the prison system, and was initially displayed outside of prison with the rise of American gangsta rap culture. Sagging pants is often viewed as a subcultural expression of rebellion against traditional societal norms. Consequently, several controversial school and city clothing ordinances have been passed against sagging throughout the United States.

As belts are often not allowed inside of the US prisons, it is speculated that the trend of wearing low-slung pants originated as a result. The trend emerged outside of prison culture with hip hop artists associated with the gangsta rap style in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gangsta rappers often pursued a criminal image and became saggers to refer to prison clothing. Sagging, however, soon became common among young American males outside of gansta rap culture both inside the hip hop scene and outside of it.

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The sagging trend is generally restricted to male dress and is often paired with visible boxer shorts, oversized shirts, or a combination thereof. Many saggers wear oversized, baggy pants that are easily sagged. As a result, a belt is often required to hold the pants in place, though the belt will also be worn loosely to allow the pants to droop. The style is highly variable and throughout the 1990s became increasingly popular with numerous additional cultural groups, including skateboarders and snowboarders. In fact, early in the 21st century the practice became fashionable in combination with very tight pants, such as skinny jeans.

Owing to its historic association with subcultural groups, the practice of sagging is sometimes viewed in the US as indicative of the potential for unlawful behavior. As a result, numerous school and city clothing ordinances have been passed into regional legislation within the US against the wearing of low-slung pants and have categorized the style as indecent exposure. These ordinances are highly controversial and are sometimes perceived as carrying the possibility of racial undertones or, at minimum, discriminating against subcultural groups. Nonetheless, the practice of sagging has emerged as a cultural fashion trend in numerous areas outside of the United States and is largely responsible for the trend of low-rise pants which, in fact, are slightly sagged pants.

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ceilingcat
Post 12

@KaBoom - Well, I have to give Wal-Mart credit. They do know how to make a profit. I'm sure plenty of pairs of those sagging pants were sold.

Personally, I don't see the harm in this trend. I mean, besides the fact that the young mans pants may accidentally fall off his body. But seriously. A lot of trends become something completely separate from their point of origin. I think sagging pants have become just another clothing style, not a representation of thug life or something.

KaBoom
Post 11

When I was in high school and middle school, sagging pants were extremely trendy where I lived. And keep in mind I grew up in a very affluent, suburban area. The kids that were wearing these pants were definitely not "gangsta" or criminal by any stretch of the imagination.

At one point, I actually thought sagging pants had attained a degree of social acceptance. I was in Wal-Mart one day and I saw a pair of pants for sale in the young mens department that made me do a double take.

They were sagging pants with built in boxers! So the young men wearing these pants couldn't pull them up to their waist even if they wanted to! And they weren't showing their own boxers. I couldn't believe my eyes!

poppyseed
Post 10

As the article suggests, sagging did originate from the prison system. Belts are not allowed because a person can hang themselves or someone else with one. However, I wear pants every day without a belt, and my pants do not sag down below my behind.

In prison, there is a code. These guys are smart, and they know of ways to get around the rules. Heck, they even have their own language, in a way. And, when an inmate is wearing his pants in the sagging fashion it is to suggest to other inmates that he is available for sexual intercourse.

Many folks may not realize that sexual activity of any kind, even self-pleasuring, is against code of conduct in prisons. So, an unsaid signal had to be given to those looking for companionship from those looking to receive it.

Sagging is that universal signal.

blackDagger
Post 9

Personally, I’m not a fan of sagging. While I’m all about demonstrating a person’s creativity, I think there are many more ways of doing this than showing the whole world your underwear.

In the area where I live, actually, sagging isn’t about being yourself or letting your true self shine through. It is absolutely gang related, which makes it somewhat dangerous. As a result, our public school system has implemented a uniform policy this very year.

Now, naturally, this did not completely stem from sagging, but from a whole host of gang activity. I think that the new policies are actually helping, too. When everyone has a strict way to dress, gangs have a far more difficult time of showing their colors.

StarJo
Post 8

@lighth0se33 - That’s great that your school officials didn’t enforce a strict dress code. I think that fashion is an important way for young teens to find and express themselves, and allowing for creativity in this department can help them develop artistically.

My school didn’t ban sagging pants either. There was a group of four girls who wore them regularly, and they had formed a hip-hop band. It was just part of their look.

The school didn’t even complain when they gave impromptu musical performances on the school lawn. Their fashion choice was so much a part of their overall image that I think they wouldn’t have burst out into song if they hadn’t been able to wear the sagging jeans.

lighth0se33
Post 7

You don’t see a whole lot of girls wearing sagging jeans, but in my school, there was one group of females who used this as sort of a uniform amongst themselves. They were outcasts with poor grades, attitude, and a reputation for being tough.

Society’s view of people who wear sagging pants fit these girls. I think that’s why they decided to start wearing them. Some of these girls used to wear skirts and dresses, but once they became initiated into the group, those were forbidden.

Our school was one of the few in the nation that allowed students to dress pretty much any way they wanted. The school board maintained that this helped students develop a sense of individuality, and they didn’t want to take that away from them.

wavy58
Post 6

@ysmina - I used to wear sagging jeans to fit in as a teenager, and they were highly uncomfortable. I only wore them that way because I had gotten teased for wearing jeans the regular way, and I wanted to be perceived as cool.

Whenever I wore them, I felt self-conscious constantly about how low they were. I kept checking to make sure that they hadn’t fallen completely off my rear.

I hated the looks that I got from adults while wearing sagging jeans. I told myself that as soon as I graduated, I would stop wearing them forever.

When I got to college, no one wore them. It was trendy to look presentable there, and I loved the opportunity to wear comfortable, snug clothing.

cafe41
Post 5

What I think is so sad is that these young kids wanted to emulate men in prison. I think that it is disgraceful when I see young kids dressed like this. At my children’s school it is strictly forbidden.

As a matter of fact, children are sent home if they are not wearing a belt and if their uniforms do not fit them properly. I think that for this reason all schools should have a uniform policy because it would be very difficult for these young boys to wear their pants that way if the school had a strict dress code.

Kids need to learn that they are being judged not only for what they know and how they are, but for how they present themselves. I think that high schools should offer courses that explain this concept to kids so that understand what the proper attire is when going on an interview for college and beyond college.

shell4life
Post 4

It seems like it would be very dangerous for skateboarders and snowboarders to wear sagging pants. The pant legs could easily get caught under a wheel and make the skateboarder fall flat on his face, or they could somehow snag on something in the snow and cause the boarder to fall off and possibly tumble down the slope.

Also, what about rainy days? I know that when my pant legs are even a bit too long, they get soaked as I walk through wet parking lots and sidewalks to work. I would imagine that sagging pants would become completely saturated.

sunshined
Post 3

While I have seen many young men wearing sagging jeans, I never knew there was an actual name for it. I also find the history of this very interesting, as it makes sense with no belts being allowed in prison.

I never understood why they wanted to wear their jeans hanging down with their underwear showing. For me it seems to show a lack of ambition or pride in their appearance.

I always told my boys that if I were interviewing 2 people for the same job and their experience was the same, but one showed up in sagging jeans vs one who had nice fitting clothes, I would lean toward the one without the sagging jeans every time.

I think the way we dress shows how well we take care of ourselves and even a little bit about our character. There are some things you can't control, but this is one thing that is clearly a choice.

turquoise
Post 2

I remember I was in High School when people started wearing saggy pants. My school forbid it right away and the teachers even used to walk around the hallways with ropes. Whenever they saw a student with saggy pants, they would use the rope as a belt to pull their pants up.

It wasn't enough to prevent them from dressing like that though. It actually became a trend to wear saggy pants with rope belts for a while!

I don't think that wearing saggy pants really has a racial undertone. My High School was almost 100% white and there were plenty of male students wearing saggy pants. So I don't think that this is unique to any racial or ethnic group.

ysmina
Post 1

I dislike guys who wear sagging pants. I don't think it's fashionable at all to show everyone your boxers. It's really annoying and I think it must be pretty uncomfortable for them too. I see some guys with sagging pants that constantly feel the need to pull them up. Either they are so loose that they are about to drop completely or these guys actually don't feel very comfortable in these pants.

I think this is just a trend that got carried away and young kids felt like they needed to do it to look like their friends or to belong to a group. I don't think it's going to last very long personally. I also don't understand how parents let their kids go out of the house like that.

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