“Sagging,” a sartorial trend that involves young people, mostly male, wearing their pants so low that their underwear is partially or fully visible, will soon be a criminal offense in the city of St. Louis if one local legislator gets her way.
At community meeting on Thursday, Aug. 15, Alderwoman Marlene Davis called for a ban on the fashion statement, which she characterizes as lewd conduct.
If Davis gets her way, saggers could face up to 90 days of jail time or a $500 fine, though the alderwoman says that she is not seeking to penalize people. She is simply upset that, as she explained to the local Riverfront Times newspaper, the trend has gone to “such an extreme. It’s not fair to us trying to have a civilized society."
Davis first introduced her proposed sagging ban in June, as an ehnacement to existing anti-lewdness laws. Her new bill would criminalize “wearing pants below the waist which exposes the skin or undergarments which is likely to cause affront or alarm.”
The proposal has already raised objections from other city lawmakers, who argue that not only would the law violate basic First Amendment rights, but would disproportionately target young African-American men in inner city neighborhoods, with whom the style is popular.
"Most people would agree this targets black males," said Alderman Antonio French. “You already have a group of young men dealing with all kinds of issues in our city.”
The St. Louis bill is not the first time that sagging, a trend which started among prison inmates before spreading to the streets, has been singled out for criminalization. Lawmakers in Virginia and Louisiana have tried unsuccessfully to ban low-riding pants.
So prevalent is the anti-sagging movement that even President Barack Obama has weighed in, saying while a candidate in 2008 that laws againt sagging are a “waste of time,” though he added, “brothers should pull up their pants.”