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Fact Check: Did Sagging Pants Originate From Gay Sex Availability In Prison?

Fact Check: Did Sagging Pants Originate From Gay Sex Availability In Prison?

sagging pants
Fact Check: Did Sagging Pants Originate From Gay Sex Availability In Prison? Photo: Flickr / Alan Light / Creative Commons

There has long been a belief that the sagging pants trend favored by many young men originated from the prison restriction on inmates who were not allowed belts, making their pants sag. 

But there is another prison connection to sagging pants — one that suggests they were worn inside the pen as a sign of sexual availability.

Sagging pants as a fashion statement have been popular since the early 1990s and first showed up in hip-hop and skate culture. 

The rumor of sexual availability seems to be just that — a rumor. What’s more likely is that prisoners are not provided tools to hold up their pants.

“The real origins of the sagging fad did come from the American prison system, but not as a signal that the wearer was up for a bit of action,” Menswear Style reported. “In actual fact, prisoners were often given uniforms that were several sizes too big for them and due to suicide prevention efforts behind bars, were not allowed belts. This combination of factors led to inmates’ trousers riding at half-mast much of the time. As prisoners were released they continued to wear their trousers sagged and it wasn’t long before it creeped into the hip-hop dress code.”

The sagging trend has received backlash from the older generation and law enforcement.

Solid evidence about when and where sagging began remains elusive, according to Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc., an organization founded in 1992 as a prison advocacy group.

“States like Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, politicians have taken the anti-sagging movement to the next level by passing laws that criminalize the fashion trend by creating public decency ordinances,” said author and professor Marc Lamont Hill.

There are reports that sagging has been outlawed in 12 states. If caught wearing baggy pants in these states, you could face a $500 fine and even jail time.

As of 2018, saggy pants were outlawed in various South Carolina cities and parts of Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, and New Jersey, Yahoo reported. Each year, more cities have followed suit.

Schools, airlines, transport agencies, and local governments have drafted rules and regulations against sagging. Barack Obama called out sagging it in 2008, saying, “brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What’s wrong with that? Come on. Some people might not want to see your underwear. I’m one of them.”

But there is also a belief that sagging has its roots in slavery, dating back to a time when Africans were first enslaved in America. There was a custom called “buck busting” or “buck breaking.” Just like wild horses were tamed by “buck breaking,” plantation owners used similar techniques on defiant, newly arrived male slaves.

While there doesn’t seem to be much research on the matter, Vocal reported, “Unruly Black men would be taken to a public place where all the other slaves were watching and told to lower their pants and bend forward. At that point, the master would brutally rape the man. After this act of violation, the slave would be forced to wear his pants with no belt and allow them to sag, as evidence he had been ‘busted’ or ‘broken in’”. 

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.

Whether or not men are wearing their pants as a fashion statement, there is a lot read into the style. 

“By linking sagging pants to prison culture, opponents are able to scare the public into believing in a one-to-one relationship between fashion choices and social deviance,” Citizens Against Recidivism reported. “By connecting it to homosexuality, they are able to play on the homophobic myth that being gay is a social contagion that can be avoided through the use of a sturdy belt.”