Fashion fads have come and gone, causing dismay in each generation of parents. In the past, students had the hem of skirts measured from their knee, later students were sent home for short-shorts or inappropriate t-shirt slogans, yet none were ever considered “criminals.”
In the last few years, cities around the country have been dealing with the perceived “epidemic” of teens and young adults that wear their pants below the hips, low enough to show their underwear.
The trend has its roots in the prison system, but has spread into the so-called “hip-hop” culture and, as usual, impressionable kids have picked up on what their favorite artists are doing and are imitating it. Unfortunately, the reaction to this perceived problem is elected officials turning themselves into the fashion police by criminalizing dress.
The City of Hampton, a small town in South Metro Atlanta, recently received attention after passing a ban on “sagging pants.” The reason is behind their action, according the Henry Daily Herald, is the number of complaints coming from citizens. Hampton Police Chief Rad Porter says, “I felt we needed to do something about this conduct.”
Now someone caught wearing their pants more than three inches below the hips can be cited for “disorderly conduct” and could end up paying a fine ranging from $50 to $200.
The City of Jonesboro, not far from Hampton, is considering a similar ban on sagging pants even though Mayor Luther Maddox admits that “[i]t really hasn’t gotten out of hand yet.”
This may be a rude and undesirable trend, but looking like a fool in public is not illegal. Moreover, we have become a society so easily offended by some of the silliest things that we believe that governments should ban certain behavior even though it does not infringe upon our rights.
Whether the residents of these towns and their elected officials like it or not, the freedom of expression – which can come in many variations, including how someone dresses – is a protected form of speech under the First Amendment.
There are no doubt other more serious issues and problems in Hampton and Jonesboro that are in need of attention from their elected officials than how teenagers wear their pants.
by Bob Barr — The Barr Code