Saggy-pants origin

Hello Matt:

I hope this finds you and the Elves doing well. I know I am un-hip to most things these days, but something has puzzled me for quite some time. Why do certain fellows wear their pants or shorts below their rear end with the belt almost beneath the bottom of the underpants? What in the heck holds up the belt? I know the cops like that because it makes it hard for suspects to run, often tripping the offender, but how did that fad get started?

— Dan, Clairemont

Some hot debate surrounds the presence of baggy, saggy jeans at the heart of hip-hop fashion. The trend really caught on in the early ’90s, with gangster rap’s rise to prominence as the de facto culture of urban minorities. Karl Kani was the first mainstream designer to put extra-baggy jeans on the shelves at major retailers, but he was really just pushing the envelope on what a lot of people were already doing. One popular theory is that prison dress inspired the baggy look and that ex-cons brought it to the streets. That might be a part of it, but baggy clothes had a place in hip-hop before gangster rap. B-boys from the early days — taking it back as far as the late ’70s — wore parachute pants and other loose-fitting clothes because it was easier to execute the acrobatic maneuvers of break dancing.

As for holding up the pants, it’s a matter of technique. Once the belt is all cinched up, the best thing to do is walk with a little bit of a swagger. Having your feet splayed out a little bit generates the cocksure gangster’s saunter and keeps your pants from falling off. If you have to run somewhere, just hike them up and let fashion take a backseat to expedience.

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Emailed to me as a respones:

"In Glendale,CA in early 1950s (yes, 50s) the bad boys used to wear Levis with no belts ( belt loops cut off, waist band folded in 1/2) AND no underwear. Oddly, no one but we girls ever seemed to "pants" them. That's what pulling them down or off was called. There was another way of wearing Levis ( which only came in indigo): bleach the bejabbers out of them and not wear them as low, but still minus the belt loops and with waistband folded. The former type was NEVER washed,the goal being to have them so stiff with filth they'd stand up in a corner. These were called " originals". It was a great help if one worked on engines and was a natural slob. Some of us girls wore them dirty, but not loose enough to get "pantsed.""

-- Greasy in Glendale.

And another response from a reader:

"Some of the information you gave about "low rider" pants was okay, but you didn't go far enough. In the '40s, when I was in HS, we wore the pants low. Really low. We also invented a new infinitive: to pants. When we felt the urge, you know, embarrass some underclassman, we'd "Pants" them, i.e., yank the pants down. That was a laugh in the crowded hallways.So, this has been around for quite a long time. More? Well, in those days we heard over and over, "You haven't put your pants in the laundry for so long they stand up in the corner. Now, get them in the laundry before they rot.""

-- Olin

The origin as I understand it was convicts were given pants of random sizes and no belt. It became normal to have to walk holding up your pants. Gay convicts would advertise "availability" by letting the pants hang low. It became ghetto style, as many dressed while on vacation (the streets) like they were used to in their normal homes (prison). A clueless white kid sporting the look of a black, gay, convict is pathetic. Add "tribal" tattoos and a hat pointing the wrong way, and I cant help but laugh at them.

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