Why do Black People Sag Their Pants? Sagging of pants was broadly popularized by hip-hop and rap culture as a tough guy cachet among black people. However, sagging pants is a history of dehumanization during slavery in America. Another school of thought believes black people started sagging their pants to emulate how inmates wear their prison uniforms.
This phenomenon has also been a signature fashion in skateboarding over the years.
You see it on the streets, at school, and maybe even in your own home, but have you ever wondered why black men sag their pants? For most black people, sagging is a form of expression and individuality. The majority of black folk who practice this trend believe that sagging your pants makes you look ‘tough’ and ‘gangster.’
There are plenty of theories behind this trend, and I think most of them make sense.
Let’s dive in and see why.
Fascinating Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Sagging Pants – History
Black people and their cultural practices have been the target of ridicule since time immemorial, from being mocked for how they speak and wear their hair in Afros to sagging their pants. While there are unique trends and habits in every subculture in the world that its members adopt, Black people have had to face innumerable instances of marginalization by those who don’t understand this practice.
The origin of sagging pants by black people is a history of dehumanization that you may not be aware of.
During slavery in America, there was a common custom called “Buck busting” or “Buck breaking.” Although these names originally mean to tame wild horses, southern plantation owners used them to describe black males. Defiant enslaved black men were “broken in”, using this tactic as if they were wild animals to tame them.
This was also done to discourage other enslaved black men from rebelling against their owners. Unruly black men were brought to a public area in front of everyone and told to remove their pants, where the master would rape them violently.
After the slave was violated, his master would force him to wear his pants without a belt and ordered to sag to demonstrate that he had been “broken in” or “busted.”
After knowing this reality, I don’t see any way it would be impossible for anyone to continue wearing sagging pants. However, it’s sad that society’s mentality has failed our young people, that this fashion has endured for three decades.
The Real History Behind Sagging Pants in the Prison system
Some people believe that black people started sagging their pants to emulate how inmates wear their prison uniforms.
It has been widely believed that sagging is used as a form of sexual signalling among prisoners and inmates in the prison system. However, this myth is not only unproven, but also has no evidence to back it up. This idea is probably rooted in the misunderstanding of prison culture.
Before the economic boom of the 1990s, the prison system was very different than it is today. Prisoners are often provided with clothing that is too large for them and are not allowed to wear belts because they could be used as weapons.
This forced them to wear their uniforms in a way that makes them appear sagged and not as a form of rebellion against authority, as many people believe. After their releases, they would continue this trend once they were back on the streets.
Sagging your pants because you think you are being rebellious or want to emulate prison life is ignorant and a lousy reason to continue a trend that may have started with an entirely different reason.
The evolution of sagging in Hip-hop and Rap culture
Sagging has a long and rich history in hip-hop. Early rap singers made the sagging trend famous, and it gained popularity as baggy clothing started to appear in the 1990s.
The hip-hop and rap culture broadly popularized the sagging of pants, a tough guy cachet among black people. Sagging jeans was initially done to create a style statement. With the rise of the baggy clothing trend inspired by Hip Hop culture, sagging jeans became one of the preferred ways to wear baggy jeans. According to Snopes, the fact-checking website, the adoption of this trend by rappers like Ice-T and Too Short later permeated into the mainstream teen culture by 1995.
For many black people around this time, sagging was an art, a way of expressing themselves. Tanisha C. Ford, an associate professor of black American studies and history at the University of Delaware, believes that because they frequently have the least, people at the margins are constantly experimenting with fashion and style while being creative with having limited resources and funds.
Sagging in skate culture
Skateboarding has always been a sport dominated by the youth. This subculture has always been about challenging the status quo.
Skaters often take their pants below their waist. The only difference is that while they wear saggy pants, these are usually skinny and not baggy like what early rap artists in the 90s used to wear.
They would sometimes wear skinny sagging pants as part of their overall look as an alternative to the typical fashion trend at the time, baggy jeans, to show off their style and individuality.
This trend has spread across all demographics of skaters, including teens new to the sport. The skater-sag pants were even more popularized with the emergence of the skinny jeans trend, which saw more celebrities embracing this trend.
Celebrities like Justin Bieber, among others, highly pushed the skinny jeans trend around early 2010 until now.
From Sagging to high fashion
More often than not, today’s famous hip-hop artists no longer sag their pants. Although a number of them still do. What is more evident, though, is that sagging is slowly disappearing in high fashion regular style since most of the people practicing the culture imitated their favorite artists and influential people in the rap industry.
The flow of the fabric and the aesthetic of the clothes are what drive the fashion industry. Sagging is just confined to streetwear and youth culture and cannot be adopted into high fashion. This is why you see all these partnerships between rappers today teaming up with high-end fashion brands. For example, Lil Yachty was named the Creative Director for Nautica in 2017,
A$AP Rocky being featured in the Dior Homme ad campaign, and Yves Saint Laurent featuring rapper Travis Scott. Rapper Pharrell Williams even designed eyewear and a jewelry line for the French Fashion house Louis Vuitton in 2008.
It is rare today to find a rapper adorning sagged jeans on the red carpet. Smith-Strickland, a fashion writer, says, “The entertainers who are considered the fashion icons, the pacesetters, have moved on from that.”
The true meaning why black people sag their pants
Sagging jeans has been practiced by black people for decades. Many assume that sagging is done because the wearer likes to show off their undergarments or is some sort of sexual signal.
In reality, however, sagging is something that is done for a variety of personal reasons. People who sag their pants may do so because they don’t conform to society’s expectations.
For the most part, sagging pants signify our pride in the black culture. People who sag their pants believe it is a way to show that you have no qualms with who you are and what your people have been through.
The culture represents the fact that they don’t care what other people think about us and the things that we do.
And that they are not ashamed of who we are and where we come from because our people have been through so much oppression, slavery, violence, and racism over the years. Instead, they sag their pants to show pride in our culture.
Is sagging still a thing Today?
While some people still wear sagging pants today, they are not widely accepted as part of mainstream fashion. Sagging pants are slowly becoming a thing of the past now. Men’s pants that look and fit better have replaced saggy pants.
Different communities have made an effort to outlaw this type of fashion statement. For instance, the Droopy drawers bill, which would have fined persons $50 for donning their trousers in a “lewd or immoral manner,” was approved by the Virginia House of Delegates in February 2005. However, two days later, a senate committee voted against the bill.
Another example is the House Bill 1626, which would have banned apparel in public that “intentionally exposes undergarments or purposefully exposes any area of the pubic hair, cleft of the buttocks, or genitals.” This was an attempt by Louisiana politicians to combat plumber’s crack in May 2004. The state senate voted against that bill.
Notably, there is no federal law against black people wearing their jeans below the waistline. In 2008, Barack Obama called the implementation of such laws “a waste of time.” And further advises, “Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants.
You are walking by your mother and your grandmother, and 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.”
Now, It’s Your turn to say NO to sagging
The sagging of pants has been a practice in black culture for decades. While there are countless theories as to why this trend has become so popular among this demographic, there is no denying that it has become a significant part of the African-American culture. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the history behind the sagging of pants and its dark history. This trend has survived for too long. With this understanding, you can now inform our young ins who may want to continue this trend that has an ugly origin and attracts negative views to the wearer of it and the entire generation. Let’s say No to sagging.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do saggy pants mean disrespect?
Sagging is commonly associated with prison culture and rebellion in our era. While a little demographic still embraces this trend, many people find it distasteful considering its history and not fashion.
Why do black people wear oversized clothing?
In many black homes, clothes are often handed down from one family member to another in order to save on the cost of buying new clothes. Oversized clothing can be attributed to this fact, for the most part
Why were 90s clothes baggy?
Baggy denim has long been associated with rebellion dating back to the James Dean era. This became a trend in the 90s.
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