They've taken over.
You might describe them as being pestilent, even annoying, or depending upon who you are talking to, they may be considered contagious. Depending upon your age, you may find them morally offensive and in some instances deadly, if they are used to hide a gun or knife.
Whatever the case, like a storm brought on by thousands of swarming locusts darkening the sky and the earth beneath your feet, they arrived on the fashion scene and took forecasters by surprise. Suddenly, there they were - out of nowhere - right before your eyes hanging boldly from the thin frail frame of young black males, the much talked about and very controversial, buttock-exposing jeans!
Nobody was able to predict the impact they would have on America's fashion trend, nor were they able to predict the length of time they would remain on the fashion scene. Seemingly, the only prediction they could make was that, without trepidation, young black males between the ages of 15 and 25 were "bagging it."
Locusts come and do their damage and then swiftly move on. However, these jeans, called baggies by their advocates, have not gone away. Early sightings of these buttock-revealing pants were in the spring of '89 and their grunge look and hip hop style began to gain a lot of momentum in the 90's.
Baggy pants haven't turned out to be as faddish as some fashion watchers thought. For example, LaMont Jones, Post-Gazette Fashion Editor, implied in an article dated Sunday, August 13, 2000 that baggy pants had dropped to an all time low. His headline was, "Back to School: Teens say so long to baggy, hello to sleek."
Jones' lead sentence in his story was, "Back-to-school fashions began taking on a less cumbersome look last fall, with big and baggy taking a back seat to more body-conscious styles."
Well, it's spring 2002 and big and baggy is still in the driver's seat on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T), dragging and sagging in Guilford County Schools from elementary to high school and can be seen on males from various ethnic groups anywhere in the city.
An interesting twist to this story is that people wear baggy pants for various reasons. Jarmen Wesley, a sophomore at N.C. A&T, who wears his pants baggy but in moderation, said, "some males wear their pants baggy to hide their normal size, especially if they are extremely, thin."
David Wedlock, a sophomore at the same school, said, "I am a very active person so I wear my pants baggy so that I am not restricted." Wedlock also stated that a lot of Caucasian males of high school age wear JNCO pants that are very baggy with wide legs.
Also, the search engines of Yahoo.com document that JNCO pants are the preferred pants of skaters who weave and wind their way along the sidewalks of our streets. Other results show that those who Tai Chi for health and fitness, Tai Chi in flat-soled shoes, absorbing loose shirts and you guessed it, baggy pants.
Wedlock and Wesley made two comments that are very important to understanding the baggy pants style. Wesley said Rap music had an impact on the fashion. "For example," he said, "Sean John is a line of clothing designed for Hip Hop singer Sean "Puffy" Combs, and his clothing passively rubs off on you along with his music."
Wedlock said something similar. He noticed that Caucasian males of high school age have a tendency to dress like the rock groups and punk bands that they admire. "It is not that they are imitating them, they just dress that way," he said.
Their statements are right on the money because in July and August of 2001 two articles appeared in newspapers making similar statements. An Associated Press article by Samantha Critchell, touted, "Television has become one of the most influential sources of fashion trends." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quips, "Teen fashion often mirrors celebrity style in big-time Blockbuster hits " These statements give the A&T student's remarks a lot of credibility and that they know how to wear their pants baggy!
There was a period when baggies were only socially acceptable for African American males between the ages of 14 and 25 and a select group of young men who were members of gangs or drug dealers.
This stereotyping may have been due to the controversy surrounding the origin of baggy jeans. Some observers believe that people from the Hip Hop community copied the pants that prisoners were issued while incarcerated and therefore the style became chic. Now baggy, unfitting pants ae an integral part of the dress code for most males.
Baggy pants, however, still have a long way to go before they become a household word throughout American society. An increase in school shootings around the country and the terrorism of September 11, 2001 has given rise to an old myth regarding why various males wore baggy pants. In the late 80's when baggy wearers first sashayed down the fashion gangplank, it was believed that gang members and drug dealers wore them to hide their drugs and weapons.
Keeping these issues in mind, it is easy to understand why males may not want baggies to be their 'revealing' choice and why the subject of dress codes for school children is on the minds of school board members and parents. Many schools, public and private, that have established dress codes are updating them and those who don't, are now working with parents, student councils and Guidance counselors to implement dress codes. When several of these school codes were reviewed, there was a great big flag waving and it wasn't red, white and blue. In bold black letters the codes read: NO BAGGY PANTS, CARGO PANTS, SWEATPANTS, OR JEANS ALLOWED.
Do those words make you feel like your reading a loud e-mail message? And did you notice how baggy pants won first place in the line up?
Pants, especially blue jeans, have a lot of history and it isn't surprising that they have become a symbol of American culture. A German Jewish immigrant, Levi Strauss, invented blue jeans, a 19th century creation. If he were alive today he would be surprised to see the highly technical and innovative changes that have been made to the "waist overalls" that he first designed from sturdy denim material. The power of jeans may be greater than the power of cheese because not only did they survive the Depression in 1930, they set the stage for American buying patterns that carried over into more prosperous times.
After the Depression, with the help of the media, Hollywood and a few alterations, jeans became a popular fashion. With their popularity another piece of history became impasse. Historically, parents, especially mothers, chose their son's clothing and until they were older teenagers, the boys had little to say in the matter. The pressure was on however, when wannabe boys in the late 30's wanted to imitate their favorite cowboy and have "Levi's" stamped on their back pocket.
What was once "mother's choice" became the "children's choice," especially since static's show that youth are major arbiters of fashion. For some parents there were problems.
A lot of "panting" has gone on with jeans over the past 100 years beginning with 1920 when jeans were worn mainly by boys in rural areas to the emerging of the still dominant "show your buttocks" baggy jeans of the 90's. Jeans have survived The Depression, gone through social change, wars and the American industrial revolution. Seemingly baggy jeans are doing the same.
Just like the demand for blue jeans forced Levi-Strauss, the dominant jeans manufacturer to make some changes in their original style, demand for baggy pants now does the same. Designers like Tommy, Savanna, J. Crew, Hagar and Khakis have added baggy to their line and some of the designs and additions are awesome. Consequently, the rough tough, hard, slim design of jeans has developed into a sophisticated market of baggy pants with silver studs, monograms, pictures and other forms of art.
Yes, there are males whose buttocks are still hanging out, but is it any different than the super micro-mini skirt that the young females wear that give you a 'view' when they sit down? And yes, some of the males who wear baggies and a big shirt look like a mound of dirty clothing waiting to be tossed into their mother's washing machine or the nearest Laundromat. However, there is no line of clothing that isn't complete, unless it has slobs for clients.
Credit has to be given to young men like, Artez Saulsby who always has his baggy outfit "together." Everything about Artez's baggy outfits exemplifies neatness, sensitivity and coordination. He is what the ladies call, "pressed." When asked why he wears baggy pants and accessories, the A&T junior said, "I started choosing my own clothes when I was about sixteen or seventeen and I chose the baggy style because it is comfortable. Also, I like to look good, so I make sure that everything I wear is well coordinated." That's phat!
Humble blue jeans have experienced transitions similar to their predecessors, such as the elegant Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, sailor suits and dressy pants. Baggy jeans just add dynamite to their humility.
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Levi Strauss (see a history of his line) would be surprised by current styles and so would the legendary Little Lord Fauntleroy. Imagine him, with his golden curly locks, stepping down out of his early 19th century picture frame dressed in his elegant fancy velvet suit with lace collar into the 21st century. Just one look would be all it would take for him to start running, skipping and stripping off his stuffy soft and prissy suit in exchange for a cool, easy, and spirited outfit from Sean John's collection. Can't you hear him shouting, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last"?
NCAT Journalism Magazine
Copyright ©2002 Darlene F. East
All Rights Reserved
Citation Permitted Only With Credit