'Sagging' ban not worth effort for council, police

info@islandpacket.comDecember 8, 2012 

Beaufort County officials are looking to Jasper County for some guidance on a "sagging pants" ordinance here.

They should start with Jasper County law enforcement officials. That county's ordinance against pants that hang more than three inches below the hip, exposing either skin or underwear, is four years old and not one citation has been issued. That fact speaks volumes about where it (rightly) falls in enforcement priorities. Next to hear from would be Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

As we said in 2008, as Jasper County considered its ordinance, what a wonderful world it would be if we could legislate good taste -- especially our own. But one person's ugly outfit is another's fashion statement, and law enforcement officials have better things to do, barring obvious indecent exposure..

Beaufort County Councilman Gerald Dawson asked the council to consider an ordinance against pants that hang too low. He said it came at the request of a resident of his northern Beaufort County district.

"Jasper County Council some time ago passed a dress code ordinance to deal with inappropriate public dress," Dawson said. "What I'd like for us to do ... is take a look at this ordinance and see if this is an issue we want to address."

Beaufort County public schools already require students to wear their pants at their waistlines. That's a venue where such a ban can be enforced.

Outgoing Beaufort County Councilman Herbert Glaze, an assistant principal at Beaufort High School, said the problem wasn't as prevalent as it once was, but said he'd like to create the same expectations in and out of school.

There is not much point in passing a law that isn't going to be enforced, unless you just want to send a message. Somehow, we think those (mostly) young men in pants belted far south of their waistlines don't care and won't get the message, no matter how right the adults are.

As fashion trends go, this one has proved both tenacious and troubling. The origin of sagging is said to be prison garb -- pants too big and hanging low because belts are forbidden due to suicide concerns. The sagging-pants look apparently traveled from prison into the hip-hop culture.

Jasper and Beaufort counties are not alone. Across the country, local and state governments have debated and in some cases passed laws trying to ban sagging. In May, Tennessee legislators passed a statewide law banning the look in schools. A similar law is in place in Florida. In August, officials in Hinds County, Miss., took it up, saying sagging was contributing to youth unemployment.

Still, we contend parental and community pressure are better enforcers than police officers when it comes to youthful fashion.

As "American Idol" contestant Larry Platt sang in 2010, "Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground ... get your pants off the ground."

No ordinance could say it better.

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