Baggy, hip-hop-inspired pants may have no immediate, utilitarian value to humanity. And though it’s a matter of taste, there’s a good argument to be made that they (and the underwear they often reveal) lack aesthetic value. But that doesn’t mean baggy pants corrupt youth, leading to America’s downfall, and hence they definitely shouldn’t be banned.
Today, however, a small town in north Florida is doing just that, as its citizens think these modern garments make society more evil and crass.
The citizens of Baldwin who are proponents of a newly passed ordinance prohibiting its residents from wearing pants below their waist (exposing their undergarments!) couldn’t be more wrong, however. As reported by the St. Petersburg Times, the town council thinks the ordinance is being done to “protect the welfare of the residents.”
Punishment for wearing pants too low will range from community service to fines.
More telling, however, is the story behind the ordinance that the Times details, as it appears the people are more concerned with the perceived causal relationship between this newfangled fashion and moral decline. Baldwin, which used to be the type of small agricultural American town where neighbors knew each others’ names and watched each others’ children, is becoming more contemporary, which naturally makes some longtime residents uncomfortable.
Residents incorrectly chalk up said discomfort to a decline in morality, which somehow is the result of baggy pants.
It is not only a waste of time and taxpayer money to create, enact, and enforce such a law, but a blatant violation of the constitutional right to free expression. Unfortunately, more towns in Florida and the United States are joining the bandwagon, as Baldwin’s ordinance follows the lead set by other small towns in the South and a similar bill going through the Florida Legislature, which would prevent students in public schools from wearing clothes in this particular fashion.
By doing so, these towns are trying to change a perceived problem in American morality in completely the wrong way.
Instead of getting to the, well, seat of the problem, they seek to attack an easier target – dress – in an arguably illegal way.
If there is a decline in morality, perhaps advocates of legal dress codes should seek to make an impact on others in a less superficial way. Moralists could mentor children rather than hurry to make them criminals for what amounts to nothing more than perceived poor taste in dress.