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Localities pass ordinances against droopy drawers, ACLU fights back

Saggy pants
Saggy pants
Liberty Unyielding

The origin of the "fashion statement," if it can be fairly called that, is hard to trace. According to the website A Different State of Black, the trend toward wearing one's trousers low enough to show off his boxers or briefs may have arisen out of poverty. Another theory holds that flashing three inches of their drawers originated with hip hop "artists," though that still leaves open the question of what prompted them to do this. Regardless, many communities around the country have decreed that showing off your undies should be an act punishable by law:

Two New Jersey beach towns eager to rebuild tourist economies trashed by Superstorm Sandy have passed ordinances banning pants slung so low that underwear can be seen. In the cities of Wildwood and Penns Grove, which approved bans on saggy pants this summer, the message is clear: Don't get caught with your pants down. In Wildwood, fines range from $25 to $200.

Similar ordinances have been proposed in suburban cities outside Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami and Jacksonville, Fla. In St.

Louis, Alderwoman Marlene Davis called a public hearing this week on a saggy pants ban she wants passed.

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"This is not a style," Davis told a St. Louis newspaper. "This is an absolutely vulgar display of disrespect not only to every human being who has to look at it, but also to themselves. It's totally out of control."

Yet, the "low-rider" movement has its fierce defenders. If you don't believe it, check out this 9-step "how to" at wikiHow targeted at middle school and high school pants wearers. For those teens and tweens who can't read, there is even a helpful video demonstrating this difficult-to-master sartorial style.

One of those defenders is the redoubtable American Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting back against Davis's laws, which it declares unconstitutional. Marjorie Esman, executive director of the New Orleans ACLU, said in response to a ban passed in Vermillion Parish near New Orleans:

There is a constitutionally protected liberty interest for people wearing the clothes that they want to wear.

The trend does have its up side. On more than one occasion, law enforcement officials were able to nab bad guys who were unable to flee on foot because of their droopy jeans.