One could reasonably argue that nothing got accomplished last night on a proposed ordinance prohibiting pants hanging under the ass. But it’s all worth it when the debate begins with state Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston), who is by all accounts a full-figured man, comparing what he looks like shirtless mowing his yard to Michael Phelps after he swims at the Olympics; then the debate ends with City Councilman Wendell Gilliard pulling out a department store dummy to show what saggy pants looks like.
Recognizing that the council could not support the proposal (with two key members absent), supporters found enough votes to defer the ordinance until later this year.
Saggy pants bans have been under discussion in communities across the country over the past few years. Earlier this summer, Jasper County put off final approval of its proposed saggy pants ordinance.
In one of his famous spoken-word poems, Ford noted that women are discriminated against because Phelps and other male olympians can take their shirts off. Women are equally discriminated against, Ford argued, because men are allowed to wear their pants below their ass. Providing the translation at the end of the piece, Ford said that young men need to pull their pants up.
“We should wear pants in a decent way,” he said.
There were laughs and snickers from the audience and fellow council members, but supporters of the saggy pants ban were relentless, linking the fashion trend to drug use, gang violence, and disrespect for the community.
“I’m not trying to legislate morality or take a person’s rights away,” said Councilman James Lewis. “But decent citizens have rights, too.”
City lawyers explained that, as long as the backside is not exposed, the saggy pants don’t break the city’s rules against indecency. Adelaid Andrews also told the council that these types of laws could be easily challenged.
“The constitution is going to be very protective in regulating clothing and freedom of expression and freedom of speech,” she said. “I’d like to see how other cities have dealt with this in a non-judicial fashion.”
Other council members agreed that an ordinance was a waste of time — time which could be better spent addressing the issues of violence and drugs.
“I don’t think the City Council needs to be the fashion police,” said Councilwoman Deborah Morinelli.
It’s a phase kids are going through, said Councilman Aubrey Alexander.
“My father would have loved this council in the ’60s, when I had the long hair and the psychodelic T-shirts,” he said.
Gilliard said he was ready to take the pot shots at the proposal.
“This is the place to put it on the table,” he said. “I’ll take the criticism, but let’s start the dialogue.”