“Pull up yo britches!!” This phrase used to be heard whenever there was a person wearing their pants, slacks, or jeans below the waist (usually without a belt) out in the black community. However, nowadays, you really don’t hear that phrase, even though, the practice of sagging, wearing pants below the waist or “sagging” as it has been termed has become more common place. You’ve seen them. That guy wearing the wife-beater, boxers and buttocks proudly exposed above their jeans, which are “sagged” so low they might as well be socks. They’re everywhere, in our schools, streets, and especially on our TV. It is unfortunate that this has become the stereotypical uniform of our black youth. Youth, who are just mimicking the fashions seen in music videos produced by Hip Hop’s finest, such as Lil Wayne, Yung Joc, and many others. A fashion trend, believe it or not, that has its origins in our prison systems. Yes, I said this trend started in prisons. And you may be allowing your son or brother to adopt this ”Penal” fashion.
The origins of “Saggin”
Let’s discuss this for a second. “Sagging” started in U.S. prisons in the 1960’s as a result of restrictions being placed on belts and shoestrings due to the high risk of inmates using them to commit suicide or inflict harm on other inmates or guards. As anyone who has ever been to prison can tell you, when inmates are issued their clothes, they are not shown to a dressing room to ensure that their pants fit. Prisons issue the inmates the universal pants size and with no belts to secure them around the waist, thus the pants hung or “sagged” below the waist and the advent of “sagging” began. A humble beginning, no doubt, but since the majority of prisoners were black men… we were there at the beginning of this trend and have kept it alive and have made it flourish in main stream culture through Hip Hop.
So, since “sagging” began in prisons, let’s take a look at these trendsetters. Prisons, believe it or not, have an atmosphere conducive to breeding homosexual tendencies. This is not to say that every man or woman who goes to jail will return “gay” or even involve themselves in homosexual activity. It’s just that in a long term environment that is lacking of the opposite sex, a person may resort to finding comfort in the arms of whosoever is available, male or female. And sometimes this is a forced decision, as the more masculine and physical “thug(s)” may force themselves upon a weaker individual. Converting said individual(s) into what is commonly known as a jailhouse “bitch”, fag, or sissie. These prisoners would need a way to identify themselves to more masculine prisoners and what better way than displaying their buttocks proudly in a manner reminiscent of the proud peacock displaying his tail feathers to attract a mate. They used “sagging” to show themselves as being open to homosexual activity. The prisoners would wear their pants below the buttocks to indicate that they were willing to be the jailhouse bitch and could be traded between the more masculine inmates for favors, protection, and items such as cigarettes. These inmates, once paroled or released, would continue this “easy access” fashion statement out in society to attract homosexual males, continuing the patterns that they had practiced in prison.
From Prison to the Urban Streets
“Sagging” was then picked up by the actual gay community and frequently used in the realm of male prostitution. Male prostitutes would sag their pants to indicate to potential clients or “johns” that they were available. This practice continued in the gay community in the 80’s to the mid 90’s as part of the mating ritual.
Unfortunately, the style has found its way into mainstream Black America through Hip Hop artists, who themselves were possibly introduced to “sagging” through the time they spent in prison as part of the “penal system”. That is not to say that these Hip Hop artist were or are involved in homosexual activity, but one’s mind does tend to wonder…hmmmmmmmm! With all the misogynistic and anti-homosexual lyrics, slogans, and anthems found in Hip Hop culture it is ironic that they have chosen to emulate, in fashion at least, a style that has its origin rooted and tied to the very culture that they despise.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.