Just the other day while I was taking the subway downtown, I noticed a teenager wearing a pair of jeans (purposely) drooped down to his kneecaps. It caught my attention, because he was also wearing a long, baggy shirt, which made it look like he had a really loooonnnggg torso. Even if this kid pulled up his pants, I doubt his drawers could’ve reached his waist.
Was he wearing little kid pants?!
(left: The drawers and the people who sag them.)
Whatever fashion concoction he was working on, it was evident that the teen was inspired by “the sag”. If you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, it’s the style in which one wears their pants just below the waist, while letting a glimpse of underwear peak out above their beltline (how big the glimpse is up to you).
I speak of “the sag” today, because when the kid with the long torso passed, it occurred to me that “the sag” has never fully gone out of style. It’s not as prevalent today–especially since it’s not as easy to sag skinny jeans–but it’s still around. Go to a place where the tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings gather, and you’ll see more waistbands than you will in a Fruit Of A Loom commercial.
My first exposure to “the sag” was in high school–late ’80’s/early ’90’s–right around the time the style reached its tipping point. Gangsta-rap-music-worshipping teens were the first to loosen their belt buckles. They were paying homage to their favorite rappers of the time, who in turn, were paying homage to their favorite comrades and/or homies doing time.
Do an internet search on “the sag”, and you’ll quickly discover the trend of perpetually pulling up your pants began in prison. Jailhouse uniforms aren’t as size specific as an outfit you’d try on at H&M, so you could imagine why prisoners were always tugging on their belt loops. And speaking of belts, most prisons don’t allow them because A.) They make for good weapons, and B.) They make for good hangman nooses.
Gangsta rap, which was gaining mainstream popularity in the early 90’s, began glorifying the darker side of street life–everything from gang symbols to drug references to wearing baggy pants like a convicted felon. Because America has a fascination with gangstas (why else do you think you can catch The Godfather on television any day of the week?), kids started to dress and act like their favorite gangsta rappers (you didn’t really think that many people were fans of the Los Angeles Raiders, did you?).
At first, seeing someone’s underwear poke out of their pants was somewhat unsettling–I mean, c’mon, it is called underwear. But month after month, year after year, more people started to do it. A couple years into the ’90s, pop music started to adopt the fashion trend, and before long not only was Ice T and N.W.A. sporting “the sag,” but so was Marky Mark and TLC. Even alternative music artists began adopting the fad, and before long it seemed that at least one artist from every genre in music was dropping their drawers.
During my senior year of high school, I joined in on the fun too–although my sag was always pretty conservative (the maximum I went was about three inches below my butt dimples). Unlike some of my suburban classmates who began sandwiching their sentences with the word “yo,” I didn’t adopt the gangsta rap mentality–butt (pun intended)–I’d be lying if I told you “the sag” didn’t give me a smidgen of empowerment. The only thing I didn’t like about the sag–besides people abusing its power by going total butt cheek on everyone–was its seemingly short life span. I saw too many pictures of my parents in the ’70s and didn’t want my future children to snicker at me the same way I did when I saw my Dad and Mom in tinted glasses, butterfly-collared shirts, and bell-bottom pants.
I thought for sure “the sag” would be dead by the time I graduated from college. Not only was it going strong, but many metal bands–yes, metal, the same genre of music that brought us spandex jumpsuits–began playing rap music, and you guessed it, gave everyone a good look at their boxer shorts. In the actual world of rap music, Eminem, who was just starting to make a name for himself, added an interesting twist to “the sag” by hiking up his underpants. In the 2000’s, punk rock and emo kids–who began drooping their drawers the previous decade–began wearing tight jeans, yet somehow managed to maintain “the sag,” even while wearing a studded belt. (Yes, I know, it defies logic.)
In the early to mid 00’s, the fashion world conceded to “the sag” by bringing back low-rider jeans, or as I like to call them: underwear-ready pants. Wouldn’t you know it, people even began sagging their low-riders.
As I get to an age where I begin thinking about having children, it seems like I don’t have to concern myself with how my waistline looks in old photographs anymore. Twenty years strong and it doesn’t look like “the sag” is going anywhere (even though various state lawmakers have tried to ban the style).
So c’mon people, feel free to go one notch wider on your belt, let the waistband on your underwear see the light of day, but just don’t go too low–otherwise it may look like you have a Michael Phelps-sized torso on top of David Archuleta-sized legs, which makes great fodder for a Monday afternoon blog posting.