Over the past two weeks, a series of billboards has gone up in Brooklyn neighborhoods promoting an unusual fashion message: Guys, pull up your sagging pants. The advertisements are the work of New York State Sen. Eric Adams, who has launched a campaign to encourage young urban males to stop wearing their jeans and trousers so low that it shows off their underwear — an erstwhile streetwear trend that started amongst hip-hop fans in the Nineties and long ago expanded into the skater and suburban demographics.
The six billboards that have gone up in Brooklyn show two men in saggy jeans — their boxer shorts prominently on display — and the tag lines: “We are better than this!,” “Stop the Sag!” and “Raise your pants, raise your image!”
Adams told WWD he is partnering with other New York state senators to expand the campaign to Queens and buy billboards in that borough, as well.
“The sagging pants culture represents an immature disregard for the basic civility, courtesy and responsibility that our young men should display,” said Adams, who noted the trend was inspired by the loose, beltless look of prison garb.
However, those who work in the streetwear industry and cater to young urban males took a critical stance on the Adams campaign. “I like Sen. Adams, but this is wrong-headed and a waste of time,” said Russell Simmons, the founder of Phat Farm and Argyle Culture. “This is the latest example of adults trying to repress the creativity and individuality of kids. Why would kids want to dress like Sen. Adams? There is no connection to saggy pants and the ability to succeed. Just look at what buttoned-up America has done to the rest of the world and each other. Why can’t kids be different?”
Jeffrey Tweedy, vice president at Sean John, said he was supportive of the overall message, but believes Adams has unfairly targeted African-American males with the campaign.
“I wish he wouldn’t focus on African-Americans and instead talk about all races,” said Tweedy. “Many different people are involved with this trend. It’s not just black kids. You can go to Washington Square Park and see skaters wearing tight Levi’s in a similar way.”
Tweedy also took issue with the alleged prison heritage of the saggy pants look. “This was a fashion statement. It was never a gang statement,” explained Tweedy of the long-lasting trend.
Sean John has never promoted the saggy bottoms look, said Tweedy. “We are a sophisticated brand. I actually get offended when I see some stores style their mannequins with saggy jeans. But remember, this is about youthful rebellion. They are doing it to get attention — there’s a cool factor involved.”
Jason Geter, who cofounded the upscale streetwear brand AKOO with hip-hop star T.I., was diplomatic in his response to the issue. “AKOO stands for A King of Oneself, so we certainly promote excellence,” he noted. “We encourage all young men to carry themselves in a respectable manner to decrease the chances of being singled out or judged in society. When it comes to fashion, always remember to dress for the occasion.”
The Adams campaign has engendered support from a number of his Senate colleagues, including Senate president Malcolm Smith. “The ‘Stop the Sag’ campaign promotes self-respect and fights self-imposed negative stereotypes of our youth in communities across the state,” said Smith.
Adams said he’s received thousands of calls and letters from constituents, with 95 percent of them favorable to his “Stop the Sag” campaign. A YouTube video of Adams talking about the initiative has received more than 95,000 hits, and the senator is aiming to expand ads to buses — funded by Adams and other senators’ own campaign chests. “I’m targeting adults as well as kids. Young people always want to push traditional boundaries and adults need to tell them when they’ve gone too far,” said Adams, who is asking New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein to come up with a citywide standard of dress in public schools that would ban saggy pants that expose underwear.
The Adams initiative is the latest effort by lawmakers to curb the saggy jeans look. Over the years, legislators in places as diverse as Louisiana, Connecticut and Georgia have introduced bills to ban the fashion trend, with various outcomes.
Minya Quirk, co-founder of the Capsule trade show and the BPMW showroom, which represents youthful brands such as Stüssy, Penfield and Clae, said it’s almost de rigueur for adults to get offended by youthful fashion trends. “There’s something to be said for young people who invent their own fashion trends and find new ways to wear things. It makes people who are older angry,” she observed. “But kids will be kids, and it’s an expression of their youthfulness and not something they will stick with for the rest of their lives.”
Even President Barack Obama has previously weighed in on the matter — coming down on the side of non-saggy pants. In an interview with MTV a week before his election win, he told viewers: “Here is my attitude: I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time.…Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What’s wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face, that you don’t have to pass a law, but that doesn’t mean folks can’t have some sense and some respect for other people and, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I’m one of them.”
For its next men’s wear collection, @roberto_cavalli will show as a special guest at #PittiUomo, running from June 12-15. The brand, which has Florence in its roots, will relaunch its men’s wear collection, which will be presented separately from women’s wear for the first time since Paul Surridge was appointed creative director in May. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech during @sxsw for @createcultivate in partnership with @fossil. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.