by: Jennifer D. Carroll
As a young lady in her early thirties, I do remember a time when men in hip hop wore their jeans tight. Not tight, tight. But tight enough that the ladies could see if he had a nice booty.
This was not a long-ago, mythical age. I’m talking the ’80s to about the early ’90s. Back then it was pretty standard to see a man with (gasp!) pants that actually fit!
However, something happened around the late ’80s and early ’90s which marked a significant change in urban communities and the resulting fashion choices of urban youth around the country.
If I wasn’t in the rap game,
I’d probably have a key, knee deep in the crack game
because the streets is a short stop
either you’re slangin’ crack rock
or you’ve got a wicked jump shot…
–Back in the Days, Notorious B.I.G.
Crack took hold of inner-city communities across the country, and young men were being sent to prison in record numbers; mainly stemming from drug-related charges. In prison these young men were indoctrinated into a new way of dress which included unintentional sagging of their pants. Prisoners wear their pants low because belts are not allowed. Belts, (and shoe strings for that matter) are considered to be at-risk items as they can (and have) been used to strangle others or oneself, or used as a weapon in fights.
When the men were released from prison they kept the look, as a means to mark oneself as someone who had been locked up and therefore had street credibility. The trend soon spread and made its way to hip hop. Gone were the fitted jeans of the early ’80s…in came sagging jeans.
During the late ’80s, the group N.W.A. brought in the era of gangsta rap, a new hip hop genre that mirrored the thoughts and reality of urban inner cities. To my knowledge and recollection, N.W.A. was the first popular hip hop group to sag their pants. Eazy E. in particular could be found in jeans that were both loose fitting and sagging slightly to reveal an upper portion of his boxers. N.W.A. was one of the pioneers who helped shepherd this style into the mainstream of urbanwear.
Girl: “Eazy, why you wear your pants like that?
Eazy E: “I wear my pants like this – for easy access baby”
– We Want Eazy – N.W.A.
That statement became one of Eazy E’s more controversial lines when seven years later he died from complications of A.I.D.S. During the early ’90s HIV and AIDS carried the stigma of being a gay man’s disease. Rumors started swirling, alleging that Eazy E had contracted AIDS through homosexual contact with a man. Adding to this theory was the popularly held notion that one of the ways that homosexuals make themselves known in prison is by sagging their pants slightly below the butt.
My pants sag cause I rap my ass off – Strike a Nerve, Naughty by Nature
Given the slightly homophobic nature of hip hop, it has been interesting to watch this former jailhouse mating call, progress into a diehard hip hop fashion statement. Over the past couple of years, it has become de rigeur in rap shows to have someone throw off their shirt and bounce across the stage barechested, pants sagging all the way.
Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a slight sag. In fact, an ever so slight sag with a nice pair of jeans to me is a sexy, masculine look.
However, if you are trying to appeal to the fairer sex in a pair of jeans that hang down at the low point of your hip…um, not so much. Ladies, am I right?