State and Local Legal Blog

Britches in the Breech | September 13, 2012

You probably think that I am obsessed with people who can’t pull their trousers up, but in addition to the cities in Mississippi which have waged war on the public display of underwear (and other unmentionables), this issue was recently the subject of an editorial piece in the American Bar Association Journal.  Brian Sullivan did a nice job of discussing the “saggy pants” issue and placing it in some sort of national prospective.  He says that numerous public entities have adopted different types of legislative measures which propose to ban the wearing of pants that cause one’s underwear to be visible.

Is it a “Southern thing”?  Brian notes several sates which have either passed bans on this issue or are in the process of doing so.  He names Alabama, Florida, Indiana and Tennessee.  He notes that Albany, Georgia, has accidentally stumbled upon a cash cow, collecting over $4,000 in fines during the 9 month life of it’s ordinance.  Students at high schools in South Carolina are having their pants zip-tied by the superintendent before they are sent home.

The ACLU says “choice of clothing is a personal one and one in which the government has no place.”  While I tend to agree, I also tend to have pretty sophisticated taste in dress and sure don’t appreciate looking at others’ underwear or breech.  It does strike me, however, that choice of a lot of things is a personal one yet the government has found it’s place in those choices — consumption of alcohol, for example.  Public drunkenness and saggy bottoms are equally unappealing.  If government can marshal its assets to pick you up when you stagger, I figure it can pick you up when your pants fall off.

So what do you think:  should we criminalize “backside exposure”?


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