Street cred, mall cred, no cred
“Pants on the ground, pants on the ground.
Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground.
With the gold in your mouth, hat turned sideways,
Pants on the ground.”
Larry Platt, 2010 American Idol audition contestant and YouTube sensation
There is nothing quite like the experience of clothes shopping with teenage boys.
Okay, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the horrors of clothes shopping with teenage girls. But at least most girls have an idea what to look for. Perhaps, at times, appropriateness is not at the forefront of their priority list, but at least most of them know what look to go for.
With boys, well, most don’t have a clue. I know this, because when it comes to fashion, I don’t either. I never have. I never will. I have been stuck in this rut for about 30 years. And now, with teenage boys of my own, the number of fashion dufuses on Planet Morris has tripled.
So, I went on a scouting mission for them. I was at the mall – one of those big city type malls in Ottawa.
What is out there for a kid beyond a pair of jeans and a hoodie?
Well, not much.
I watched kids walk by me. They were the mall people. They hung out in the food court. They loitered around the cell phone accessory kiosk. They sat and texted and downloaded iTunes and they twittered and skyped and they talked about apps.
So I kind of watched them and even kept tabs on which stores they went in. They definitely had a look. I’m not sure what the look was. It was like there was a moat between the kingdom of hip-hop and the land of skateborders, and these kids were stuck on a raft in the middle of it.
The New York Yankees’ designer hats were on sideways, and the chains around their necks had dog tags which were worn on the outside of their seemingly too small t-shirts. Two of them had the elastic waist bands from their boxers peeking out above their low-slung jeans. The crotch of their jeans was somewhere down between their shins. A couple of them had loosely fitting hoodies over the shirts, but they weren’t anything like the grey hoodies with a simple Nike logo like my kids would wear.
“Call yourself a cool cat with your pants on the ground.
Walkin’ downtown with your pants on the ground!
Giddy-up, Pants on the ground.”
I came home, wondering if there was something beyond simplicity for my boys. I don’t want them to look like punks or to look like they would call all of their friends “G”. I don’t want them to look like they belong at a 50 Cent concert.
I just want them to look like who they are.
I was just about to go on a rant about this when I saw something interesting on a U.S. news channel.
In New York, where this look is said to have originated due to what may or may not be an embargo on body-length mirrors, a state Senator is personally attacking the pants on the ground look.
Senator Eric Adams has purchased ads on two Brooklyn billboards with more on the way to promote his “Stop the Sag” campaign. Adams, a retired cop who is African-American, has also made an online video and claims “You can raise your level of respect if you raise your pants.”
The look, which has been popular since the 1990s, originated from the hip-hop and urban fashion scenes. It has been hotly debated throughout the U.S. at council meetings, school board meetings, on TV programs like Dr. Phil, and has even gone to courtrooms. The Dallas School Board embarked on a “Pull Your Pants Up” campaign in 2007, and last year, a St. Petersburg, FL high school ordered thousands of plastic zip ties for students to hitch their pants up. Bill Cosby attacked the look at a civil rights rally in 2004, saying that it gave black youths a negative portrayal as a demographic. Even the President, Barack Obama, slammed the look in a 2008 interview and speech.
Mark-Evan Blackman of the New York Fashion Institute of Technology, says the low-slung pants look is derived from the unbelted and oversized look of prison uniforms. The look was initially a symbol of street credibility. The style quickly spread from inner cities to suburban malls, both in the U.S. and Canada.
It makes you wonder. If the once street cred look is considered to be the look of a gangsta thug prison inmate and it is considered to be embarrassing for an entire culture and demographic, then how and why are we allowing our youths to emulate this look and give it, well, mall cred?
As I have been guided out of fashion purgatory this year, I have learned that pleated pants make me look 30 pounds heavier and that there is a world beyond pastel-coloured golf shirts and a five dollar haircut. For my kids, maybe a pair of jeans and a hoodie isn’t such a bad look for them? Maybe I’ll surprise them and get them a t-shirt. I’m not sure who Justin Bieber is, but I’m sure that they would love these matching tops with his face on them.
Pants on the ground.
Jeffrey Morris was the 2008 OCNA Columnist of the Year. His book, From the Other Side: It's No Use Sacrificing a Chicken if You Can't Read the Entrails, is available at Videoflicks and the Manotick Messenger offices, and online at www.canadabooksonline.com.