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Where Did Sagging Pants Come From

by Kristin Beck
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Where Did Sagging Pants Come From

Where Did Sagging Pants Come From

“It’s a common sight around many American cities these days — people wearing pants so loose you can see their underwear whenever they bend over. In fact, if you’re an adult reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve seen someone rocking saggy pants at least once. And even though it may seem like nothing more than a fashion trend, sagging pants have actually been around for decades. So what gives?
The origins of sagging pants are pretty much as controversial and unclear as its popularity today. Some claim it came about when inmates were issued uniforms without belts. Others blame it on the cost of tailored clothes during the 1980s, which made the pant legs too long to fit into existing pairs of jeans. Still other sources point to the rise of hip-hop culture in the early ’90s and the adoption of “”thug”” clothing styles, such as baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts, as the reason why we now refer to them as “”saggy.””
But whatever caused the phenomenon, one thing’s for sure: The result is a pair of pants that flop down around your ankles like giant, dirty rags. Although it might be hard to imagine, there was a time not all that long ago when men wore tight pants instead. (In fact, some historians believe the term “”tights,”” or close-fitting trousers, dates back to Ancient Greece.) However, those trousers were typically worn by both sexes throughout Roman times, but after Rome fell, the practice died off. By the Middle Ages, tight pants had become associated solely with women, who began wearing them under dresses.
Fast forward to the 1640s, when English tailor Thomas Maundrell invented a machine called a loom that could weave fabric tighter and tighter, leading to the creation of modern-day tights. Men began wearing them again, albeit only because they didn’t want to get caught barefoot during inclement weather.
And although the idea of wearing tight pants seems downright prudish by today’s standards, it wasn’t always considered inappropriate for gentlemen. For example, in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch claims he wears his “”tight doublet”” because it makes him look taller and thinner. He also goes on to describe how he loves to wear “”shallow cups [that] show [his] nether garment”” because they “”make [him] seeme taller still.””
So just how did sagging pants come to take hold of our collective consciousness? We spoke with several experts to find out. Here’s what they said.
When does a man need a belt?
Although belts are no longer required for formalwear, most men use them nonetheless. They offer added support for the waist, which prevents lower back pain and provides better posture. This is especially true for those who spend a lot of time sitting, whether at work, school or home. Plus, belts allow us to keep our pants securely fastened around the hips, rather than having them ride up our bodies. Most importantly, however, belts help hide unsightly bulges. But how do you know if your shirt needs a belt? According to Dr. Stephen Karpf, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-author of “”Men’s Health Matters,”” the answer is simple. If you have any excess fat, then you should consider adding a belt. Otherwise, you probably don’t need one.
What’s wrong with skinny jeans?
Skinny jeans have quickly become a staple among teens and young adults alike. But according to the National Institutes of Health, they’re bad news for your health. In a study conducted last year, researchers found that wearing skinny jeans often led to weight gain among teenage girls. Researchers attribute the cause to two things: First, the lack of resistance provided by skinny jeans encourages overeating; second, the narrow waists make it easier for food to bypass the stomach and go straight to the small intestine, where calories are absorbed. As a result, the body ends up storing more fat, which leads to obesity.
How to avoid sagging pants
If you’d prefer to maintain your slim figure, try avoiding sagging pants altogether. Try pairing your loose pants with something fitted along the torso, such as a v-neck sweater or blouse. Also, don’t buy expensive, brand-name jeans unless you plan on replacing them within a few months. Because the material used in high-quality denim tends to stretch more than cheaper versions, it will lose its shape faster. Consider buying low-cost, mid-range brands like Lee or Wrangler. Finally, remember that loose pants are not appropriate for every occasion. While they may be perfectly fine for casual outings, try keeping your business attire trim.
Author’s Note
I’m a big fan of sagging pants myself. I think they’re funny and cute, and I usually rock them with a nice button-up shirt underneath. That being said, I never really thought about why they became so popular in recent years. After researching this article, I realized that there must have been a moment, somewhere between 1989 and 1993, when loose pants suddenly started becoming popular. I wonder what happened. Maybe kids were tired of paying $50 for $20 jeans. Or maybe rappers were tired of seeing their friends’ pants falling down around their ankles. Whatever the case, I hope everyone continues wearing loose pants until the end of time!

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