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I have seen several times people posting on Facebook about the history of wearing very low trousers. They claim that it was invented in U.S prisons. Apparently by showing a little bit of their butts inmates were letting know other inmates that they were sexually available.

This seems to me like a hoax made to convince people to dress 'properly'. Is there any truth behind this?

Here is an example of one of these posts

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Please do not use the [sex] tag. Thanks. Also please note: outside the US "pants" = "underwear" :-) –  Sklivvz Feb 5 '12 at 21:27
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@Sklivvz It's only really the UK that uses pants to mean underwear. Canada, USA, Australia, South Africa etc...all use pants to mean anything going over underwear. –  Sonny Ordell Feb 5 '12 at 22:38
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@Sklivvz: SEO-wise, I think pants is ideal. Trousers sounds funny to me. I've never hear it from someone outside of the UK. –  Borror0 Feb 5 '12 at 23:13
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@Borror0 I can assure you it doesn't sound as funny as "pants" i.e. "underwear" in this context ;-) "Does dropping your underwear indicate sexual availability?" –  Sklivvz Feb 6 '12 at 0:00
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I've never heard anybody call thier trousers slacks, you sure about that Sonny? –  Ardesco Feb 7 '12 at 15:42

1 Answer 1

up vote 23 down vote accepted


From Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African-American Studies at Duke University (2007):

Also, saggin' is nothing new. Long-time observers of urban youth culture can recall seeing examples of saggin' at least 20 years ago.

In those days, saggin' was linked to prison culture and the fact that prisoners were not allowed to wear belts.

For many of those first generation of saggers, the style was an emblem of their hardcore status.

but he also mentions:

Within gay subcultures, saggin' can be read as a sign of availability.



From BBC News:

The practice of wearing low-slung, baggy or sagging trousers is thought to have begun in US prisons.

Inmates were issued with ill-fitting clothes and denied belts due to fears over use as weapons or suicide aids.



From The New York Times:

Sagging began in prison, where oversized uniforms were issued without belts to prevent suicide and their use as weapons.



From Snopes:

Snopes



It seems that the origin of "Sagging " is not known for sure, but the prevailing opinion seems to be that it began in prison, due to inmates not being allowed to wear belts.

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@user unknown - I could not find an authoritative source confirming the "sexual availabilty" origin, which, of course, by no means is proof that there is none. That's why I'm hesitant to give a definitive confirmed/debunked verdict. –  Oliver_C Feb 6 '12 at 11:39
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so you claim that while it originated in prisons, it doesn't have anything to do (originally) with sexual desires but rather just practicality. Sounds at least somewhat feasible. –  jwenting Feb 6 '12 at 13:18
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You have to notice too that the "pants-down" was not the only sign saying "I'm a nasty one, I've been in prison" : they also wear their shoes without strings (have a look at the video of RunDMC, "Walk this way"). No laces, no beld, that's how you look like in the prison :-) –  Rabskatran Feb 7 '12 at 13:33
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@Rabskatran Interestingly enough, that's also how you look in a psych ward... –  Yamikuronue Feb 7 '12 at 19:18
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@loveperiwinkle "and certainly has a lot political meaning behind it" - with all due respect, while some people may be dressing a certain way with a political meaning, I suspect that is a tiny minority. It would be a question in its own right, but: I suspect most are simply dressing like their peers; that is part of identity, but is not by itself political. Care to substantiate your "certainly" here? –  Marc Gravell Mar 10 '12 at 9:56

protected by Community Mar 11 '13 at 6:47

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