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

  • 5
    Please do not use the [sex] tag. Thanks. Also please note: outside the US "pants" = "underwear" :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Feb 5, 2012 at 21:27
  • 10
    @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. Feb 5, 2012 at 22:38
  • 4
    @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, 2012 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, 2012 at 0:00
  • 5
    I've never heard anybody call thier trousers slacks, you sure about that Sonny?
    – Ardesco
    Feb 7, 2012 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


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:


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.

  • 4
    @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, 2012 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, 2012 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, 2012 at 13:33
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    Rabskatran sums this up so well. It seems to me there is a lot more evidence that this look is about black cultural experience than homosexuality. I think this is one of the strongest fashion statements made today, and certainly has a lot of political meaning behind it. To discount such a strong statement by claiming ignorance is in-itself ignorant. Fashion and history are constantly being shaped by culture and perception. I know seeing someone's ass hanging out of their pants can seem homosexual, but when you experinece the whole "look" (baggy clothes, no shoe laces, heavy gold chains, etc),
    – user6350
    Mar 8, 2012 at 16:48
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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? Mar 10, 2012 at 9:56

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