The Fashion Police
It has been a little more than two months since Pine Lawn Police Chief Rickey Collins began enforcing the anti-sagging ordinance that the municipality’s aldermen passed. According to the Post-Dispatch, “The ordinance calls for fines of up to $100 for those 17 and older who wear pants below the waist that expose underwear or skin. […] Parents of those 16 and under face up to a $500 fine or 90 days in jail if they knowingly allow their children to wear pants in such a manner.”
Personally, I think sagging is uncongenial, representing the antithesis of a gentleman. Despite my views, I believe that government does not have the right to enforce family values by acting like the fashion police. Besides being difficult to implement and patrol, this policy is also unconstitutional. There are many forms of expression that are not protected by the First Amendment, such as fighting words, libel, commercial speech, and obscenity. While some try to place sagging under the umbrella of obscenity, it would be relevant to put it through the “Miller Test,” which is the standard for determining whether material is obscene. In the 1973 case of Miller v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that material is legally obscene if:
- The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would conclude that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests.
- It depicts sexually explicit conduct, specifically defined by law, in a patently offensive manner.
- It lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
I believe tha sagging passes the ‘Miller Test’ with flying colors. For young people who are part of our country’s inner-city hip hop culture, it is a form of rebellion and identity. To some, it is just plain fashionable. This ordinance in Pine Lawn is just another example of how our liberty and freedom of expression are in danger today.
Other cities around the country, most recently Flint, Mich., are also taking stride to incorporate the same ordinance in their efforts to restore family values and ethics. I do applaud the importance of ethics in American society, but how ethical is it for government to deny our freedom of expression?