Saggin' — young men wearing their pants with the waistband closer to their knees than their hips — has been around for years. But a growing number of adults are deciding they've had enough. In Dallas, an interesting mix of politicians, hip-hop artists and white businessmen are announcing a citywide campaign with a simple message: Pull Your Pants Up.
Deputy Mayor Dwaine Caraway's work life usually involves economic development, crime, housing-code enforcement and stray dogs. But the drumbeat of anger from South Dallas, the predominately black part of town, got so loud that Caraway decided to take a little detour into law enforcement work — fashion police.
"This is not just a teenage problem," Caraway says. "There are people sagging ... in their 30s. You know, where's your mind? You're not a teenager."
Caraway says that at first, saggin' was about showing your boxers. Then it was about showing more of your boxers. Then dirty boxers were cutting edge. And now there are guys walking around with no boxers on at all.
"You have some folks that don't even have on underwear, period," he says. "And who's to say what the generation that's looking at this generation will do after these guys?"
Two weeks ago, Caraway called a news conference and proposed a new saggin' ordinance. Unfortunately for Caraway, lawyers then called with some potentially bad constitutional news. So Caraway backed off a bit on the legal front, but he didn't give up.
"The No. 1 mission is very simple: pulling up your pants. That's all we want," Caraway says. "We don't want to throw folks in jail because they wear their pants low. So we're going to make it man's law and not city law."
And here is where fate stepped in to rescue the deputy mayor's crusade. In his barbershop in South Dallas, a rapper named Dewayne Brown saw Caraway on TV. Brown is called Dooney, and Dooney was suddenly very excited because he had been thinking about writing a new song. He already had a title: "Pull Your Pants Up."
After the 10 o'clock news was over, Dooney ran to his recording studio in the back of his barbershop and by 3 a.m., he had written an anthem — a hip-hop plea to America's youth.
Dooney says that most of the boys and young men who are saggin' don't know where it really comes from. But another word for saggin' is jailin'.
"They don't know why their pants are low ... They think it's a fad, or it's something to do or it's cool. And I say, 'Well, No ... it come from behind the bars.'"
Clear Channel has agreed to donate billboard space around town and Dooney designed a billboard showing him with his arms crossed, standing in front of downtown Dallas.
Dallas is not the first city to confront saggin'. Shreveport, La., Atlanta and Stratford, Conn., have discussed passing laws. But Dallas is taking a different approach, trying for the hearts and minds of its young people.