I hope this finds you and the Elves doing well. I know I am un-hip to most things these days, but something has puzzled me for quite some time. Why do certain fellows wear their pants or shorts below their rear end with the belt almost beneath the bottom of the underpants? What in the heck holds up the belt? I know the cops like that because it makes it hard for suspects to run, often tripping the offender, but how did that fad get started?
— Dan, Clairemont
Some hot debate surrounds the presence of baggy, saggy jeans at the heart of hip-hop fashion. The trend really caught on in the early ’90s, with gangster rap’s rise to prominence as the de facto culture of urban minorities. Karl Kani was the first mainstream designer to put extra-baggy jeans on the shelves at major retailers, but he was really just pushing the envelope on what a lot of people were already doing. One popular theory is that prison dress inspired the baggy look and that ex-cons brought it to the streets. That might be a part of it, but baggy clothes had a place in hip-hop before gangster rap. B-boys from the early days — taking it back as far as the late ’70s — wore parachute pants and other loose-fitting clothes because it was easier to execute the acrobatic maneuvers of break dancing.
As for holding up the pants, it’s a matter of technique. Once the belt is all cinched up, the best thing to do is walk with a little bit of a swagger. Having your feet splayed out a little bit generates the cocksure gangster’s saunter and keeps your pants from falling off. If you have to run somewhere, just hike them up and let fashion take a backseat to expedience.