First Amendment guarantees still necessary, even in fashion world

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

Sept. 17, this past Monday, was Constitution Day. This is a day used to celebrate the United States Constitution and the freedoms this document protects. Some of the rights protected include those guaranteed by the First Amendment: freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly and petition of the government for redress of grievances. Unfortunately, even today, these rights are violated by government bodies and officials across the country.

In Louisiana, several cities have banned sagging pants. In Shreveport, a first offense can bring a maximum fine of $100 and face the possibility of community service. Alexandria allows for a little more slack; however, three inches of sag earns a violator a fine ranging anywhere from $25 to $200 and requires community service. City council members in Atlanta, Ga., have begun hearings in order to begin the debate about banning this fashion statement.

How do these city councils justify the ridiculous new bans? As Joyce Bowman, a Shreveport councilwoman, so eloquently put it, “I’m tired of looking at behinds.”

There is no legitimate government end to these bans. The only reason the topic is even on the table is because people in high places are sick of seeing what color underwear their fellow citizens are wearing.

The city council in Stratford, Conn., was smart enough to realize how much trouble this type of legislation could get them into. They voted against a ban on droopy drawers on the grounds that such an ordinance could be found unconstitutional and might even be racially prejudiced, as it would target minorities.

Fashion is a protected form of expression because it is defined as a type of speech. This definition has been established and upheld by the United States Supreme Court in cases like Tinker v. Des Moines School District in 1969 and Cohen v. California in 1971. In both cases, the defendants won their case because the message they were trying to share with the world was spread with what they wore, not with what they said.

Granted, butt crack isn’t exactly an earth-shattering message, but (no pun intended) those who choose to wear hip-hugging pants or attempt to pull off a “gangsta” look should still be allowed to do so without the risk of legal consequences. Fashion is also fickle, and before anyone even realizes it, low-riding pants will be on the outs and high waists will be back, making any and all of these bans appear as stupid as an actual law in Nebraska that bans whale fishing.