In Lynwood, Baggy Pants Ban Leads to Racism Concerns

October 5, 2015

If Lynwood's economy is surviving by the seat of its pants, the town at least wants its bottoms properly covered.

The leaders of the small south suburb, with their eyes on attracting development to Lynwood, last week passed an ordinance stating that people caught exposing 3 inches or more of their underwear will be fined $25—the first Chicago-area town to crack down on low-slung pants.

Since the first sullen cave-teen glared at his father over not being able to use the wheel, young people have been finding new ways to irritate the adults in their lives. In recent years, for some, it's meant lowering their pants and exposing all manner of boxer shorts in public.

The adults are fighting back. Towns across the country have banned pants that hang below the waist, with the price of immodesty ranging greatly. This week, it was the talk of the town in Riviera Beach, Fla., where the fine is $150, and in Flint, Mich., where offenders can be fined $500 and face time in the slammer.

Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams says he cannot attract major retailers when young men are parading around half-dressed.

Jonathan Gammon knows all about the sagging pants of Lynwood. He sees teens pass his barbershop with jeans so low he wonders how they walk without tripping.

He knows they're not bad kids, because he cuts their hair. They're just copying the style they see in Chicago and in rap-music videos, he figures. Gammon was relieved to hear his town banned low-hanging pants.

“I don't want to see their drawers, personally,” he said. “It probably would scare people from out of town.”

But some argue the law goes too far in mandating fashion choices, and the American Civil Liberties Union charged the ordinance targets young men of color.

In fact the fashion statement has echoed across racial lines. James Pinkerton, 15, who is white and was shopping at Orland Square Mall on Friday with his great-uncle Bob, 53, scoffed at government attempts to censor appearance.

“I don't think they should be focused on that,” said the teen, dressed in black baggy shorts with hanging pocket chains. “I think they should be focusing on more important things.”

His uncle, however, supported Lynwood's initiative, and admitted to keeping tabs on the pant sizes his nephew sought to wear.