July 10, 2008

Battles Not Worth Fighting, Part Two?

While eating lunch with a friend last week I noticed a guy crossing the street exhibiting some impressive sag.  I mentioned that it seemed to be a less common style these days and wondered if it reflected a shift in fashion trends or the fact that I hadn't spent much time recently with the 18 and under set.  Judging by this pointer from Andrew Sullivan it seems that the style is still alive and doing well, but getting some push-back from law enforcement.  I'll confess that my main interest in this story is as an excuse to post this great graphic from the Detroit Free Press

How great is that.

The story, of course, is nothing new, either in this current fashion manifestation or the countless other ways in which youth have historically used clothing conventions to poke their parent's generation - and this one has been covered before as well.  I would say that this falls well within the "battles not worth fighting" category but understand the desire of those in positions of authority to do something, anything, to attempt to counteract an image that they feel is reflective of broader issues that their communities are struggling with.  I think it is misplaced and I think it is a waste of resources but I understand the urge.  Plus, you've got to realize that you are fighting an ancient losing battle when you read this quote:
Senita Abrams, 18, left, and Tia Cotton, 17, both of Flint, express their admiration Monday for males who wear sagging pants. "I think it's cute when boys sag," Abrams said.
Anecdote:  I worked for a couple of years at a "children's home" - one of those strange combinations of group foster home, rehab facility, and emergency housing that emerge piece meal from our social services - as a recreation director/chaplain.  I had some input on the "rules of the land" and sagging inevitably came up just about every time the staff had behavioral discussions.  We were located in one of those peculiarly southern areas that are simultaneously rural and urban with most of the staff sensibilities being squarely in the rural context and most of the residents being soundly urban.  The residents were a pretty diverse bunch but sagging was a style that cut across the demographics - black, white, hispanic, male, female, rich, poor, young, old - just about everybody did it.  It wasn't hard to see why.  There wasn't a whole lot that the kids had control over in that context and there was even less that they felt allowed them to even passively express their disapproval of their authority figures, their surroundings and all the conventions that they were under.  Sagging was a flash point for meaningless arguments and worthless punishments that did little more than create ill will in an environment where ill will was already the default.  I tried to push the line that fighting the trend wasn't just a losing battle but a self-defeating one and depending on who was on staff at the time sometimes we won and sometimes we didn't.  However, I soon noticed that 98% of the time the sagging habit disappeared from an individuals behavior when they got a part-time after school job.  I want to say 100% but I'm sure my memory is forgetting someone so I'll play it safe and say 98%.  With no discussion, no prompting, it just disappeared.  Sure it would come back once in a while when the individual felt the need to demonstrate that they were still "legit" but it was always temporary.  Opportunity has a way of pulling a lot of things up all on its own.

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