Quantcast

Pull up those saggy pants

Danny Cevallos: Florida town passed legislation to ban sagging pants

Danny Cevallos | 7/30/2014, 6 a.m.
A Florida town has banned people -- let's face it, young people -- from wearing saggy pants.
A Florida town has banned people -- let's face it, young people -- from wearing saggy pants (WFSB)

— Wearing hoodies satisfies the first prong of having a particularized message, but probably fails the second. Hoodies are so popular that a court might conclude the message of solidarity is indistinguishable on the street from, say, someone wearing a hoodie to the gym. In that sense, hoodies would fail the second test, because they are not understood as speech by others.

The results feel confusing: A court would likely conclude that the clothing of a Klansman or a neo-Nazi conveys a particularized message -- an unpopular, divisive, angry message. That would entitle it to constitutional protection. But saggy pants? The message is too amorphous, so it cannot be protected speech. And if it's not protected speech, the First Amendment will not prevent towns from outlawing those droopy drawers.

Few of us like looking at people's skivvies when their jeans hang off them on the subway, but how offensive is it, really? Our culture's mores about clothing are fundamentally illogical. We attempt to outlaw this display of the top half of someone's boxers, but have no laws for that old guy at the pool -- usually the same guy glistening with suntan oil -- who prances around in nothing but a Speedo all summer. What's with that guy, anyway?

The point is that culturally, we accept nearly complete nudity in one context, but try to regulate mostly clothed conduct in another. There really is no logic to our ideas about clothing. That helps to explain horrible fashion choices from decade to decade, but does little to logically justify clothing regulations. As much as we feel free to express ourselves with apparel, we likely have less freedom of expression than we imagined.

And at least in one town in Florida, no matter how trendy your gear may be, it looks like it's time to pull up the pants.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Danny Cevallos is a CNN legal analyst, criminal defense attorney and partner at Cevallos & Wong, practicing in Pennsylvania and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Follow him on Twitter: @CevallosLaw. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

The-CNN-Wire

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.