Friday, July 06, 2007

On Fashion and Consequences

I watched the parade on the fourth of July and I could not help but notice the fashion on display by young black men and boys. Nearly all the black boys and young men wore t-shirts that extended nearly to their knees. A smaller percentage wore pants so loose that they had to use one hand to keep their pants from falling to their ankles.

Now I am no expert on fashion, but it is my understanding that this kind of dress has its origins in prison-wear. If so, then the vast majority of young black males in attendance at Racine's parade were identifying with and glorifying ( wittingly or otherwise) prison culture and criminality.

Of course I wonder whether these fashion decisions will have adverse consequences. I can't imagine that they wouldn't.

I own a small business and I have a few employees. Because of the nature of my business, I must place a high level of trust in my employees. As such, it would be foolish of me to hire anyone who chooses to glorify criminals and criminality. Why take the chance when I could choose someone from a culture that does not glorify crime?

The real victims are the young black boys and men who reject prison culture. They would face unfair obstacles because they come from a subculture that glorifies crime and criminality. An employer, lacking information on the potential employee, may well wonder whether the young black man identifies with criminals. My guess is that it would be illegal to ask a prospective employee whether he wears baggy pants and long T-shirts or whether he glorifies criminals, so the question will go unasked and the young black man will not get the job. The blame in this case rests not with a racist employer but with a subculture that glorifies criminality.

24 comments:

Caledonication said...

My understanding is that this fashion is borne from a cultural history of being poor, receiving hand-me-downs and charitable donations of clothes that don’t fit right. Ironically, a lot of this style of clothing is neither cheap nor donated. In fact, purchasing clothes like this is a way for individuals to support some black owned clothing manufacturers. It’s not only black kids who wear clothes of this style. Personally, I think it looks stupid, regardless of what race the wearer is. I’m talking about brand new clothes that don’t fit, even sort of. Another perception (which I agree with) is that baggy clothes are a great place to hide things. On the other hand, there are specific types of clothing that do reflect the prison style fashion. That is the generic, flat (single) stitched denim jacket and pants. I may be wrong, but that is my take on the subject.

Denis Navratil said...

Thanks for your input Caledon. Of course, if I am wrong about the origins of this peculiar fashion and an association with prison culture and criminality, then my entire post makes no sense and a retraction may be necessary. I can not be sure of where I arrived at this assumption, but I think it may have been something I read in a column by Thomas Sowell. Anyone out there have any thoughts regarding the origins of the baggy pants and long T-shirt fashion currently embraced by a large percentage of young black men?

Anonymous said...

Denis I believe you are correct, this baggy dress look came out the prison culture where the inmates were not issued belts that could be used for hanging or weapons. The inmates had their pants hanging low and had to hold them up with their hands. If I were interviewing a person for a job, no matter how good the interview went among the first things I obviously notice would be how the person was dressed. This would also influence my hiring decision. Jack

Caledonication said...

I found a couple of references to this subject:

(This first one actually agrees with the sentiment of your original post.)
In Juan Williams’ book "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It". Here is an excerpt, "It would be a bonus if anyone dared to say to teenagers hungering for authentic black identity that dressing like a convict, whose pants are hanging off his ass because the jail prison guards took away his belt, is not the way to rise up and be a success". (http://www.amazon.com/Enough-Dead-End-Movements-Undermining-America/dp/product-description/0307338231)

And

Wikipedia – Hip hop fashion: The style of sagging one's pants, or wearing them baggy and low without a belt, was also style that originated in prisons. This style of fashion, along with its associated hand signs and territorial or "homeboy" mentality, was adopted by African-American youth in Los Angeles initially, and later by the hip hop community at large. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_fashion)

I stand corrected, er educated.

eric said...

I am no slave to fashion as my children will painfully attest, but the look you described seems to have appeared on and off for the past 30 years or so. Lord knows why the trousers at half mast with posterior cleavage on display attracts anyone at anytime, but that look has reappeared periodically among all kinds of people. During the 90's grunge-look period alot of way over-sized shorts and shirts adorned alot of white kids. That sprang out of the Pacific northwest as a sort of counter-culture. Perhaps this style among the poor black kids started to glorify crminal culture, but soon enough Vanilla Ice and Justin Timberlake will be wearing the same thing and no one will remember what originally inspired the look.

Anonymous said...

Many jobs require the use of both hands - wrapping burgers, raking leaves, washing/waxing a car. How long before someone who is one-handed (the other hand holding up their pants) asks the employer for special consideration due to the handicap?

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I wonder why only blck kids were observed in this style of dress and not the countless white and hispanic males...can anyone speak to that?

Denis Navratil said...

Well anon, as it was I that did the observing, I can tell you that the numbers of white or Hispanic young men dressed as described were very few. If I had observed many white or Hispanics dressed in this manner, I would have said so. The phenomenon, at least at the parade, was almost entirely evident with black boys and men.

Anonymous said...

So despite the fact that other young men of varying ethnicities were similarly dressed, the only ones to cause you to take notice were the black males. Is it safe to assume that because I saw many a middle aged white male, with mullets, faded black Metalica t-shirts and ragged skin tight cut-off, jeans that they subscribe to a culture of white supramecy and devil worshipping?

Denis Navratil said...

Can you read anon? My observations were that the phenomenon of baggy pants and long T-shirts was primarily found among young black males. Not all young black males. You may feel free to arrive at whatever absurd conclusions that you like about any people that you choose. As for me, I prefer to arrive at sensible conclusions.

Anonymous said...

And your sensible conclusion is that the majority of long white t-shirt clad black males subscribe to violence simply because you saw them in the act of wearing long white tees and because of a falsified dictionary definition?
I find it interesting how t-shirt clad black males are "glorifying violence" by wearing these shirts, but the males of other ethnicities are not and are excluded from your absurd moniker. Is this the sensible conclusion you speak about?

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