Sagging pants have a dark history rooted in American slavery and rape
A dehumanizing practice called “breaking the buck”is where this popular style of dress came from.
Young men in America began wearing sagging pants during the 1990’s. Unlike other fads that come and go this one style has stuck around for 30 years. The origin of this fashion statement has a dark history, that many people might not be aware of. It began when Africans were first enslaved in America and was derived from a custom referred to as “Buck busting” or “Buck breaking .” These terms initially referred to taming wild horses but southern plantation owners used these phrases to refer to black males who were just as human as they were.
This practice was utilized to “break in” defiant black male slaves as if they were untamed beasts. It was also suppose to deter other slaves from going against their masters. Unruly black men would be taken to a public place where all the other slaves were watching and told to lower their pants and bend forward. At that point the master would brutally rape the man. After this act of violation the slave would be forced to wear his pants with no belt and allow them to sag, as evidence he had been “ busted” or “broken in’.
Most Americans know that slave owners raped black females because the evidence came to light each time a light or white looking child was born. Movies such as Roots depicted male slaves bring whipped, beaten, shot, and hanged. The films Mandingo snd Mandinga had scenes where white mistresses of the plantation, willingly had sex with male slaves. Not much has been said however, about the fact that plantation owners sexually assaulted the men whom they bought and paid for as if they were no more than wild beasts.
Sagging pants also have a history in the American prison system. Just like in the days of Antibelum it’s rooted in the sexual assault of men against other males. Prisoners cannot wear belts because they can be used as weapons. This is why those who are incarcerated wear pants that sag. Some men are forced to let their pants drop and bend over when they are being raped by other inmates. A number of individuals have addressed this narrative over the years in an attempt to get young men to stop wearing this style but it has been in vain. For more than three decades this ugly trend has remained and does not seem to be going anywhere.
I have also seen young women walking around with pants sagging and I often wonder, why? Whatever happened to dressing for success and putting your best foot forward? Why don't young people desire to look neat any more? Both in prison and during slavery this practice was utilized to dehumanize men. It came ftom the brutal pain and humiliation of rape of men by other males on plantations as well as those who are locked up. Many older adults have said sagging pants should be a crime and considered as indecent exposure but their cries are ignored and the sagging continues. As time goes goes on it seems this style is being accepted when so many wish it would go away.
This style of dress originated within the African American community with hip hop artists and rappers leading the way. The duo Kriss Kross used to perform in gigantic sagging pants that were worn backwards. This horrified many parents and educators but the style caught on and many young men were walking around holding their sagging pants by the waist as they tried to walk or run.
This mode of dressing now transcends racial boundaries. Young men of other cultures also embrace this style and do so proudly. There was a time when young ladies wanted to date young men who dressed neat and their clothing fit properly. Those days obviously are long gone. The history of this fad has not seemed to deter anyone as many have shared it without seeing changes. Even so, it’s important to know what is at the root and f things we do because knowledge brings power.
The young men and women who sag their pants believe they are free to dress how they choose. This is ironic because this fashion statement originated out of the need to control others. The plantation owners desired to break in their male slaves and exert power over them. Those who rape incarcerated men do so as a way to bend others to their will. I don’t know why anyone who knows these facts would continue this practice. Why mak a willful choice to dress in a manner that represents such reprehensible actions. Perhaps eventually some fashion designer may come up with a style that will break this 30 year hold on the young people. Sagging even goes on in the workplace with retail and fast food establishments.
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About the author
Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, published author and former Newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psycology and Biblical studies. She enjoys sharing natural cures, and Nostalgia related info. Tips are greatly appreciated.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!