If you watched the season premiere of Glee last week, you likely witnessed the backup dancing served up by the McKinley High cheerleaders. It’s an image we’re used to on screen and off – cheerleaders in matching short skirts and sleeveless tops parading the halls of high school.
But according to Time Magazine, one school is cracking down on cheerleaders’ revealing uniforms. Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose, Calif. says the skirts and shirts reveal too much; the administration is demanding that cheerleaders wear sweatpants and shirts under their uniforms at school.
Dressing appropriately is a controversial subject for young men, too. In fact, the debate has made it as far as the courtroom in Florida, where a 17-year-old boy was jailed overnight for violating a “saggy pants” law. A police officer spotted him riding his bike with his pants slung low enough to reveal 4 or 5 inches of boxer shorts.
“Your Honor,” the boy’s public defender told the court, “We now have the fashion police.”
A Florida judge later declared the law unconstitutional, but that hasn’t deterred authorities in New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, and California (the land of the covered-up cheerleaders), from proposing or enacting similar measures, arguing that the sagging fashion is akin to indecent exposure.
The style of wearing over-sized pants that sag to reveal large expanses of underwear started in prisons, where big pants were issued with no belts. In the 1990’s, the look seeped into the popular culture — and under the skin of politicians and police.
“We’re not going to sit here and let that happen in Flint,” declared the police chief of Flint, Michigan, where wearers of saggy pants can be arrested, “if the pants are at the knees and your underwear is exposed.” He calls the look “disorderly” and an example of “immoral self-expression.”
The south Chicago suburb of Lynwood, which also bans the buns look, claims the fad has gone so far as to effect economic growth and discourage businesses from investing in Lynwood.
ACLU attorneys counter, calling the laws “idiotic.” They argue, “You can’t arrest people because of their style of dress.”
Tell us what you think: Should government be responsible for dictating what kids can wear? Or is that a chore for school administrators? And what about parents? Who should take responsibility for children and teens dressing appropriately?
(A portion of this story was previously published as “Fashion Police: the Case of the Sagging Pants” on The Responsibility Project on 10/9/08)