A good time to wave off fashion police

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Just in time for the warmer temperatures, Danville, Ill., alderman Tommie Reed floated the idea of passing a city ordinance that would make excessively baggy pants against the law. Such a silly idea would normally not merit much attention if it apparently hadn’t already been enacted elsewhere.

We’re sure that most people can get around the basic principle of not wanting to see people wear clothes that just aren’t decent or flattering. But what we’re more sure of is that any effort to regulate this is a waste of time and money.

Similar ordinances in Atlanta and Louisiana are geared toward young people who obviously have a different opinion of acceptable dress than the older people who propose them.

But to say that this boils down to some variation on “these kids and their blank” is intellectually dishonest. Everyone knows that generational conflict will always exist, no matter what anybody wears.

The real question is why some people believe that the best way to solve this “problem” is to simply ban it. Or better yet, are some of these people parents?

The case against banning something for little substantive reason from both a parental and a governmental perspective is simply the unintended consequence. If you tell a child “no,” he will only want it more. Worse still, he may resort to questionable measures to achieve his goal.

The problem governments encounter when they ban something is that it only drives it underground. Additionally, people may find worse things to do. While we’re not sure what would be next after baggy pants, it would turn into a race that everyone runs, but nobody wins.

The practical argument is that it seems like a gross misuse of tax dollars for police to go after baggy pants when there is no doubt other crime to focus on. It is not the job of a city council to force local law enforcement to become the literal fashion police.

If this entire dispute comes down to respect, then it seems to us that it’s the responsibility of parents and teachers to set a high standard of appearance for young people, instead of forcing it upon them.

In the whole scheme of things, sagging pants shouldn’t rank highly on anyone’s legislative priority list if only because that it gives governments another excuse to intrude on what should be personal decisions. Turquoise could be next.

The answer to a controversial fashion trend should not be an equally controversial (and more damaging) legislative trend.

Baggy pants will eventually go out of style, and hopefully these local proposals will go with them.