For those of you who aren’t American Idol fans, an “older” gentleman named Larry Platt came on the show, knowing full well he wasn’t going to be selected to compete — but showing off his stuff just the same, singing a goofy rap song he made up and titled “Pants on the ground.”
The nonsensical song addressed the sagging pants fad that for whatever reason, has yet to fade.
Because we are a country that feeds off shows that make people look like fools (COPS, America’s Funniest Videos, Punked, Cheaters, Jerry Springer etc.) watching a man rap: “Pants on the ground. Pants on the ground. Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground. With the gold in your mouth, hat turned sideways. Pants hit the ground. Call yourself a cool cat with your pants on the ground. Walkin’ downtown with your pants on the ground!” — was entertaining to a large number of the world’s population.
And with the technology of today, viewers made it an instant hit. The next day people in factories, corporate offices, cab drivers, ticket takers, prosecutors — well, you get the picture — Mr. Platt got a lot more than his 15 minutes of fame: being asked as a guest on chat shows, his chant recited by newscasters all over the globe, downloaded as a ringtone on millions of cell phones and even (I kid you not) making it to No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
I wasn’t sure at first if it was because of the lyrics themselves, the fact that the man kind of made himself look like a fool on National television, or because he was an African American, saying to the youth of the world to find pants that fit.
I first noticing teens doing it - wearing their pants below their waistlines in the early 1990s when my eldest daughter’s friends began cutting the waists (the area you’d run a belt through and button) off their pants. WHY did they do it? So they could show off their g-strings (aka the whale tail).
WHAT? you ask. Yes, and their lower back tattoos that are now commonly referred to as “tramp stamps” (I didn’t start the moniker) could also be better displayed that way ... as could their belly button piercings. My daughter was grounded a lot so didn’t get to show much of anything to anyone.
At the same time, boys starting showing off the fact that they wore underwear at all and helped solve the single girl’s pondering with friends of whether he wore boxers or briefs. The trends, as they all do, hit it off with youth everywhere, desiring as always to shock and rebel.
The trend with the girls ended up evolving into the “low-rise” jeans that belly-pooching women like me dislike because their fat isn’t corralled properly. But the trend did make designers realize we never liked “mom jeans” either because they came up to the bottom of our rib cages, which darn it, was just plain uncomfortable — and likely unhealthy.
The boys trend actually began as a response to them trying to convey that they were tough. I think it starts with sports like football — boys didn’t say “cheese” when the shutter snaps but rather put on their “game faces” glaring at any opponents who might be viewing the photo.
And it’s a testosterone thing that’s managed to make it through the decades. Off they top of my head I remember seeing it displayed in the 1950s (leather jackets and cigarettes), 1960s (long hair and fringe), 1970s (leather pants and lots of jewelry), 1980s (teased and sprayed hair and spandex pants), and so on.
The 1990s trend for the boys, was started by rappers (who had gotten it from a trend among the imprisoned) and is still hanging on unlike the pants themselves. Nowadays, especially in the larger cities, their entire bums are hanging out (thankfully covered) and the crotch of their pants is almost at their knees. I can’t understand why they don’t feel stupid wearing their pants that way.
The criminals that coined the phrase “gangster” wore fedoras, ties or vests (and oftentimes suspenders) and well-shined shoes.