Boys' Baggy Jeans

Figure 1.--.

The grunge look and hip-hop styles appearred in the 1990s. Many boys want large baggy jeans as baggy as possible with waists several sizes to large. There is some disagreement among the origin of baggy jeans. Some observers seem to think people in the Hip Hop community began to copy the pants that prisoners were issued while they were incarcerated and thus lend their attire to prison chic? Others are convinced that the baggy jean actually has some roots in the skate/snowboard industry. It just happens that when the urban hip hop and core skate crowds get together it can be explosive.


The fashion tastes of children and adolescents often mistify parents. Few have mistified parents more than the current style of baggy jeans worn several sizes to large and without a belt. We are also unsure as to the origins and popularity of the fashion of wearing over-sized baggy jeans. A HBC reader writes, "I have known for years that the fashion of wearing baggy and sagging pants began in the prisons because the inmates were not allowed to have belts, thus their pants always sagged."

Hip-Hop Clothing

Teenagers have developed their own terminology for evaluating clothing, much of it based on hip-hop styles. Two accolades for boys clothing are "loose" and "ghetto." Hip-hop culture first appeared among Black youth and young men in New York City's Bronx (mid-1970s). Early expressions of hip-hop were rap music, spray-painted graffiti, and break dancing. Eventually these young people began to develop a destinctive fashion sence. The four major clothing garments associated with hip-hop styles are: baseball caps, jerseys, baggy jeans, and sneakers. Notably these were primaily not destinctive garments--but items from mainstream fashion worn in a distinctive way. Basseball caps were worn backwards. Adidas sneakers or Timberland boots were worn with aces untied. Perhaps the most destinctive feature of rap clothing is the use of bright colors. This is especially true of the popular over-sized jerseys. Another destinctive feature is the use of clothes with logos--especially sports logos. Clothes with a name brand are also important. There appears to be a significant influence of prison culture on baggy hip hop clothing. This can hardly be ignored in a history of boys' clothing, since it suffuses mainstream fashion as well. Fashions standards were once set by the wealthy class and then emulate bu=y the middle class and then the working-class to the extent they could afford to do so. Hip-hop has reversed thsat trend. Many White middle-class teen agers have adopted hip-hop styles, a style originsating among Black inner-city teenagers. Here the White teenagers appear to be taking their fashion pointers from rap music videos that they view on MTV.

Parent Views

Parents were at first mistified by the new look. After a while they grudinly accepted te new look without really unerstanding it.

One parent contacted HBC. "Hello and congratulation for your Web page. I'm a 45 years old father of two teenagers: two boys of 14 and 17 years old. I would like to know why teenagers today put their pants so low. It seems like they do not have bottom. All of my suns' friends come at home with their fat pants and I do not understand what can be "cool" when you put your pants so low. Please, could you tell me why. Why in heavens names would they want to look like that?!?"

Another parent writes, "I can't understand why my son wants to wear those stupid looking shorts. They make im look like a clown. When I was a child I did not like cloths that did not fit, because they looked like hand downs."

A HBC reader writes, "Baggy pants seem emblematic of something very scary in the works. I grew up in the 60's (I'm 48). Our parents were dismayed at our long hair and beads, but it is true that our Founders and American Indians had long hair, and that beads are considered beautiful all over the world. In short, there was something at least vaguely aesthetic about what the way we dressed. There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about Baggy pants, which make young men, even young FATHERS (I saw a man who was "sagging" picking up his 8-year-old son at Little League yesterday), look like babies with a diaper under their pants, are simply one more way in which our society is EMBRACING AND BOWING TO STUPIDITY." -- Jeff Syrop

School Policies

A teacher explained that: "Actually these are the rules that we are currently operating under (with the exception of tucking in shirts, which we dropped last year). As for the baggy clothes and hemmed clause, this is mainly for students that wear 40+ size pants (while having a 25+/- waist) - one of my students last year tried to wear the _same_ pair of pants day in and day out for nearly the whole year, they were so baggy that the bottoms of the legs wore out from him walking on them for so long (plus he only washed them every other month or so - if then). As for this being the _only_ pair of pants he owned, his parents didn't allow him to leave home with the baggy ones so he hid them in his book bag and changed into them when he got to school - sometimes wearing the baggy ones over his regular pants so that he could change on the way to the assistant principals' office. I would say that nearly all of the students out of dress code for having baggy/oversize pants were not in need of financial assistance. One student replied to a comment I made about her very oversized pants "You know how much these things cost???" apparently they were in the $50+ range. The main reason for the "hemmed" rule is to eliminate the "daisy-may" (sp?) type of short shorts that some girls like to wear. Martin

Student Views

Brief comments

HBC has received quite a number of student comments on baggy jeans. Unfortunately many of the comments have been so incohernt and or full of vulgaraties that we have been unable to use many of them.

I understand the need for a dress code, but I seriously doubt that these would be followed or even enforced. The high school I went to had a similar dress code (with the exception of the hair and body piercing rules), but it was never enforced, and I think some of the regulations could be considered discriminatory in a public school, such as not baggy clothes and pants must be hemmed, because some students only get their clothes second hand and can't always get them in their size.

An American teenager in 2000 provides the following view of the baggy jeans style, "The reason boys wear their pants so low and baggy is because thats the style. The reason that they where them so low is probably to get girls to like them, or cuz they just wanna be cool, and because when you wear them low it makes them baggy--everyone loves baggy pants. Wearing them low is called "sagging". They also probably sag them cuz they want to look like a punk. Trust me I'm 15, I know this stuff, I wear baggy pants and sag them to."

A British reader tells us, "I have a boyfriend who has always worn baggy jeans, he says it is because they are comfortable and easy to wear. I used to laugh at him and say he looked scruffy etc. But then I started to get into punk music and began wearing baggy jeans myself. It is true, they are comfortable and easy to wear! They are definatley not for scruffy people who do not care about how they look. I care about what I look like, I like to look smart. Baggy jeans are actaully very expensive! Also, I believe that people wear baggy jeans because of the music they listen to, it fits in with the music (punk rock, pop-punk). I love wearing baggy jeans now but would never want to look scruffy or 'poor'. Baggy jeans are growing in girls as well as boys, as well as the new cordroy baggy jeans, and other materials. Baggy jeans rule!" - Sarah, England [HBC note: We appreciate Sarah's cogent comments. One minor comment. Expensive does usually equate with trendy, but does not always equate with either quality merchandise or smart looking clothes.]

A minority view

A HBC reader writes, "I suppose that I am one of the minority. In your website, you say that there is at least one "perfect boy" in the United States who voluntarily asks his mother if he could put on a pullover or coat. I suppose I am that one perfect boy. Or perhaps I am not, since I argued with my father every summer (until this summer, when he finally agreed that I am old enough to choose what I want to wear) when he tried to force me to wear short-sleeved t-shirts. Reading your website, it dawned upon me that you were unaware of boys who prefer long sleeves and formal wear. By writing this e-mail, I am trying to tell you that there are some exceptions to your generalisations."

HBC Assessment

The question as to why baggy jeans have proven so popular is an interesting one. Several factors occur to HBC, but these are at this time highly speculative. We would be interested in reader assessments on this interesting question. One factor could be normal fashion cycles, but HBC sensed that more is involved.

Fashion cycles

Change is a constant factor in fashion. Certain classic fashions persist over long periods, but other fashions come and go over time. Just as wide ties and lapels are followed by narrow ties and lapels, it seems logical that the short cut, trim fitting shorts of the 1980s sould be followed by baggy jeanns.


One factor that young people today often mention is comfort. Loose fitting cloting woul seem to be more comfortable than tight cloting. HBC woners, however, about comfortable clotes are that our grosely oversized and that seem to be falling down.

Social statement

Certainly when te style of baggy jeans first appeared, they were a definite fashion statement. Young people seeme to be saying that they refused to accept adult standards of neatness and objected to te very idea of dressing up.

Other factors

A variety of other factors may be involved and HBC would be interested in reader input.


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Created: December 15, 1998
Last updated: 10:37 PM 8/28/2004