Government Should Not Dictate Clothing Styles, Says ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
September 7, 2010 12:00 am

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Urges Rejection of Baton Rouge Resolution Concerning Saggy Pants


Concerned about racial stereotyping and unfounded generalizations about the consequences of clothing styles, the ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to all members of the East Baton Rouge Parish Council urging them to reject a proposed resolution concerning saggy pants. That resolution, set for hearing on September 8, 2010, requests a “public awareness campaign to end public exposure to baggy pants.”

In the ACLU’s letter to the Council, Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said: “Instead of entering the world of fashion commentary, the Council should protect the rights of all people of Baton Rouge to wear what they choose and know that they will be judged by the “content of their character” and not by their choice of clothing.” The letter further states that any focus on sagging pants targets young African-American men without any evidence of harm caused by that particular clothing style.

“This resolution addresses the wrong problem,” said Esman. “The Council should send the message of tolerance, not intolerance. If people are stereotyped because of what they wear, the government should encourage community members to look behind the clothing, not to judge people by what they wear.”

The resolution fails to explain how a clothing style worn outside of school or work can affect education or employment, nor does it address those whose occupations sometimes cause their undergarments to show. Esman continued: “While some members of the community may not like particular clothing choices, they must recognize that if the government can affect the height of someone’s waistband, it can control other aspects of dress and personal appearance. Choice of clothing is a personal one and one in which the government has no place.”

The ACLU’s letter to the Parish Council is available at:

The proposed resolution is available at:

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