Leaders of a New Jersey shore town are looking to butt in on how people dress when they stroll the boardwalk, because they believe most visitors don't want to see people's rear ends hanging out.
They're is set to pass a law Wednesday to ban anyone on the boardwalk from wearing pants that sag more than 3 inches below the hips, exposing either skin or underwear.
Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr. said Wildwood, a popular beach town near the southern tip of the state, has been inundated with complaints from tourists upon whose money the city depends for its survival.
"When you have good families who call you up and say, `I've been coming here 20 years, 30 years, 40 years and I'm not going to any longer because I'm not going to subject my children or my parents or grandparents to seeing some kid walk down the boardwalk with their butt hanging out,' you have to do something," he said.
The proposed ordinance would also require shoes and shirts on the boardwalk, but it's the saggy pants provision that has gained the most attention.
Frank Krueger, of Gloucester City, and his wife, Denise, are all for it. They have been visiting Wildwood for decades. Together, they had spent about $80 on pizza and games of chance during two hours of strolling the boards on a recent day.
"You want a family atmosphere here," he said. "You don't want to see someone walking around with their butt crack hanging out. On the beach is one thing, but not here on the boardwalk."
"It's disgusting," his wife added.
John Peters was not sporting his pants quite that low Monday on the boardwalk. But they were still low enough that half his navy blue briefs were exposed. He had not heard of the proposed law but said he was unconcerned about it.
"That's not low, compared to some of the others," he said of his pants.
Known popularly as "sagging," the trend originated in the U.S. prison system, where inmates are not allowed to wear belts. It was popularized by hip-hop artists and embraced by youths.
The issue has cropped up -- or rather, drooped down -- in towns across the country. Authorities in suburbs of New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., are among those who have passed laws banning overly droopy pants.
The proposed Wildwood law would set fines of $25 to $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses. Having to do 40 hours of community service is also a possibility.
Bathing suits are already prohibited for both sexes on the boardwalk, unless covered up by other clothing.
Ruthann Robson, a City University of New York law professor and author of the upcoming book "Dressing Constitutionally," said the Wildwood law appears to be unconstitutional.
"Courts have struck down attempts to ban saggy pants if what is exposed is underwear rather than `private parts,"' she said. "As for municipalities requiring men to wear shirts, at least one federal appellate court has said that is `irrational."'
Troiano said the city's lawyers are confident it can withstand a court challenge.
He promised police won't be out with measuring tapes, relying instead on common sense when evaluating a person's attire.
"They say it's a fashion statement and this is America and they have the right to dress how they want," Troiano said of those who wear their pants low. "Well, I have the right to decency," he said. "My right is not to have to look at your (rear end) if I don't want to. I find that offensive. Go somewhere else and do it, and for every one person I lose, I'll gain 10 more who will be glad."
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