WILDWOOD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The bottom line on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey: Pull up your pants.
The Jersey Shore city voted on Wednesday to ban saggy pants on its two-mile stretch of boardwalk. Offenders whose pants hang lower than three inches from the waist could be fined up to $200, and the statute also requires shirts to be worn on the boardwalk between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the city was addressing dozens of complaints from visitors over the years, but the American Civil Liberties Union said the new rule infringed on freedom of expression and it might try to block it in court.
“We would get 100 emails and 98 would say they were offended by it,” Troiano said of jeans or trousers slung far below the waistline, exposing the wearer’s underpants.
“We’re just asking people be a little decent to those who are offended. I’ve had kids say ‘I have a right to wear my pants like this,’ and I respond ‘I have a right not to look at your rear end,’” Troiano said.
The low-slung trend has been criticized as everything from an eyesore to a promotion of prison culture, where the fashion originated among inmates who are not allowed belts.
Beachgoer Courtney Healy, 20, of Philadelphia said she supports the ban.
“It’s completely gross and distracting,” she said. “It’s about time.”
Though few exceedingly saggy pants were visible on the boardwalk on Wednesday, one man said he did not think the rule would be enforceable.
“It seems like they are trying to regulate style,” said Gene Silnicki, a Wildwood summer resident. “It’s just a youth culture thing.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said the new law violates the First Amendment right to free expression, which includes clothing choices.
“Litigation is something that we are going to consider,” said executive director Udi Ofer. “Bad taste is not a crime. This bill basically criminalizes legal behavior. We’re also worried that enforcement could be used to target communities of color.”
Wildwood joins other suburbs from Chicago to Atlanta which have imposed fines for droopy pants. Seaside Heights, New Jersey, also is considering a similar law on that borough’s boardwalk.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and David Gregorio