'Pants on the Ground' puts style in spotlight
By Tony Hicks
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 01/29/2010 04:30:36 PM PST
Updated: 01/30/2010 08:36:35 AM PST
At Bridges restaurant in Danville, a young repairman arrived to fix a piece of equipment — pretty normal stuff.
Except, the repairman had his pants on the ground, as "General" Larry Platt would say.
"The boss had to ask him to pull his pants up because it was unacceptable with guests in the restaurant," said Shyer Lovecchio, Bridges' office manager.
For the record, he was a refrigerator repairman, not a plumber. And the look was intentional.
Call it the style statement that won't go away. More than 25 years ago, young men first began wearing their pants so low on their hips people marveled that they managed to keep them on. Then people got used to it. In fact, no one was even talking about sagging pants anymore, until the Jan. 13 broadcast of "American Idol."
That's when America watched Larry Platt, 62, shuffle into an Atlanta audition. After announcing in a soft voice that he was "General" Larry Platt, he launched into a yelling dance routine to his own song "Pants on the Ground."
The 47-second bit launched a pop-culture phenomenon.
"I've never seen an 'Idol'-related phenomenon hit the Internet as quickly as 'Pants,'" said Lyndsey Parker, managing editor at Yahoo Music. Within 20 minutes of Platt's audition, it was all over YouTube, she said. By the next morning, countless remixes sped around the Internet.
How the style originated is not clear. Some say it came from prisons, where inmates were prohibited from wearing belts they could use as weapons. Another theory says baggy pants were simply an extension of '80s hip-hop fashion inspired by the zoot suits of the '30s and '40s.
Pants continued to slip down as the music genre expanded into the suburbs.
"It's pretty much implanted into our brains that it looks cool," said Justin Purcell, a 17-year-old senior at California High School in San Ramon. "I put them around the top of my crack, while some have them totally off their butt. When girls wear their sweats, a lot of them wear them pretty low."
Japrell Phillips, a 21-year-old Diablo Valley College student from Pittsburg, says the style comes and goes. He looked down at his own pants, slung well below his hips.
"I used to wear them even baggier than this," he said. "But I couldn't walk. They were down to my kneecaps — at least that's what my teachers used to say."
Marcus Feiner, of Concord, said he no longer even thinks about his baggy pants — especially since the trend was well under way when he was born 20 years ago.
"I just like to have my pants right below my hips," Feiner said. "Some people go pretty far. I just do it because it feels right."
Justin and Phillips agree sagging baggies' days may be numbered, even without Platt's help. "Not nearly as many (kids are going low) as when I was in eighth grade," Justin said.
That's good news to a fashion expert in San Francisco.
"It's become a rather tired, post-high school uniform," said Simon Ungless, director of fashion at the Academy of Art University.