Teenage rebellion is nothing new. During my seventy years I’ve seen and perpetrated jabs at the establishment and was certainly witness to a long festival of revolts from criticism of the war in Vietnam to anger over having the school gymnasium as the venue for the senior prom. When a teen does something deliberately off the beaten path in a vocal or visible way, it’s often because he or she is making a statement of malaise about existing conditions or to establish his or her own identity, which often means just copying other teens.
Such displays or demonstrations of revolt have generally been done through music and fashion from punk rock to miniskirts and Mohawk haircuts. Rock and roll of the 1950’s began a wave of new identity that made bebop of the 1940’s and jazz from the flapper 1920’s look tame, but music has been tweaking itself ever since Bill Haley and Elvis in order to create a subculture of the young that continues to push boundaries to raise eyebrows and scream, “I’m here!”
One of the forms of rebellion in clothing of recent years for teens is sagging jeans that show undershorts, because the pants waist is worn so low that it makes the wearer look either like a troglodyte with stunted legs or an adult donning a loaded diaper. The origin of this “fashion” statement seems to have been gang-related and encouraged by some forms of Hip Hop and Gangster Rap, whose origins were also very anti-establishment.
Sagging pants are just another in a series of nudges that are meant to push the buttons of adults. Those nudges go back to things like DA (duck ass) haircuts of the 1950’s and newer statements like nose rings, steel tongue inserts, eyebrow pins, etc. The more disgusted we adults are, the greater success the teen statement to repulse us. Save photos of them though for when those kids actually grow up (assuming they ever will). Parents will have loads of blackmail material for years to come. If kids think that vomit-covered tee shirts will get a negative reaction from adults, those tees will become a sensation and fly off the shelves of clothing stores overnight. It’s all about getting a reaction, and I imagine such behavior goes back in history many centuries. Laughing at them is probably more effective than having painful grimaces on our faces. Everything goes back to achieving an identity, even if it’s a moronic one.
Someday we might look back at sagging pants with nostalgia after kids come up with other stuff that is yet more ridiculous and offensive. The bottom line on this for me is parents themselves, the ones who give carte blanche to their kids, sending a message that either the parents don’t care, or that the kids are in charge and may look as stupid as they wish. Those boundaries for many parents have been let go so that there is no longer any border or authority. Thus, a kid’s model for behavior becomes that of his dumb friends, who also have oblivious parental guidance. So it goes.
One wonders what possibly dangerous and irreversible fashion statements may lie just around the corner. Are there any places on the human body where metal inserts haven’t been embedded, or any places that haven’t been tattooed? It may be sad eventually to see kids of today when they’re in their 70’s and 80’s, withered flesh held together by metal pins, barbs, and rings that, on the bright side, will at least render electrical storms more exciting. Stay tuned. JB