saggy trousers
Baggy trousers: The City Council of Pikeville has begun the process of banning "saggy pants"

A town in South Carolina has banned the wearing of sagging trousers after residents complained some hanged so low most of their underwear could be seen. Timmonsville Town Council said anyone flouting the new rules could be given a verbal warning or even a fine of up to $600 (£460, €540).

Mayor Pro Tem William James, Jr said that the unusual measures, which were passed by councillors on Tuesday (5 July), were about retaining "integrity and respect".

"I think other towns are actually doing it, and we need to do it," James said after the first reading was passed last month. "We need to get a handle on Timmonsville. In order to clean up Timmonsville, this is one of the things we're going to have to start (doing)."

He added: "Young children do what they see. If they see older guys doing that [wearing sagging trousers], they're going to grow up and think that it's right. We need to put a stop to it. I understand there's a such thing as fads, but this has gone on way too long."

The new rules would target those who "wear pants, trousers, or shorts such that the known undergarments are intentionally displayed/exposed to the public". Those in violation will first be given a verbal warning and have their name taken. A second offence would see a written warning with the possibility of their name placed on a law enforcement registry.

On a third violation, a fine ranging from $100 to $600 could be issued as determined by the city judge. Councillor Walter Washington, who presented the motion, said the laws were needed because residents were afraid to leave their vehicles due to how some residents dressed.

"We're trying to build up our town," he said. "And we can have the business, but if the people are not looking somewhat decent, then we have the business but because of the people, they'll be scared to get out of their cars."

One councillor, Cheryl Qualls, voted against the ordinance, saying she disagreed with the policy. "It will increase racial profiling on some of our children here in Timmonsville and across the country," she said. Qualls also claimed some clothes companies now sell trousers that make it look like they're sagging when they are not.

Sagging trousers 'dangerous'

Timmonsville is not the first US town to try to clamp down on those wearing low-hanging trousers. The measures have been considered in communities across several states. In 2014, the Tennessee city of Pikeville passed similar laws saying trousers or jeans could not be worn "more than three inches below the top of the hips".

The ordinance stated that Pikeville finds the "exposure of a person's buttocks and genital area or undergarments" offensive and indecent. It also claimed there was a medical reason for the regulations, saying: "There is evidence that indicates that wearing sagging pants is injurious to the health of the wearer as it causes improper gait [movement of limbs]."

In 2008, President Barack Obama weighed into the debate after Jasper County Council, also in South Carolina, was similarly considering a saggy trousers ban. He said in an interview with MTV: "Here's my attitude: I think passing a law about people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time.

"We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, getting health care, dealing with the war in Iraq. Any public official who is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants."

The new regulations passed by Timmonsville Town Council, which also included measures on public exposure, read:

It shall be unlawful for any person driving or walking in the streets and roads of the Town of Timmonsville to:

(a) Engage in public nudity;

(b) display pornographic material such that others are unwantingly exposed to the same or that minors are able to view the same;

(c) display the flesh of one's rear-end, behind, or backside during stationary or movement within the city limits;

(d) wear pants, trousers, or shorts such that the known undergarments are intentional [sic] displayed/exposed to the public.