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Fashion and Discipline

Back in the bloom of my youth I went to a typical high school and dressed like a typical teenager. That involved a lot of jeans and T-shirts. Alberta had a junior high school system as well, which covered grades 7-9. It was fairly conservative and run by a principal reviled by most, Archie Wilcox. He was known for being draconian and supposedly had influence in getting his job through a brother on the school board. He was so nasty that at one time his tires were slashed and this was in a day before people were carrying guns or even knives at school. And when he started having an affair with one of the teachers and all of the students knew about it, we laughed at him. He was not loved at all. One day he was addressing the class in his lover’s classroom and his fly was undone so we all snickered at him. He nearly blew a gasket, not knowing what we laughed at.

In this stalag (Simon Fraser Junior High) we were not allowed to wear jeans and one day my homeroom science teacher said, “I need to talk to you about your jeans.” I heard, “I need to talk to you about your genes,” and looked at him confused until he elaborated. I was wearing a pair of light blue not quite jeany material but the cut was too jean like. So I was told I needed to change.

Our homeroom in grade 9 had a rep for being bad and unruly. I’m not sure why but we were definitely feisty (maybe it was one of our boys who slashed Wilcox’s tires). One day I was going down the hall, looking back over my shoulder, and ran into the doughy bosom of Mrs. Acton. She, like Wilcox, was old school, and was his right hand man from what I recall. She wore her hair in a bun, seemed always old and was built  like a battle tank matron.

She looked me over from the sharp edge of her glasses and told me to go see the principal about my top. It was what we called a pop top, sleeveless, and short. It showed about an inch of my midriff. So I went to the principal’s office where he told me I was not conforming to the dress code (or something…I don’t quite remember). I do remember saying back to him, “But this doesn’t affect our learning any,” and I repeated it, unrepentant. Wilcox bubbled a bit and I remained adamant. So I was sent home to change.

I wasn’t as knowledgeable or set in my opinions as perhaps I am now (though I like to think I’m always listening to the other side). Home was a 20-minute walk each way. I arrived home and told my mother what had happened. She agreed with me that my dress didn’t affect my learning but she made me change anyways. So grumpily I complied. (The part of this that may have also influenced her was that my sister had had problems with Wilcox–due to illnesses, I think, and my younger brother transferred to another school because of this principal. He was definitely not someone my family cared to associate with.)

In later years, I thought maybe the instructors were worried about the boys not learning if they were staring at girls in midriff tops. The truth is, that as teenagers everyone is trying on and forming their personalities and sexuality. Girls will show off their bodies if they can. People will wear what they consider sexy, especially if they’re trying to attract the opposite sex.

Now I’ve heard that some schools have banned T-shirts that portray slogans. To make it fair, they ban all slogans to be sure the racist or bigoted ones are gone too. Some ban certain tops, or jeans so low they show the butt crack or underwear, or skirts so high they show the butt. Will it affect learning in general? No. I’m all for banning racist, prejudiced and bigoted comments from a learning environment. Teenagers also like to push boundaries, theirs and others. But what about the clothing  now that I’m no longer constricted to wear, or not wear by teenagerhood, school and all that entails?

Well, I work and I’ve almost always worked where the dress code was lax (or been self-employed). When I worked in a department store we weren’t allowed to wear jeans or dresses that showed our arms (I don’t think that part lasted long). Most places, unless they’re dealing a lot with the public, don’t care if you were jeans, shorts, skirts or T-shirts as long as they’re clean, not so old they’re scruffy and torn, and decent. Decent usually means no short shorts and no bellies showing. Some places may required little to no cleavage showing. It varies depending on the profession.

But as to schools and teenagers…well, they’ve never been the epitomes of fashion. Not that some people ever grow up to have a fashion sense. Teenagers are great experimenters in all aspects of their lives. With their individualism comes trying on everything from attitude to clothing. Too many, I think fall to peer pressure but some go their own way. And should some aspects of their clothing be banned? Well, they should probably remain decent but decency in dress has to be defined. Is a skirt two inches below the butt indecent or okay? Is a top showing some cleavage or a navel fine? Fashion and styles have changed (and come around again) from when I was a teenager, but not that much.

Some of the issues are still the same. The conservative people and administrators will still see certain fashion items as wrong, slovenly or indecent. My mother always equated jeans to working on farms because it was only farmers who wore them when she was growing up.

Granted times have changed and these days there are more and more cases of guns in schools (remember I’m talking mostly Canada here–gun mileage in your area may vary) so the range of what is acceptable may have changed with more “worldly” attitudes, but I think as long as the essentials are covered, in all positions (such as bending over or walking up the stairs in a short short skirt), then teenagers should be allowed the freedom to find themselves and experiment.

Of course, I don’t have kids. I could be singing a different tune if I did.

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Fashion Nightmares: Baggy Bottom Pants

I’m hugely grumpy today so instead of whinging about my problems and the mean people out there I’m gonna bitch about fashion. Along with people that spit everywhere, one of my other pet peeves are the baggy bottom britches.

I’m not just talking about a person whose butt shape doesn’t match that of their jeans. Some people are just buttless and can’t fill out the space. Others, like me, have more than enough but always have extra waist on the pants. I’m talking about those homey boy pants, those misfits of fashion that started out as what, taking grandpa’s pants? Of course, all anti-fashion, such as the original punk movement, becomes fashion and affectation. Hip hop or gangsta pants were just that, starting as hand-me-downs and emulating poor, thug or prison culture.

Woo, that’s what I want to look like, a poor slob. Granted some of this came out of true poverty and humble beginnings, it took on a new life. There are those that argued to ban these fashion nightmares (which they tried in some State) would be racial profiling but I live in a predominantly white and Asian metropolis and it’s the white homies wearing  the pants. They usually have ‘tude all over their face, which I guess you need if you’re going to wear something so ludicrously fugly and impractical.

I mean, face it: thug culture. Not likely that these thugs would be attacking you if their pants kept falling down and inhibiting their fast retreat. Baggy pants did change from the giganto waistband that let them slip off of narrow boy hips. The legs stayed baggy but the waistbands tightened up. I guess guys got tired of hitching up their pants every time they took a step. There is nothing less attractive than showing your boxers in whatever disrepair. They’re not attractive, not sexy and I don’t give a rat’s ass how much you might have paid for them. Oh, there is one thing more hideous, the butt crack. Sorry, not attractive on women either, not lurking above ill-fitting jeans and bulging out of underwear.

The worst offender of the supposedly baggy, sagging pants fashion was a wannabe homey, wearing his tight T-shirt and his long shorts worn low on the hips. They weren’t that baggy so perhaps he was emulating the more recent hip-hop trends. But lo and behold, his briefs weren’t, and were there to be seen, worn right up to the waist, in bright bright red and a good six inches showing. It was actually hilarious. Threatening? No. Tuff? No. Just absolutely ridiculous.

Besides the one benefit of guys in baggy bottoms not being able to run from a robbery, there are few benefits. That particular hip-hop/gangsta image overall is now outdated, but outmoded fashions never really go away. No matter how goofy I can see how baggy, loose jeans work for skateboarding , if you find it uncool to wear track pants or yoga pants. (Are you crazy, lady? Who in their right mind would be caught dead wearing yoga pants on a board?) Yeah, crazy. Until someone decides it’s the coolest fly anti-fashion and starts the next trend.

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The Evolution of Fashion to Antifashion

The 14th century hood with a modest liripipe (tail). From medievaldesign.com

Fashion changes and often goes through anti-fashion. In the middle ages a popular piece of clothing was the hood (your first medieval hoodie). It came with dagged edges in a variety of shapes like scallops, fleur de lys, pointed, etc. And it came with different lengths of liripipe or the tail off the back of the hood. The hood was first worn as you would expect, where it was pulled over the head, the face peeking through the opening, the tail hanging down the back or sometimes wrapped around the neck as a windbreak.

But as the essential fashion progressed, the young guys would take the hood and

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The hood got tossed on its side and the liripipe was lengthened. From: medievalenterprises.com

place the opening on the top of the head, flopping the dags to one side and wrapping the liripipe around the head to hold it all in place. A rakish hat, to be sure. This exhibits how fashion has always been created to serve a purpose and then it may become more decorative or serve a different purpose than what was first intended. Some fashion was dictated by climate, some by what the rulers were wearing, such as the high forehead of Queen Elizabeth I (caused by a syphilitic dad) but popular with the women who may have plucked their hair to give them high foreheads.

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One way not to lose your baggy pants, suspenders. Sexy. Uh yeah, sure. Creative Commons: Signature9

Sometimes fashion goes so far afield that it is only popular with a small group, notable for its bizarre look but not catching on with the majority. I would consider the overly large pants, with crotches to the knees that young guys wear. The style has adapted so these pants that still look like you’re a 12-year-old who stole his grandfather’s pants have a smaller waist. Often, they’re worn overly loose so they hang halfway down a guy’s butt, showing off his underwear. I’ve seen some ludicrous reaches of this unfashionable fashion. One was the kid whose pants were hanging under his butt cheeks. The other was a guy in a tight tank top/wifebeater and pants worn low with about six inches of his waist-high, bright red underwear showing. It wasn’t sexy at all.

The good thing about the baggy ass fashion is that it’s popular with the skateboard crowd, which has eschewed yoga pants and lycra, and gives the liberty of movement. The other good thing is, you know if a guy is wearing pants like that, he’s not likely to rob a store because he’d have to run holding his pants up.

Plumber crack fashionsare just never good. The lower pants also came in for women, but more formfitting and displaying pierced

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The Backtacular Gluteal Cleft Shield to hide the butt crack. Really? Just…don’t.

navels, and sometimes hipbones. Thong underwear seems to go hand in hand but showing the T-bar at the back over a butt crack is still not attractive. There is about one percent of the population of either gender who might be able to get away with this. Presume you’re not that one.

Another really silly style is the platform, high heel runners (tennis shoes) or the heelless ones. But then one could argue that all high heels are silly, even though we (men and women) have been wearing them for about four hundred years or more. Chopins of the Renaissance were really clogs to put your shoes into for walking in the muck. They got to ridiculous heights of twelve or more inches and required an attendant on each side to keep the person upright. Conspicuous consumption? You bet.

This made me think back to what my friends and I wore as teenagers. Bell bottom jeans that were overly long. Some people hemmed them but having frayed and full of holes was an acceptable look. T-shirts. I had one that said Panama Red before I knew what that was and my friend had one with Bugs Bunny on it. We obviously wore these often enough that my nickname became Panama and hers Bugsy. Completing our lovely ensembles were lumberjack shirts, as we called them (sometimes known as mac or mackinaw) and they were a thick flanneled cotton in red and black or black and green plaid. They were the jacket of choice before we got jean jackets.

I know my mother didn’t like this fashion and thought jeans were something worn for working on the farm, but we were within our teenage realm. Not everyone wore what my friends wore but there were enough of us that we probably formed our own antifashion. Fashion will continue to come and go and go through its antithesis of anti-fashion. I’m sure at some point in our lives, every one of us shakes their heads at what people are wearing.

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