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A cheeky problem: N.J. town to restrict saggy pants

In a June 6, 2013 photo, a young man wears saggy pants on the Wildwood, N.J. boardwalk. Wildwood is set to pass a law Wednesday, June 12, 2013 regulating how people dress on its boardwalk, including a prohibition on pants that sag more than 3 inches below the hips, exposing either skin or underwear. Mayor Ernest Troiano said Wildwood has been inundated with complaints from tourists upon whose money the popular beach town depends for its survival. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

In a June 6, 2013 photo, a young man wears saggy pants on the Wildwood, N.J. boardwalk. Wildwood is set to pass a law Wednesday, June 12, 2013 regulating how people dress on its boardwalk, including a prohibition on pants that sag more than 3 inches below the hips, exposing either skin or underwear. Mayor Ernest Troiano said Wildwood has been inundated with complaints from tourists upon whose money the popular beach town depends for its survival. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Mayor Ernest Troiano thinks he’s found a way to put some of his Jersey Shore resort town’s problems behind it. Wildwood, N.J., is ready to ban overly saggy pants, no ifs, ands or butts.

The city is set to pass a law today regulating how people dress on its boardwalk. It bans going shirtless, as well as walking on the boardwalk with bare feet.

But the provision that has gained widespread attention is a prohibition on pants that sag more than 3 inches below the hips, exposing either skin or underwear. Troiano said Wildwood has been inundated with complaints from tourists upon whose money the popular beach town depends for its survival.

“When you have good families who call you up and say, ‘I’ve been coming here 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, and I’m not going to any longer because I’m not going to subject my children or my parents or grandparents to seeing some kid walk down the boardwalk with their butt hanging out,’ you have to do something,” he said. “I’m not one of the Fruit of the Loom underwear inspectors; I’m not one of the grapes. I don’t want to see it.”

The proposed law would set fines of $25 to $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses. Having to do 40 hours of community service is also a possibility.

Bathing suits are already prohibited for both sexes on the boardwalk, unless covered up by other clothing.

Ruthann Robson, a City University of New York law professor and author of the upcoming book Dressing Constitutionally, said the Wildwood law appears to be unconstitutional.

“Courts have struck down attempts to ban saggy pants if what is exposed is underwear rather than ‘private parts,’ ” she said. “As for municipalities requiring men to wear shirts, at least one federal appellate court has said that is ‘irrational.’ ”

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey declined to comment on the proposed law, but other ACLU chapters elsewhere in the country have denounced similar bans as unconstitutional.

Troiano said the city’s legal department has reviewed the proposed law and is confident it will withstand a court challenge.

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