Should Schools Oppose Ultra Low-Rise Pants?

Some schools are enforcing dress codes that prohibit low-rise pants. Are they being too conservative or is there a good reason?

In this age of MTV and music videos, fashion trends seem to sweep the nation with alarming frequency. Just when parents think that styles can't get any more extreme, another wave hits retail stores, sending teenagers scrambling for the latest. Certainly, many a weary parent has eyed his or her child's latest wardrobe addition and thought, enough is enough. But now, with low-rise pants having hit what has to be an all time low, many school districts across the country are considering taking some long over-due action.

For women, low rise pants re-appeared on the fashion scene in the mid 1990s, a resurrection of the hip-huggers worn in the 1960s, and the bell bottoms that were popular during the days of disco! Fashion became more conservative in the 1980s, though, and waistlines truly were at the waist. Low-rise pants began to appear in the early 1990s, though, but didn't really make a splash until 1995.

The revival of this fashion fad was characterized by a reduction in the crotch to waist measurement from what had been standard (10 to 12 inches) to around 7 inches, which sat below the natural waist but about the hip. This style worked well for women of all ages, and caught on quickly, relegating the standard style, high-waisted jeans to thrift shop purgatory!

But every year, it seemed, the rise got increasingly lower, ultimately stopping at 3 to 4 inches. Obviously, this barely covers the essential areas, and usually, wearing jeans this low also entails the display of one's undergarments, either intentionally or not. A whole new market has opened up for thong underwear as a result of this trend.

Modern low-rise jeans are usually worn with a belly revealing, skimpy top that exposes inches of flesh between the point at which the top ends and the pants begin. And exposing flesh seems to be what it is all about, no matter how toned or out of shape the flesh may be. These pants hit at the fleshiest part of the hip, and the effect is not always flattering.

One of the problems that school officials have with girls wearing these pants is that of exposure. There is no way to sit down when wearing deeply dipping pants, that will not expose the derriere almost entirely. Girls sitting in class with exposed backsides are certainly a distraction for other students - especially boys!

Problems can also occur when a girl bends down to pick something up off the floor or even to tie a shoe. These pants also have a tendency to slide down and must frequently be pulled up. All in all, they are not comfortable to wear.

But low-rise jeans can also be somewhat hazardous to one's health. In a study conducted in 2001, researchers discovered that wearing low-rise jeans can cause pinching of a nerve in the hip. This condition, known as meralgia paresthetica, leads to numbness in the thigh, which can be permanent.

The issue then, is whether or not schools should step in and institute some sort of dress code forbidding girls from wearing low-rise pants to class, and once again taking the place of parents in dictating the child's behavior. School districts that have tried to ban these pants have immediately run into problems in that the definition of "low-rise" is unclear. How do authorities determine where to draw the line? What about girls who wear a sweater or sweatshirt over their jeans to hide the plunging waist. Some girls can wear these pants without exposing their underwear, while others cannot.

Mandating conformity to dress codes without actually stipulating what students can wear has never worked in American school systems, and unless a school is willing to go all the way, and demand that students wear uniforms, it is almost impossible to ban a style since styles themselves are subjective. In the 1960s, for example, schools tried to banish mini-skirts by insisting that skirts touch the ground when a girl kneeled down. The answer to that was to wear a standard length skirt but then to roll up the waist for the shorter look!

However, schools can indicate that no one be allowed to wear pants that expose his or her underwear, which is the route that many schools have taken. In fact, the state of Virginia tried to pass a law banning anyone from wearing pants that exposed his or her underwear in the state lest they be subject to a fine. The law was not passed, however.

If you are parent, talk to your child about the risks involved with exposing so much of themselves in public, as well as the suspected health risk. If you do not want your child wearing a particular style of clothing, tell the child that this is not acceptable to your sense of what is decent.

There is one consolation. Fashion changes quickly, and what is cool today, may be old and "tired" tomorrow. Teenagers have dressed rebelliously for generations, and for the most part, these fashion trends have never killed anyone. Think back, for a moment of what you were wearing as a teenager. This too shall pass!

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