Wildwood would lose its mojo with baggy-pants ban

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I thought beach towns were doing everything they could to try and bring people to their boardwalks, not drive them away with silly bans and personal gripes.

Apparently, that isn’t the case in “no-longer-Wild-wood,” where the mayor and town council have proposed an ordinance that would essentially force beachgoers to pull up their pants while they traipse around the boardwalk.

“If you want to be a Justin Bieber, go do it somewhere else,” Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. told the Press of Atlantic City, referring to the pop singer millions of people adore. “I’m sick of hearing people complain about the disrespectful individuals who walk around with their butts hanging out.”

The proposed regulation would require the waistband of pants, shorts and bathing suits to be worn no lower than 3 inches below the waist, so no skin or underwear is exposed (referred to in the bill as “below the crest of the ilium”). There’s even language on banning saggy skirts, which I didn’t even know was a problem, considering thongs are still OK.

The ordinance doesn’t stop there. If passed, the ban would force men to wear shirts, but only between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. It would also force people to wear footwear while walking on the boardwalk. No word yet from nanny state officials if requirements to wear sunblock and drink water are in the works.

So how does the town plan on enforcing this new ordinance? Are meter maids going to be equipped with a ruler, or is the town planning on hiring seasonal “saggy pants enforcers” to crack down on potential lawbreakers? I’m sure the same property owners supposedly complaining to Toriano Jr. now would reverse course as soon as they found out their taxes might have to go up to enforce the ordinance. At least perpetrators would be easy to run down, considering their pants would probably drop to their ankles during any pursuit.

Wildwood isn’t the first beach town to deal with weird clothing issues. Last year, Asbury Park was embroiled in controversy when it tried to enforce a 1958 ordinance restricting swimsuits to the beach in an attempt to reclaim Asbury’s “classy” image. Wildwood technically has a similar rule in place, for people over 12, but they choose not to enforce it.

Wildwood’s Mayor contends that the ordinance is designed to maintain the boardwalk’s classy image and family-friendly appeal. I’m curious why I haven’t heard anything about banning drinking funnels, graphic and obscene t-shirts and the occasional belligerent governor who can’t learn how to handle himself in public on the boardwalk. I’m assuming shops will still be selling “I heart to fart” shirts long after this ban to aid public decorum goes into effect.

If it’s all about projecting an inoffensive image, how long until there is a ban on uncovered tattoos? Men wearing earrings? Mesh t-shirts? Speedos? Yankees hats? The list is endless.

Despite other beach towns and their particular clothing regulations, Wildwood would be the first to outright ban baggy pants. Outside of the Garden State, Teerebone Parish in Southern Louisiana banned baggy pants in April. Their ordinance actually fines some $50 the first time they’re caught exposing a bit of skin or underwear with their baggy pants. It increases to $100 for the second offense, and even forces up to 16 hours of public service for habitual droopy lawbreakers.

Most interesting to me is the plight of North Wildwood, a small town that shares the boardwalk with Wildwood. Wouldn’t you assume if Wildwood is dealing with an epidemic of saggy pants-wearing hooligans, North Wildwood would be overrun as well? Apparently that’s not the case, since the town just recently took a ban on shorts on the boardwalk off the books. Their only crackdown has been on laser pointers, because apparently our leaders can’t just be content with doing nothing. 

My advice to Troiano Jr. is to chill. After all, you’re the mayor of one of the most laid-back shore towns on the East Coast! So pop into Capt’n Jacks, crack open a beer (another silly ban the town did away with in 2010) and heed a few words spoken by President Obama on the idea of low-hanging attire

“Any public official that is worried about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems.”____________________________________________________________

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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