A Brief History of Prison Fashion: From Sagging Pants to Pink Underwear

The trend of “sagging” pants does not seem to be going anywhere. President Obama doesn’t like it and neither does anyone uninterested in seeing a man’s underwear in public.

Many, including Marnie Bennett, are amused at the fact that sagging pants originated in prison. Prisoners are not allowed to have belts, so their pants would sag. Sagging pants was a way to indicate to other inmates that you were a homosexual. This look has been adopted by gangs a rap artists for decades as a way to indicate toughness.

Prison attire has changed quite a bit in the last few hundred years. In the 1800’s prisoners wore black and white striped uniforms. The stripes were said to mimic the prison bars. The uniforms were also used because they were cheap to manufacture.

In 1904, the stripes started to be phased out to distance association with chain gangs which had become regarded as degrading and inhumane. Prison attire was changed to include grey jackets and caps.

In 1958, North Carolina went to a color system of prison attire. Each color represented a different security level of prisoner. Gray was for high-security prisoners while green was for low-security.

In the 1970’s jails began putting prisoners in orange jumpsuits, originally just when they were being transported. This made them easy to spot should they attempt to flee or approach a citizen.

These days some prisons have their own distinct style. For example, in Arizona there is a prison that forces all prisoners to wear pink underwear. Who knows, maybe the pink underwear trend will be the next one to catch on.