keith-and-doris-mullings_web.jpgOAKLAND PARK — Plumbers have been exposing their skivvies for years, often becoming the butt of jokes. Today’s youth are doing the same thing.

But for one group of retired grandparents, it’s nothing to joke about.
“I’m tired of seeing fellows with their pants down,’’ said Yvonne A. McCoy, 72, coordinator of a “Pull Up Your Pants’’ event held May 10, just outside the doors of the Oakland Park Boulevard Flea Market.

There were T-shirts for sale, free belts donated by Thrift Store Inc., and Dooney Da Priest’s “Pull Your Pants Up’’ playing in the foreground, all to discourage wearing butt-hugging pants.

“I got a lot of other grandmothers involved,’’ McCoy said. “We’re senior citizens working real hard and using our own funds to get those pants pulled up.’’

McCoy estimated that she has poured about $6,000 of her own retirement money into the cause, much of it going toward flyers and T-shirts that state: “Obama said ‘Pull Up Your Pants.’‘’

McCoy said, “We thought as concerned grandparents we can go after this and then let someone else take over and get the ball rolling in Miami. We have more time behind us than in front of us.’’

The practice of wearing sagging pants below the waist and letting everyone know whether you prefer boxers or briefs has been around since at least the 1990s. This so-called fashion is said to have originated in prison, where belts are banned in an attempt to prevent murders, suicides and batteries. But some guys say they are sagging for other reasons.

“I think it’s just maybe the pants don’t fit,’’ said Angel Vega, 18, wearing a long T-shirt over his baggy camouflage shorts. “Some people do wear skinny jeans, but others think they’re probably for girls or they look gay.’’

Christine Barrett, 76, of Fort Lauderdale, thinks sagging is just ridiculous. As she bought a $10 T-shirt, she recalled the day a man at the mall was flirting with her daughter.

“I said, ‘Didn’t you forget something? You forgot to put your pants on,’ ’’ Barrett said.

Too many men “are uneducated about the meaning,’’ said Gregg Andrews, 54, one of the event’s organizers.

Through a microphone, Andrews blared, “No one wants to see your underwear. Be a man and man up and pull them up.’’

Andrews drew some dirty glares, but most of the people ignored him. A few, however, actually stopped and pulled up their pants before heading inside the flea market.

“That’s right, pull the pants up because I don’t like it,’’ said Shaneha Sheely, 26, who stopped to buy one T-shirt and got three more free for her children. “I’m tired of looking at behinds.’’

Legislators are tired of looking at underwear, too. A bill (SB 1540) that would have required Florida students to pull up their pants or face suspension was revised in April. Students can still sag, as long as they don’t go so low that the public sees their “covered or uncovered sexual organs in a vulgar and indecent manner.’’

In July 2008, Riviera Beach started issuing $150 fines to first-time saggers who exposed skin or undergarments, but a judge ruled in April that the ordinance is unconstitutional.

Under the 14th Amendment, you can drop your pants to your behind, pull them up to your chest, or dye each leg a different color. But there are ways around that amendment. In the town of Mansfield, La., for example, sagging is against an indecency law that went into effect in 2007, with a fine of $150 or 15 days in jail.

For Doris Mullings, 54, one of the concerned grandmothers at the pants event in Oakland Park, it’s all about dignity.

“Where I come from and where Ms. McCoy comes from, it’s disrespectful to show your underwear,’’ Mullings said. “Let’s bring back the dignity and the pride that our ancestors fought for.’’

Fort Lauderdale rappers New Breed – Lil D and Don B – who stopped by to entertain passersby, have nothing against sagging, although Don B says, “I never sag. You can still look good. You don’t have to do all that.’’

Said Lil D:  “You should wear clothes how you want to wear them. You shouldn’t stereotype. Don’t judge a book by its covers.’’

Photo by Mychal Mcdonald. Doris Mullings, right, and her son Keith, right.