WILDWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – City officials in Wildwood are set to pass a law Wednesday regulating how people dress on the boardwalk.
The proposed regulations would ban overly saggy pants, going shirtless and walking with bare feet on the boardwalk.
The baggy pants measure requires the waist band of pants, shorts, swimsuits and skirts to be no lower than 3 inches below the waist to prevent the exposure of skin or underwear.
Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr. said Wildwood has been inundated with complaints from tourists upon whose money the popular beach town depends for its survival and said the ordinance is designed to maintain the boardwalk’s family-friendly atmosphere.
“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.”
Neither does Frank Krueger of Gloucester City who has been coming to Wildwood with his wife, Denise, for decades. Together, they had spent about $80 on pizza and games of chance in two hours of strolling the boards.
“You want a family atmosphere here,” he said. “You don’t want to see someone walking around with their butt crack hanging out. On the beach is one thing, but not here on the boardwalk.”
“It’s disgusting,” his wife added. “I don’t want to see someone’s bare butt. It just looks terrible. They walk around with their legs spread, and their crotch is down around their knees.”
The issue has cropped up – or rather, drooped down – in towns across the country. Authorities in suburbs of New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit and Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., are among those who have passed laws banning overly droopy pants.
The proposed Wildwood 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.
Shirts would also be required between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. 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,” says 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, which he conceded will probably happen at some point. He promised police won’t be out with measuring tapes, relying instead on common sense when evaluating a person’s attire.
“They say it’s a fashion statement and this is America and they have the right to dress how they want,” Troiano said of those who wear their pants low. “Well, I have the right to decency. My right is not to have to look at your (rear end) if I don’t want to. I find that offensive. Go somewhere else and do it, and for every one person I lose, I’ll gain 10 more who will be glad.”
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