Prison-chic : from the solitary to the closet

29 August 2018 | Posted by Zackary

The term may not ring a bell, but you know what sagging is. Inherited from the prison world, this practice consists in wearing oversized trousers without any belt, falling at mid-buttock, in the manner of a convict.

If you ever decide to visit our former Louisiana — since sold to rednecks slavers — try to keep your jeans flat on your hips: sagging is considered a felony there, which can cost you between a $ 500 fine and 6 months in prison.

However, it wouldn’t be the first time our wardrobe gets inspired by the dungeon. What prison elements have become cornerstones of fashion? Do they still have a symbolic value, or have the podiums already fully integrated them? Let’s investigate…

A cell at the Plaza

The appropriation of prison codes by fashion does not date from the arrival of Jay-Z and his baggies. In 19th century England, inmates wore ensembles with vertical stripes. At the time, no one dared to use this motif because of its inevitable connotation… until one day, for whatever reason, Queen Victoria dressed her young son in it. Immediately, all the tailors of the elegant Savile Row made it a standard in their creations. From the fine “pin stripes” of traders and bankers, to the thick “chalk” version of the mafia godfathers, what was an attribute of con finally became a symbol of power.

Two hundred years later, luxury still wants to go to the visiting room. Jeremy Meeks, a devastatingly handsome prisoner, finds himself dubbed by the popess Carine Roitfeld and became the muse of Philipp Plein. A little before, the label Hood by Air, juggling between couture hype and underground streetwear, dedicated a collection to Rickers Island and its consorts.

Far from the offense you could trigger by forgetting your belt at the New Orleans Carnival, fashion has actually been messing with the solitary for about 200 years. On the other hand, sagging has the merit of giving it a symbolic meaning beyond the simple notion of dressing… and happens to be the only form of this expression that can lead you behind bars.

It’s all in the print. (Hood by Air collector model.)

Shopping selection: jail swag

Worldwide, nearly one in four prisoners is on the US territory. For two centuries, tailoring has been relying on a pattern originally intended for prisoners, while fashion weeks play it Guantanamo and the streets continue to express their support for locked-up ones. Without transition, we let our style hang around D block…

Before it became a garment in its own right, the white T-shirt was born as an undergarment. First adopted by soldiers, then the rebellious youth of the 60’s, it is an integral part of the prisoner’s panoply — and rappers’, in extenso. We opt for a straight cut with deliberately generous volumes.(Carhartt)

Between Savile Row and Alcatraz, we give way to vertical stripes. Like this model, we're eyeing on a two-tone grey and black wool, reflecting a slightly retro aesthetic. The carrot cut structured by darts bring fullness to the silhouette, to be counterbalanced with a fitted top or one tucked into the trousers. (Yohji Yamamoto)

Across the Atlantic, orange is the colour of penitentiaries par excellence. In an urban setting, in the middle of sober items, it is the kind of clothing that can instantly enhance an outfit. The little extra? The cords on the wrists, to let hang for a nonchalant look. (John Lawrence Sullivan)

Yet invented by a French designers couple — Marithé + François Girbaud — the baggy is an essential component of the African-American streetwear of the late last century. Intrinsically linked to a notion of statement, the hegemony of hip-hop culture led to the dissolution of the message it had embodied. Whatever one may say, it also has the power to add character to a look, its cut inducing a powerful casualness. If it’s a Japanese canvas, it’s even better. (A.P.C.)

Buttero. No shoelaces, no suicide.•

Hugh Hefner's and Donatella Versace's love child, I am the visible half of the duo behind ZACKARIUM. In love with fashion since I was in short pants, my mission is to guide you smoothly through the jungle of brands and catwalks.

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