The Times, 6 May 2010

A judge isn't often asked to rule on matters of fashion. And with good reason - those wigs don't do anyone any favours. And wearing black and white? Together? When you aren't a waiter? Or a nun? You must be out of your mind. But District Judge Nicholas Leigh-Smith had to make just such a ruling last week, at Bedford Magistrates' Court, when given the case of Ellis Drummond. Drummond was in court to be given an ASBO, after receiving convictions for, amongst other things, assault and theft. And several of his ASBO terms were entirely reasonable: he has been banned from using threatening behaviour, for a start.

But the ASBO also included a critique of his dress sense: it prohibited him from "wearing trousers so low beneath the waistline that members of the public are able to see his underwear". This was, of course, removed from the ASBO, for the excellent reason that it was a stupid idea. Obviously, many of us do not wish to see the underwear of those we have no intention of kissing on the mouth. But is it a criminal offence to reveal some or all of your pants in public? And if so, who is going to slap an ASBO on every soap-star and pop-singer whose knickers (or lack of them) appear so frequently in the pages of Heat?

However much we may dislike the way the young dress - even the ones who are thoroughly upstanding citizens - we really shouldn't be using the courts to try and prevent them looking ludicrous. I used to wear floaty patchwork dresses with men's army boots (and two pairs of socks so they didn't slide off), and no-one ever threatened me with the long arm, or even sleeve, of the law.

But there is an additional message of disrespect in the low-slung trouser craze: it apparently apes the appearance of hardened criminals in American jails, who aren't allowed belts. The low-slung youth is therefore dressing in an intimidating way. But to the uninitiated watcher, low-rise trousers don't look dangerous at all, certainly not compared with the combination of hood, baseball cap and scarf covering the face that persists in scarier parts of town.

If anything, they look rather sweet. Those wearing them don't resemble American jailbirds, they look like children who aren't very good at getting dressed. Or have a really low attention span, which wandered off once their trousers had made it to knee-height. They shuffle along trying to hook their waistbands up every few steps, just as hobbled as a woman in a pencil skirt and spike heels.

And best of all, they are criminally Darwinistic: if you are mugged by a low-trouser-wearer, how fast do you think he will be able to run away? Only Wile E Coyote, racing over thin air when the ground had disappeared beneath him, was less well equipped for crime.