Balenciaga has come under fire on social media for selling a pair of $1,190 sagging sweatpants designed with fake boxer briefs sewn inside, which critics have described as “racist.”
The controversy surrounding the trousers was sparked by a TikTok post from mr200m__.
In the clip, the individual filming the video can be seen examining the contentious clothing item while shopping in a branch of the U.K.-based department store Selfridges.
“This feels racist,” he says while inspecting the sweatpants. “This feels very racist, guys.”
A female voice can also be heard saying “it is” in agreement and noting that the leggings have been deliberately designed to mimic sagging pants.
Sagging refers to the habit of wearing pants below the waistline in a practice that deliberately leaves the individual’s boxer briefs partially exposed.
It is a style most commonly associated with Black youth culture and was first popularized in the early 1990s amid the continued mainstream emergence of hip-hop.
“They have woven the boxers inside the trousers,” the man in the video says in disbelief. The footage of mr200m__’s discovery has been viewed more than 1.4 million times on TikTok.
The official product listing on the Balenciaga website makes no mention of the word sagging, with the trousers instead listed as “Men’s Trompe-L’Oeil Sweatpants In Red.”
A Black model is pictured alongside the description wearing the sweatpants.
Though its origins are tied to pop culture, sagging has proven a contentious issue in the U.S. in the decades that have followed its inception where it has been associated with racism and discrimination.
Over the course of the 2000s, schools, airlines, transport authorities and local governments introduced ordinances designed to prohibit the practice.
While sagging is still prohibited in some districts, many have since opted to repeal this ordinance amid concerns that it had led to racial profiling.
The most notable example came in Shreveport, Louisiana where, according to data collected by the Shreveport Times, Black men made up 96 percent of all arrests related to this offense in 2019.
The decision to abolish the law in Shreveport was prompted by the death of Anthony Childs, a 31-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by police as they attempted to detain him for a breach of the sagging rules.
Newsweek has reached out to Kering, Balenciaga’s parent company, for comment. At the time of writing, the sweatpants were still listed for sale on the fashion brand’s website.
Balenciaga is not the first fashion label to face accusations of racism.
Two years ago, Gucci was forced to issue an apology over a sweater critics said appeared to depict blackface.
Prior to that H&M ended up in hot water after using a Black American boy to model a sweatshirt that said, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.”
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