Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Casual Fridays just got very expensive

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THE city of Albany, Ga., doesn't fool around when it comes to fashion. People there don't like saggy pants or skirts that hug the hips too low. As a result, the city approved a bylaw last Nov. 23 that makes it an offence to wear either garment if the "waistline," assuming one can still call it a waistline, comes down more than seven centimetres below the top of the hips, exposing the wearer's flesh or undergarments.

As anyone knows who has ever called a plumber to fix the sink, such clothing often exposes a part of the anatomy that no one really wants to see in their workaday life. It might be fine in certain social situations for someone to show someone else his or her scanties, but the beginning of a plump person's buttocks is not something one wants to see on the bus.

There are probably all kinds of good and serious reasons why such a bylaw is wrong -- freedom of expression springs immediately to mind -- but as an esthetic statement it is hard to argue with. The streets of Albany probably look a lot better now than they used to.

There is another argument in favour of such a bylaw that is also pretty persuasive -- governments can make a lot of money this way.

Since Nov. 23, when the ruling came into effect, the city of Albany has collected almost $4,000 -- $3,916, to be precise -- in fashion fines from wearers of saggy pants and slipping skirts.

That's not small change for a city with a population of less than 80,000 well-dressed Georgians. Equivalently, in a city the size of Winnipeg, such an official fashion statement might have brought in about $40,000 in fines, even taking into account the climatic differences and the style restrictions cold weather can impose.

Just imagine how much money the city could rake in if it expanded its vision beyond that of the Albigensians, if we may call them that, and fined people for every imaginable fashion faux pas -- ugly eyeglasses, fat people in T-shirts, short, skinny guys in double-breasted suits, women who shouldn't wear shorts and men who sit down with their jackets still buttoned. The list is endless, the profits unimaginable at a time when almost everyone wants to get rid of red-light cameras and politicians are scrambling to find money to stop the city's infrastructure from crumbling as we watch.

As desperate as we are for money, it's surprising no one has identified this possible source of income during the provincial election campaign. Still, there are three days left, and we are clearly hard up for new ideas.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2011 J2

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