New York Times, June 16, 1996
By Lynette Holloway
In the evanescent world of street fashion, 12-year-old Angel Vivas's
penchant for rolling up a pant leg could be considered "cool" or
For months now, Angel, who lives on the Lower East Side, has made it a
practice to roll up the left leg of his pants just after lacing up his
Nike Air Force "sneaks," which resemble mini-Mack trucks.
Angel was sporting a hooded short-sleeve striped shirt and a pair of
gray jeans as he strolled through Washington Square Park with his
friend Louis Fernandez, 13.
"It's phat," meaning cool, said Angel, a self-professed ruffian, as he
took a seat on a park bench. "I've been down with it" -- meaning "sold
on it" -- "ever since I saw Casper do it in the movie 'Kids.' He
started this, didn't he?"
In fact, students of popular culture say, the look emerged in the late
1970's and early 80's when bicycle messengers were more numerous than
they are today, in this age of faxes. One of the messengers' signatures
was to roll up a pant leg to avoid getting their trousers caught in
their bicycle chains.
Youngsters from the messengers' neighborhoods began to emulate the
look, creating a style from something that was simply born out of
necessity, said Bill Stephney, 33, the chief executive of Stepsun Music
and a former Def Jam executive, who grew up in Hollis, Queens.
Jason Mizell, 30, the producer of JMJ Records, who is also Jam Master J
of Run DMC, the rap group, said: "I've been rolling up one of my
joints" -- meaning pants -- "for years. In the summertime, it's how we
rock it. It's the hot hip-hop thing to do."
Rap artists who indulge in the one-legged pants style are from "the old
school" or "hard core," Mr. Mizell said, like Treach of the group
Naughty by Nature, LL Cool J and members of Onyx.
Russell Simmons, 38, owner of the Phat Farm clothing store in SoHo and
a record producer who is at the nexis of hip-hop and fashion, said:
"I've been rolling up one leg of my pants for 20 years. Baggy jeans
were a ghetto thing. Now, everybody's doing it. The ghetto is a box
that is no longer closed, because of the music industry."
But the origin of any style sometimes gets lost as it moves from one
neighborhood to another.
Demetrius Smith, 19, who lives in the East Village, said he generally
rolls up a pant leg to show that that side of his attire has been
"worked on." "It's a fashion statement, you know?" Mr. Smith said as he
stood outside the gates of Tompkins Square Park on Avenue A with a
group of friends. "I really don't know how it started."
Michael Cip, 18, of the South Bronx, said the rolled-up style had
"played out." "That may have been down in the 80's, but it's nobody's
style today," he added. "We're wearing both of our joints down."