Mess Media

monitors, analyzes and corrects media reporting errors and bias concerning messengers and couriers.

Messenger Institute
 for Media Accuracy




A Leg Up: Messengers Were the Medium

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 "played out."

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."




Send comments or suggestions, to:



Bike messenger emergency fund