WILDWOOD - A proposed ordinance banning baggy pants on the Boardwalk has drawn media attention across the country and globe, but whether that is good or bad for the city is debatable.
Media outlets from Britain's Daily Mail to the Huffington Post ran stories on the plan to get Boardwalk visitors to keep their pants up. A vote by City Commission on the issue is set for June 12, but whether the publicity has been a plus or a minus has yet to be seen.
"I'm not so sure it does help or doesn't help," Cape May County Director of Tourism Diane Wieland said.
Wieland said the publicity surrounding the issue "keeps the town on the top of the mind," but she doubts anyone would make their vacation decision based on the ordinance or the buzz it has created.
The issue, she said, is not a unique one, as other towns throughout the country have created similar bans and they don't affect many visitors.
Wildwood's ordinance has three key aspects:
•Foot protection, which may include shoes, sneakers or flip-flops that adequately protect one's feet from wood or nails protruding from the surface of the Boardwalk, must be worn at all times.
•A shirt that covers the breast and/or pectoral area must be worn after 8 p.m. and until 5 a.m.
•The waistband of shorts, swim trunks, pants and/or skirts must not be worn more than 3 inches below the wearer's waist - interpreted to mean at a level below the crest of the ilium, so as to expose either skin or garment underneath - at any time.
"I don't think it's going to do anything (to tourism)," Wieland said.
Tourism expert Roger Brooks, however, said the measure could bring unwanted attention to the city, highlighting a problem.
"Oxnard, Calif., had a bad reputation, and they instituted a ban on certain clothing. They really enforced it, but the problem was it also said they had a real problem," Brooks said, adding, "It can be a double-edged sword."
Brooks, a speaker at tourism gatherings in Cape May County, is from Destination Development International, which works on tourism development, branding and marketing. He visited Wildwood just last year for a tourism seminar.
Oxnard, he said, cleaned up its problem, but dealt with a negative perception for years later.
"It creates the perception that Wildwood has a problem with some troublemakers," he continued. "I always think any news is good news, but the last thing we want to do is give that perception. It may temporarily give people a reason to stay away."
Brooks suggested Wildwood may want to instead focus on who its visitors are.
"Think about who you are attracting, and that can change the problem on its own," he said.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the city is responding to concerns about what visitors see when they come to Wildwood. Having a good time does not mean you have to have your pants hanging down in public, he said.
Since the ordinance gained prominence, Troiano said he has received dozens of supportive emails and taken part in numerous interviews with television and radio stations and newspapers from places such as Philadelphia and New York City.
"It's been phenomenal press," he said of the publicity generated by the ban. "And it's 99 percent in favor of it."
Some of the emails he has received question the law and its connection to freedom of expression, but most have offered congratulations.
"Our families are thankful," read one email from Miami. "You have the full support of many, many families," said another from Edison, Middlesex County.
Troiano added he hopes the city never has to issue a ticket or ask someone to pull up his or her pants.
"If you're going to be offended, maybe you don't want to come to Wildwood, and maybe more families will come to Wildwood," he said.
Wieland, who has attended travel and tourism shows in Canada, King of Prussia, Pa., New York City, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere recently, said what visitors are looking for is value.
"Right now, it's value, coupons, discounts and places that allow keeping the family together," Wieland said.
She said that is one of Cape May County's attractions, its ties to multiple generations within families.
The baggy pants ban, she said, would have little impact on those issues.
"Again, it keeps the name out there, but it's not unique," she said.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian:
City to vote
Wildwood will hold a public hearing Wednesday on an ordinance banning baggy pants on the Boardwalk. City Commission is expected to vote on the measure following the hearing.