WILDWOOD - City officials have a simple message for visitors to their famous Boardwalk: pull your pants up, keep your shirt on and, for safety's sake, wear some shoes.
The proposed rules are contained in a new city ordinance, up for a public hearing June 12, titled "Establishing decency standards on the public Boardwalk."
Under the regulations:
•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 which covers the breast and/or pectoral area must be worn after 8 p.m. and until 5 a.m. .
•The waist band of shorts, swim-trunks, pants and/or skirts shall 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.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Tuesday the ordinance is designed to maintain the Boardwalk's family-friendly appeal.
"I'm sick of hearing people complain about the disrespectful individuals who walk around with their butts hanging out," Troiano said.
The shoe requirement, he said, is a safety issue, while the shirt and pants rules have more to do with the town and the image it wants to have.
"I know the social climate's changed and what people think is decent is different than it was," Troiano said.
Tuesday was a slow day on the Boardwalk, with few venturing out in the rain. Those who did had mixed views on the new regulations.
"It sounds like they're really trying to clean it up and make it look nicer," said Rebekah Waybrant, of Philadelphia, adding she isn't bothered by the sagging pants or shirtless look some choose.
Husband and wife Nuhi and Kujtesa de Stani, of Ridgewood, meanwhile, had differing opinions.
Nuhi de Stani said he does not support the ban.
"I think it's silly to ban it. They should leave it alone," he said. "You should be able to walk without a T-shirt."
But his wife disagreed.
"I'd rather get rid of them," she said of the saggy trousers.
Commissioner Pete Byron said he supported the ordinance in its current form. Originally, the ban on going without a shirt would have taken effect earlier in the day. Byron said the 8 p.m. start time was more reasonable.
"I think it's obnoxious with these kids who wear their pants down around their knees," Byron said, adding he sometimes receives complaints from people unhappy with the style of dress.
Area towns such as Cape May and Ocean City have some regulation in place regarding clothing on their respective promenade and Boardwalk.
Cape May requires "No person, either male or female, shall be attired in a bathing suit, trunks or other than usual dress on any public street or in any public place, after 7:00 p.m. and prior to 7:00 a.m. With reference to the boardwalk or promenade, usual dress includes appropriate footwear."
In Ocean City, the law states, "It shall be unlawful for any person to travel in or upon any of the streets, alleys, or public boardwalk of the City in abbreviated bathing robes, suits or other costumes of a similar nature unless a suitable robe or covering from the shoulders to the knees shall be worn over the abbreviated robes or suits, to properly cover the person from the public view."
Meanwhile, laws similar to Wildwood's proposed ordinance have been enacted in communities large and small. Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, just passed a law banning sagging pants that took effect May 20.
That law reads, in part, "The Terrebonne Parish Council finds that appearing in public view while exposing one's skin or undergarments below the waist is contrary to safety, health, peace, and good order of the parish, and the general welfare."
It goes on to make it unlawful for "any person to appear in public view or in a public place wearing pants, skirts or other clothing below the waist which expose the skin or undergarments."
Charlette D. Poche, Council Clerk for the parish council said, "The support far outweighed the opposition. We got messages of support from all over the country, minimal opposition, and a letter from the ACLU indicating that, in their opinion, the enforcement of such legislation would be a violation of First Amendment."
That community's law has yet to be enforced.
Contacted Tuesday, the ACLU of New Jersey had no comment about the Wildwood ordinance.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian:
Hearing on the proposal
A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 12 at City Hall.