Passenger on a June 9 US Airways flight. Photo Jill Tartow

Well, this is an interesting development.

We first got a glimpse of this photo of a scantily clad US Airways passenger on the fashion blog Hit Dan Back. Now a passenger on the June 9 flight on which the man flew has sent the pic to media outlets, which are naturally relating it to the infamous “saggy pants” incident. In that confrontation, college football player Deshon Marman was removed from a US Airways flight for not complying with an employee’s request that he pull up his pants, which were hanging low enough to expose his underwear. Marman was arrested but still hasn’t been charged, pending an investigation by the San Mateo District Attorney’s office.

From the Chronicle today:

US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder confirmed she’d received the photo before last week’s incident in San Francisco and had spoken to (Jill) Tarlow (the passenger who sent the photo), but said employees had been correct not to ask the man to cover himself. “We don’t have a dress code policy,” Wunder said. “Obviously, if their private parts are exposed, that’s not appropriate. … So if they’re not exposing their private parts, they’re allowed to fly.”

KCBS talked to Jill Tarlow, the passenger who took the photo and complained to US Airways only to be told the man wasn’t breaking airline policy, and to Marman’s attorney, Joe O’Sullivan, who said, “I think maybe the airline has a marketing strategy toward drag queens and against young African Americans.” Video here.

Last week, KQED’s Cy Musiker interviewed UC Berkeley law professor Ian Haney Lopez about the incident. Haney Lopez asserted the conflict on the plane over Marman’s pants had a highly racialized aspect to it. “This is really about the new way in which race plays out in the United states,” he said. “Race has always been a combination of biology and culture. The idea that Blacks are too loud, that Latinos are lazy, that Jews are greedy; it’s always been biology and culture. Now what we have is what we might call a color-blind racism, where one targets the culture but is very careful to never mention anything having to do with biology, and claims on that basis not to be engaged in racial politics at all.”

Listen here

And you can watch the actual incident on the plane that prompted Marman’s arrest here:

US Airways Passenger Flew With Exposed Panties Days Before Deshon Marman Arrested; Photo 22 June,2011Jon Brooks

  • KiltBear

    Several different issues at play:

    1. possible racist/classist application of rules by an employee/individual
    2. uneven application of rules by the company as a whole
    3. a clear violation of not complying with a flight attendant’s directive by the passenger

    Everyone screwed up. The only winners in all of this will be the lawyers.

  • Davin Givhan

    I think sagging pants is a pretty terrible fashion statement, especially since it supposedly comes from prison fashion. That being said, I don’t think anyone should be denied a flight because of bad fashion. “No, you’re not like everyone else.” Sounds like the pilot is a good old fashioned racist!

  • Dave

    They should BOTH have been removed from the plane before take off, it’s disgusting how people dress in public these days!!!!!!!!!!!

    • trashlady

      Should we start requesting the removal of all the women in low riding jeans who bend over and show their fat and their thongs? Would that upset you?
      How about if it is your teenage daughter?

  • Michael G.

    U.S. Airways is so damned liable here. I’m not at all a fan of the saggy pants but to have reacted so strongly to that and not to “Grandpa Freakshow” is something that even a moronic lawyer could ‘knock out of the park’. Pretty easy to see that there may have been some culturally uninlighted caucasians at U.S. Airways and that airline deserves to pay for a lack of the appreciation for the diversity of their passengers. I’ve personally seen several fashion-challenged people who would fit right in the the infamous “People of Walmart” who are allowed to sail right through airports and offend anyone who has ever properly matched a shirt and a pair of slacks.

  • Kathy

    Unbelievable, “a clear violation of not complying with a flight attendants directive” He didn’t or shouldn’t have to……the positioning of his pants had absolutely nothing to do with the safety of the flight….once seated who knew or could tell he was saggin…..The passenger was not in violation of anything and I do not like pants saggin and some are more extreme then others….she had no right to force him to pull them up if he was clearly not exposing his skin period…I hope they sue the pants of the airlines….

  • dena

    The first interview with his Mother she was against the way her son dressed. Now that there is an attorney her mind is now on how badly her son was treated. What kind of tribute is he showing to his family and the school he is going to be attending. I think dressing with your pants half off is offensive with under wear hanging out. I would not have wanted to sit next to him. Yes SUE SUE SUE that’s what our society has come to anyway. How proud his Mother and College must be!

  • nick

    Airlines have become a total joke. Attendants seem to have more power than police. They can scramble jets if they don’t like you. Just think about it. Would you flip off a flight attendant and tell her you think she’s an idiot? I’d sooner slap a drunk cop in a bar.

    That being said, I think this probably has nothing to do with race, but more to do with the fact that the flight attendant asked this guy to do something and this guy didn’t want to do it, and really, probably shouldn’t have to do. It’s more of a power issue. And this lady got on her power trip. We’ve seen it before. All those dumb rules they have…like turning electrical equipment off (do I even know how to turn my ipod off?), no bathrooms 35 minutes before landing, the grey area with the attendants the enforcers so we now have a dress code.

    I can’t help but lump in the idiots in airport security to this debacle. I had an experience with some dummy at the Southwest terminal at LAX this weekend, taking as long as she possibly could to check ID’s because she could tell several of us were in a rush. The belt driven x ray zombies, with their nonsense laptop rules (macbook air…can’t stay in the bag but my Canon 5D can???…friggn idiots)…

    Really, we need to collectively decide how we want this to work as a people. Right now we are subject to a large bureaucracy that is forcing some very arbitrary decisions on us in the name of keeping us safe. And giving some people power, and authority, and these people generally have no smarts, no training, and face no repercussions if they act like idiots. We just sit back and get punished, tolerating these mindless drones and their idiocracy, but it is time for us to stand up and do something about it or sign up for a job with the parking authority.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor