Shorts Might Be a Big Moneymaker and a Way to Circumvent the Law

Opa-locka is unique. There's outlandish Arabian-style architecture. Gunfights take place in the open. And in 2007, city commissioners passed a law prohibiting -- and Riptide is not making this up -- saggy pants.

Now a couple of South Florida entrepreneurs have patented a pants design aimed at skirting the measure, which prohibits jeans worn so low that underwear becomes outerwear.

Tyrone Henry, of Carol City, and Fermin Esson, of Loxahatchee, were awarded a patent last week for  "reversible waist wear." This novel piece of clothing can either be worn like conventional pants or reversed to show an ample slice of faux underwear.

"We just think it's unfair that somebody should get [busted] because of the style of your jeans," Henry said, noting the city of Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County passed a similar measure. "What's next? You're going to ticket a girl for showing her stomach."

Henry, who's 34 years old, and Esson, age 35, are a quintessential South Florida pair. Henry was born in Jamaica; Esson came from Cuba in the Mariel Boatlift. They've been best friends since meeting in first grade at Carol City Elementary. Right now, Henry drives a truck, and Esson runs a nonprofit that helps at-risk youth. But fashion is their calling. Together they started a company called Waist Line. Slogan: "Fashion Isn't a Crime."

Though they have succeeded in patenting the design, they haven't found a manufacturer. That's because "no one does denim in the U.S. anymore," Henry says. He and Esson hope to get someone in the Dominican Republic to produce the invention.

Whether jeans with built-in faux underwear will succeed in the fickle world of fashion is hard to say, but at least legally, they might be on to something.

"These guys are mimicking underwear on the outside, but it's not really their underwear? I think they can get away with it," says civil rights attorney John De Leon. "I think it's clever and smart, and I think it can overcome any legal obstacles. I hope they get somebody to distribute it. They're brilliant."

-- Susannah Nesmith