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editorial

Tightening the belt on saggy pants

A 13-year-old in Dorchester modeled his attire.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

A 13-year-old in Dorchester modeled his attire.

While the young should respect their elders by wearing proper garments, Socrates declared, there is “small wisdom in legislating about such matters.” That observation, now more than 2,400 years old, continues to be lost on the elders: Hence the new cable ad campaign to convince teenagers in saggy pants to pull up their britches.

Produced by a group called the Black Mental Health Alliance of Massachusetts, the ad features an actor playing a policeman. He sternly warns that under state laws for lewd behavior, a person who wears deeply sagging pants could face up to three years in prison. Saggy pants are a fashion trend that emanated from prisons, where inmates were banned from wearing belts; but like other such trends, this one has taken on a life of its own, and many kids have no idea of its derivation.

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Nonetheless, saggy pants have been banned in certain municipalities across the country, and in all public schools in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Florida. In some locales, the bans have been championed by black leaders. In others, black leaders have claimed that the bans are a form of racial profiling. Meanwhile, more kids of other races and backgrounds are joining in the fad.

President Obama has a better perspective. Answering questions on MTV in 2008, he advised that “brothers should pull up their pants,” but added that outlawing such behavior was a “waste of time.” So are TV ads that overdramatize the problem. Dress codes and warnings are fine, but teenage boys will learn soon enough to pull up their pants — when they see the mate of their dreams or realize they need a job.

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