What happened
Towns in at least eight states are considering or have already enacted laws against wearing baggy pants low enough to expose underwear, in what proponents say is an attempt to discourage the hip-hop generation’s glamorization of thuggery, USA Today reported this week. In some Louisiana towns, violators face up to a $500 fine. In Opa-Locka, Fla., an ordinance that has cleared the first hurdle toward approval would be strictly symbolic. “Instead of getting their education,” said City Commissioner Timothy Holmes, the law’s sponsor, “these kids are picking up a style that came from prisons.”

What the commentators said
“To be sure, the fashion is off-putting,” said USA Today in an editorial. “But from long hair to miniskirts, young people have always made unfortunate fashion statements.” The problem with this controversy is that the fashion trend is especially popular with African-American youths, so the “great Exposed Underwear Crackdown” is diverting attention from debate over more serious, and “deeply rooted problems” affecting the black community.

Comedian Bill Cosby has been “hammering home” some of those “brutal truths” about truly “self-destructive behavior in the African American community” for years, said Bob Herbert in The New York Times (free registration). Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint have written a book, Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, in which they urge black people who are “still trapped in prisons of extreme violence” and poverty to try to climb out on their own. The most important step is “reconnecting black fathers to their children.”

OK, but it’s useless to tell a teenager that hiking up his jeans will improve his lot in life, said Robert Samuels in The Miami Herald (free registration). The people pushing the saggy pants bans claim the laws will help bring back traditional values. Kids today think the style is “just comfortable,” the same way their parents “felt comfortable in Afros and bell bottoms.”