The skinny on “mom jeans”

by DaniGirl on March 29, 2013 · 14 comments

in Consumer culture, It IS all about me

Okay, peeps, we need to talk about jeans. I was going to play this one straight for comedy, but like all things that are truly funny, this cuts a little too close to the bone for me to leave my insecurities completely, ahem, behind.

I’ve been perturbed by the term “mom jeans” from just about the first time I heard it. (Another variation of this post is filled with righteous indignation, which is an excellent alternative to comedy when the truth cuts too close to the bone and you are not blessed with a sense of humour.) But seriously, why exactly do we imply high-waisted, unflattering and poorly fitting jeans are “mom” jeans? Are moms by default more slovenly and worthy of scorn? It has been many years since I went to work with baby shit smeared from my wrist to my bicep, but somehow just by being the bearer of children my choice of denim should be disrespected?

So I could get all righteous about the term “mom jeans” but truth be told, getting worked up about anything related to fashion would be completely hypocritical of me. It’s one of the major reasons I’m so relieved to have a passel of boys and no girls to worry about. I don’t really follow trends, I forget to wear makeup most days, and if I wear anything but comfortable shoes my knees ache all the way to my hips. I don’t do fashion, I do smart-casual-meets-comfortable. Jeans are my go-to staple from work to weekends. I stray occasionally into the fancy world of dress pants and even (gasp!) skirts, but the predominant fabric swathing my legs is denim.

In particular, I live in GAP jeans. I discovered the Long and Lean style about three years ago, and snap them up when they go on sale. The sticker price is around $65, but I usually only pay about half of that. Including the deep indigo wash and the midnight black ones, I think I’m up to about five pairs in my closet. I thought I was being fashion-forward. I mean, it’s the GAP, right? They’re a cool label, no?

Apparently not when it comes to mom jeans. Apparently, GAP and Old Navy are ‘gateway’ mom-jeans.


I found that post through a friend’s Facebook page. At first I was filled with righteous rage. When are we going to get over this stupid “mom jeans” term was my first thought. Then as I was reading, I was justifying and rationalizing in my head. “Oh, this writer is American. It’s probably different there. I’m sure the fits and labels are all different.” And there, down near the bottom of the post, are my beloved Long and Lean jeans. the ones that make my legs look like they’re about 11 feet long. Or so I thought. Until I got to the bit where she said Long and Lean are “the only pair that qualified beyond Gateway and straight into Mom Jeans.”

I’m feeling very conflicted now. I’m 43 years old for god’s sake, I’m way too old and comfortable with myself to get my denim worked into a twist over this. What do I care how my jeans look, beyond the fact that I try to leave the house without too much breakfast and dog hair smudged on them? I’ve borne three babies on these hips, they’ve earned a little extra padding. And it’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone with my caboose anymore – that horse is waaaaaaay out of the barn. So why the hell should I care what some cheeky blogger things about how my ass looks?

See all that righteousness? Methinks she doth protest too much. Apparently I do care, because my idle brain keeps coming back to pick at the idea like a festering scab. Maybe my ass is not as cool as I thought it was, wrapped in middle class friendly but not boutique-level denim? Maybe I need to drag Beloved to the Rideau Centre and have him trail around behind me taking pictures of my keister in Lucky Jeans and American Eagle and oh my god I’m so uncool I don’t even know what the cool stores might be! Good Christ, I’m 43 and I NEVER LEFT HIGH SCHOOL. Or perhaps more acutely, high school never left me.

In 1982, the thing I wanted more than anything in the universe was a pair of Road Runner jeans. We weren’t exactly poor but we weren’t exactly wealthy, either, and they were a little more costly than the Zellers house brand jeans I had been wearing. I remember how amazed I was when my mom actually bought me a pair. To my great dismay, I was just as unpopular in Road Runner jeans as I had been without them. It only took about 25 more years for me to really start to understand that what’s in my head is way more important than whatever label is on my jeans.

But my head keeps thinking about my ass, and wondering if maybe I’m at an age where I deserve a little help in the fit department. Clearly I’m conflicted, bloggy peeps. What say ye, oh wise and wonderful friends? There’s lots of food for thought here – mom jeans, societal expectations of women of a certain age, and my obvious inability to get my head out of my back pocket. Care to riff on any of those themes?

And, ppsssstt – where can a shallow girl of a certain age and fuller-than-waifish shape get a pair of jeans that are comfortable, flattering and on sale?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Windex March 29, 2013 at 7:57 am

She has a point in the look but the whole labeling and “OMG I can’t believe you wear those” attitude is a bit too much for me. Will I think twice when I buy my next jeans? Maybe. However, if the ones I have are comfortable and they make me feel good – that is all that should matter.

2 Mary March 29, 2013 at 8:07 am

What, no picture of your most excellent jeans? I think this would make a great chapter in your project 365. πŸ™‚

I have a strict policy that my jeans must not reveal crack and/or underpants during average manoeuvring. I’m beginning to think I have some kind of unusual anatomy in that department because seriously? It’s harder to find than you might think.

If it makes you feel any better, when you were describing your GAP jeans, I was thinking “wow, those sound like nice pants. I may have to get over myself and actually step into the GAP” because at 37 years old, I still don’t feel cool enough to shop at that kind of store.

3 Anonymous March 29, 2013 at 8:07 am

Reitmans! I wear nothing but Reitmans jeans. I’ve bought ‘last year’s models’ for $9.99 once.

4 Valerie March 29, 2013 at 8:55 am

Like Mary, I like to cover my butt (and undies!). So I disagree with her comment about the long zipper as I have a long bum! And I know I wouldn’t like any of her choices because the thighs are way too tight to be comfy. I have some stretch denim ones I like but still have to adjust every time I stand or sit, so it’s a pain. I have a little part that wishes to be nice looking, but comfort is still number one for me. And like you, I found my faves on her list as mom jeans. :p

5 coffeewithjulie March 29, 2013 at 11:28 am

Well, I think she likely has a point. I’m sure my butt would look considerably better in a $150-200 pair of jeans. But I am a Mom and we tend to spend our money on our kids! (Maybe that’s really the reason why $30-65 jeans are “mom jeans”?)

6 Melanie March 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Dani – I couldn’t have laughed any harder because as I was reading your post I was wearing a pair of Gap’s long and lean jeans! I have such a hard time finding jeans in a 36″ inseam and that line is one that sometimes makes the cut. Needless to say I will be having a closer look at my butt to see how mom like they are. “Mom jeans” used to be high waisted acid wash or faded didn’t they? πŸ™‚

7 Mary @ Parenthood March 30, 2013 at 5:31 am

Ha! I think Rachel (the blogger in question) is hilarious and I love her “mom jean” series even though I definitely wear ill fitting jeans and have no fashion sense. I find her photos of the before/after bums quite convincing, and one of these days I’m going to send her a picture of mine for some advice…

But if you like the way your bum looks in the jeans you have, then why worry?

PS If you haven’t read any of her other posts, I highly recommend Satan the Squirrel, Kitty litter dessert and the incredibly gross fingernail art…

8 Mary @ Parenthood March 30, 2013 at 5:39 am

Oh and don’t forget her #1 disclaimer – every butt is different, so the fit depends on your anatomy. If you have a long butt, the long zipper thing might not apply to you.

The Gap long and lean comment applied to her, Dani. The question to ask yourself is whether the pocket placement goes too far down *on you* (If yes, my feeling is that it would be worth trying to find some jeans that meet her guidelines and see whether you think they look better or not. )

9 Lynn April 1, 2013 at 7:37 am

I read a great (but alarming) post over at Nicole’s blog a month or so ago about how what we think of as “mom jeans” are nothing like the cool jeans we wear…but someday, our dark wash boot cut jeans that we love will be “mom jeans” to our kids. It’s the current look, and we like it now, but some day it will be part of another era (along with our hairstyles – but I just can’t think about that!).

I fretted for a while, but in the end I just had to go with what makes me feel good about myself, and stop fussing about what other people think, or what future trends might be. I wear Eddie Bauer’s curvy fit jeans – the only style I’ve ever found that fits my frame – and I’ll be sticking with them until the day I die.

Here’s Nicole’s post:

10 Sara April 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I guy my jeans at Reitmans, Addition Elle (cause I am a bigger gal) or the Rider’s Plus size jeans at Walmart.

The Rider’s jeans have a “no gap waistband” that moves with you but it higher in the back so if you bend over to pick anything up your back end doesn’t fall out of your pants. They are the most comfortable jeans that I have found since gaining weight.

When I wore “normal sized” jeans I got them at Bluenotes.

I try on many, many pairs doing the squat test and if they pass that, they are comfortable and I like how I feel in them, then I buy 2-3 pairs at once just ’cause good jeans are hard to find.

11 Kirsten April 9, 2013 at 9:58 am

“Mom jeans” are high waisted, tapered, light blue without any fading or whiskering, and have “front butt” (think camels…long walks in the desert). Long and leans have the uncanny ability to make ANYONE look like a long-legged goddess, just like Lululemon pants make me look like J-Lo (no really…).
I have tried many low waisted fancy jeans. I have discovered that the 6′ frame I find myself in cannot be simultaneously covered (forget modest, we’re talking about SIMPLE COVERAGE) in both front and back in those low-waisted jobbies. It’s a scene not meant for anyone’s eyes.
Friends, I witnessed Dani in said jeans this a.m. and can happily report that her caboose is well displayed in said Long and leans.
F*&&^ the mom-jean mantra. I’ll wear my long and leans like I wear my stretch marks…a badge of honour for still being rockin hot after squeezing out two little people.
ROCK ON Dani, my long and lean sistah.

12 DaniGirl April 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

Hahaha, I love my friends. πŸ™‚

13 Neeroc April 11, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Thank you! I came across that post ages ago and then lost it…and was too lazy to put any effort in to finding it. As for jeans? I hate shopping for them. There was a time that I could just grab any levi’s and it worked. Now? Aaaaaarg.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: