Mom jeans haven’t been cool since—well, since never? They were the butt of a 2003 SNL faux-commercial that had Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch high-fiving in goofy, unflattering denim and appliqued vests. Sixteen years later, now a mom of two kids, I still find it funny. “Give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom,’” is a hilarious, poignant line that hits home. But, in the past few years, something even funnier happened: mom jeans went from a faux pas to a fashion must-have. Here’s how mom jeans went from being the world’s least-cool pants to some of the coolest.
What makes jeans “mom”?
The original mom jeans cut is higher in the waist, straight or tapered leg, slightly cropped just at the ankle. They were first popular in the late ’80s and early ‘90s—Princess Di would often be spotted dropping Harry off at school in her mom jeans. They fell out of favour in the mid-’90s as denim shifted to low-rise and slouchy grunge-era jeans.
Why are mom jeans back again?
Short answer? Style is a circle; the ‘90s are back. Looser cuts through the hips, leg and thigh have gained popularity over the past decade as the skinny jean moved from trendy to ubiquitous to super-tight (hi, jeggings!) and people craved something new. The updated mom jean is more streamlined, in straight or tapered leg (a tapered leg is truer to the original ‘90s vibe) and, this is key, it must have a high waist. The usual wash is a light-to-medium blue, like perfectly worn vintage jeans—but faded black is also popular. If you’re feeling adventurous, try acid-wash (yes, it’s back and yes, you can wear it even if you wore it the first time). If white jeans are your summer staple, skip the skinnies for a straight, cropped cut—they look amazing with sandals and slides. If you love the hunt, seek out true vintage pairs from the ’90s.
Do actual moms wear them, too?
Personal style can be easy to sacrifice when you’re in the throes of early motherhood and reaching for clothes that offer comfort makes perfect sense. (I wore the same pair of ratty maternity leggings for months after my first child was born.) That type of comfort is more than just physical, it’s an attitude—and this is why I adore the concept of mom jeans. I love the security of the high waist and the way they make my butt look (these really are stellar butt jeans, it should be known). If you’re proud of your backside, these are the jeans for you. If you love your tummy, these are the jeans for you. If you have killer legs, these are…you get the point. Who can wear mom jeans? Everyone.
OK, how do I wear them?
High-waisted, straight-leg jeans are surprisingly versatile. Tuck in your top. Or, be like Tan France from Queer Eye and French tuck (that’s loosely tucking your shirt in at the front to highlight your waist). Try a cropped T-shirt if you’re feeling it—the high rise will only leave a sliver of skin. Pair them with an oversized sweater and sneakers for the school run, or with slides or heels and a white tee and a blazer for a casual work day.
Five great pairs of mom jeans: