The Difference Between Mom Jeans and Dad Jeans

It’s like asking someone to discern between cats and frogs.


No question in the history of humanhood has plagued us quite so hard as the one posed in this story’s title: what is the difference between mom jeans and dad jeans?

But first, a bit of backstory.

The mom jean rose to fame in the late 80s. Disco was done and with it, the sparkly subculture’s tendency toward unbuttoned shirts and skintight polyester. Trend fatigue had set in: women were tired of the va-va-voom, their gynecologists had run out of Fluconazole, and the major US supplier of denim was dealing with an excess of fabric that had accidentally been bleached.

The result was a semi-stretchy pant that started at the waist for maximum fupa-freedom (detail to note: elastic bands caused ruching the back), then dropped down in a carrot shape on each leg, providing the illusion that one’s derriere began in North Dakota and ended in South.

Moms were thrilled.


Meanwhile, the men saw just how liberated the women not only looked, but felt. Let us not forget that male fashion had been oversexed-‘n-latexed as well.


Men wanted freedom, too — not just for their dignity, but for the sake of humanity’s next generation. Denim producers heard their pleas and created pants that offered enough crotch for one to theoretically sit astride a horse without ripping the inseams while keeping the leg line straight so that men could show off their arch-supports.

Dads rejoiced.


The jeans had a quiet staying power among these young parents who birthed children on the tail-end of ’88. We their offspring, however, were of a new denim era. One that took us from Limited Too patchwork to bootcut to Abercrombie & Expensively Distressed, to tentatively trying skinny jeans to not being able to imagine a wardrobe without them.

Then normcore happened and we turned to the tree from which we apples had fallen: our parents.

This brings us to today and the original question posed. What is the difference between mom jeans and dad jeans other than a deep history of rebellion and anarchy following strife?

Let us refer to the diagram below.


As you can see, the dad jean proposes a waist that hits just below the belly button. The crotch is long, any semblance of an ass is hidden. The pants drop straight then hit below the ankle and the knees bag in such a manner that the leg always appears slightly bowed.

The mom jean, alternatively, sits just high enough to ensure cowboy crotch. The butt becomes a pear; the belly, rotund; and the leg tapers until hitting just above the ankle bone.

Only one question remains, then: which one are you?

Illustration by Kate Worum


Get more Humor ?
  • Catalina

    the pelvic region of my jeans are dad… buy my limbs say mom… what does that make my jeans?

    • Leandra Medine

      Parental Jeans!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Parental jeans!

      • Catalina

        yes and god bless!

    • Shirley K. Lee

      I love Man Repeller….

      >>>>>>>> ———–Continue Reading>

  • Belle

    I try and avoid all mom and dad denim issues, by wholly embracing (Topshop) girlfriend jeans and (H&M) boyfriend jeans.

    Both of which I’m pretty sure just end up making me look Jerry Seinfeld anyway.

    PS Lolz Amelia to both your words and your GIFs

  • I wear Mom jeans all day, every day. When you have a smallish waist, small stomach, & big butt, then they look like heaven. As long as your idea of heaven means looking like the Ace of Spades from the back. (insert guitar wail.)

    • Lua Jane

      The ace of spades is a perfect description.

    • yasqueen

      Wait. Seriously? I have a huge badonka and didn’t think I could pull of mom jeans (or boyfriend jeans…)

      • I think it depends on how you like to be seen, proportionally. For instance, I have broad shoulders, a small bust, small waist, & wide hips. I always feel somehow “off” if my waist isn’t defined. But I know other women with builds similar to mine who like to downplay their hips & butts and they like the way they look in a mid-rise pant more 🙂

    • tysongilbert88

      I think that if you have a small waist, small stomach and big bum; certainly you’ll look great in anything, including nothing! 🙂

  • Krista Anna Lewis

    So I totally thought they were exactly the same until now. Realizing that I prefer mom jeans over dad jeans is BLOWING MY MIND.

    • Amelia Diamond


  • dustUP

    I as just upgrading my collection with both examples. New dad’s jeans just because, they always fit thought weight changes, and mom’s because the previous one doesn’t close around my fupa anymore.
    I applaud Amelia on “parental jeans”! It would be perfect : high waist top part MJ’s with DJ’s pockets, straight legs DJ’s but cropped to MJ’s lenght. It would bypass DJ’s extra crotch bulk and MJ’s tapered legs that add volume to thighs.

    • Amelia Diamond


      • dustUP

        Since I’m still a fashion designer, I probably should. Parental offspring jeans….. sounds repelling but flattering.

  • Is it weird that the jeans I stole from my boyfriend more resemble mom jeans?

  • parkzark

    I love you both equally mom and dad. I could never choose a side, both of you make my BACKSIDE look fly. #dadjokes

  • Anika Yael Natori

    I’d say this is pretty much the perfect summary of the history of jeans.

  • Allie Fasanella

    What a well-researched piece Amelia. I feel like it’s impossible for me to choose.

    feelings in general

    • Amelia Diamond

      Thank you so much I am exhausted from carrying so many library books.

      • Allie Fasanella

        your efforts are always appreciated darling

  • I think i mostly wear angsty teenage son jeans with a dad sweater?

  • Julie Meowmeows

    My parents have always been more interested in khakis. #Dockers4ever

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Dominiqué

    I feel like mom jeans are way more appealing but dad jeans is more man repelling.. I can’t choose just one!

  • Gun to my head, I’d have to go with Dad Jeans because they would just be more comfortable. I have a butt, yes, but no waist to speak of, so Mom Jeans always dug into my stomach in that “cut you in half” kind of way.

    The reality is that I generally go for either boyfriend jeans (the slightly less crotch-dragging version of Dad Jeans) or super-stretchy skinny jeans.

    In a perfect world, I’d look good in all of it. 😉

  • EJS

    Bonus difference: Dad jeans don’t have an indie rock song dedicated to them.

    • yasqueen

      Wow. I don’t know at which point the guys in that band become most punchable. I think it’s at the red headdress. The sunglasses and boom box too, tho. Things that make you go uuugh. (Wait – is this a satire of a “cool indie hipster poster band” though? Maybe I’m missing something.)

  • Kenns

    Amelia, you never cease to amaze me with your hilarious post topics!! I had never even thought about the comparison of MJ to DJ. All I know is the I *had* the perfect pair of 501s and they have gone missing and life isn’t the same

  • But what would Freud have to say about our responses?

    Also, you had me at “The mom jean *rose* to fame.”

    • Afterthought: Dad jeans probably have better snacks in the pockets

    • Amelia Diamond

      Way to bring Freud into this, Mia

  • Lua Jane

    Mom jeans fo sho. Rolled and slightly ripped. They are not flattering, but that’s the whole point of man repelling anyway. Add the breton top and a pair of flats and I’m good to go.

    • Same! I love the mom jeans.

  • Allie Mackin

    Over-sexed male fashion and then in the late 90s Marilyn Manson took it to a whole new level.

    Allie of ALLIENYC

  • mack nielson

    duuuuuuude~*~*~*~ this was so helpful. i always wondered, but never knew! can you guys do a “how to wear a suede fringe jacket” now? i snagged a rad one, but how TF do i wear it?????!!!!!

  • Adardame

    My legs are slightly too long for normal length pants, and this has made me really sensitive to cold ankles. On the other hand, I really need some butt space. This is really hard.

  • Unfortunately their not flattering on me… But if I had to choose I would definitely go with mom jeans:)


  • I may be a bit biased, but I like the rise of dad jeans better. Especially with a cropped white tee (on girls, not boys (unless you have an 8 pack) of course).

    Josh – The Kentucky Gent

  • Alix

    I have large hips but very skinny legs so either of those aren’t for me. They make me look miserable.

  • Them Bee-Gees though… #goals.

  • uju nwapa

    Mom style but with dad’s length for me please. Thank you.

  • Maria

    amazing post. bravo amelia.

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  • “from Limited Too patchwork to bootcut to Abercrombie & Expensively Distressed, to tentatively trying skinny jeans to not being able to imagine a wardrobe without them.” – so are the days of our lives.

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  • Steven Williams

    Better to be seen in dad or mom jeans, than gang-banger jeans.

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  • Debra
  • Claire

    very informative… where would i be without this being cleared up?!

  • Connie
  • Joshua Michael

    Hybrid! I tailor my dad jeans to have the hem and taper of mom jeans! do both.

  • Mun

    This topic has never crossed my mind. How fun lol