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


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