Mom jeans used to be a joke term describing unfashionable high waisted jeans from the '80s and '90s. Now they're a fashion movement.
This style of jeans has a very specific silhouette. They flatten your butt, come up above your belly button, and feature elastic waistbands or heavy pleating. In 2003 SNL mocked their unflattering style by stating, 'I'm not a woman anymore...I'm a mom!' When you look at a picture from the 90s there will most likely be three kinds of pants there; the bermuda shorts, the overalls, and the mom jeans. So why has this style been adopted by the young people of today?
First, let's explain the significance of the first era of mom jeans. Jeans were a symbol of youth rebellion in the 50s. They were sometimes banned in public settings because of their association with films starring James Dean and Marlon Brando, and their role in teenage counterculture. This changed in the 60s when jeans became increasingly accepted amongst young people. While jeans were still rarely worn by adults, the 60s and 70s marked the improvements and expansion of the denim fabric and different silhouettes made by the industry. During this time they became a staple of American fashion. The 80s marked the first era where grown ups, who were used to wearing denim as teenagers, frequently wore jeans as a standard part of their wardrobe. The free love movement, second wave feminism, and the popularization of casual fashion all backed the creation of "mom jeans."
So why are young people dressing in this style today? First and foremost, comfort! Mom jeans came about because women needed to throw something on and run around all day while staying comfortable. These jeans are coming back into fashion just after the rise of the skinny jean. Skinny jeans, which pinch, squish, and squeeze you into a thin-legged pair of pants hit their prime between 2011 and 2017. Some are made of very stretchy material but many more that are not. This return back to mom jeans is a counterrevolution back towards the comfortable. People want to be free to move about.
Nostalgia is also a potential reason for the return of mom jeans. Fashion is cyclical and people return to eras where they feel kinship; even if it wasn't the era of their own childhood. This can be seen not only by millennial's adoration of thrift stores but also the capitalization of these trends by mainstream fashion retailers. They've adapted the mom jean because people were showing interest.
Growing up, mom jeans were just the jeans that your mom was wearing. That is not the case anymore. Reworking the image associated with mom jeans is merging the nostalgia of adolescence with the fashionable images of models today. Unlike the mom jeans of yesteryear, these jeans are a statement not meant to be ignored.