From Mom Jeans to Flares, Jeans Are Having a Moment and I Want In

A search for a pair of mom jeans has led me to much more.
Publish date:
November 10, 2014

I had always dismissed the mom jean as the stuff of Saturday Night Live sketches and What Not to Wear pre-makeover wardrobes until I saw Dutch model Doutzen Kroes wearing a pair on Jean Stories earlier this year. She looked so cool in her white shirt and braided belt (very ’90s) that I wanted in.

And so began my search for the perfect fit. I started with a pair of boyfriend jeans in a size smaller than I usually wear so they’d wrap snugly around my waist, but then I decided to forgo the women’s department entirely and get a pair of men’s Levi’s 511s (they have a slim fit). After an eyeing a pair of MiH mom jeans on Shopbop, I went to the brand’s sample sale last spring but could only find an ultra-flare patched style, which I bought anyway as a consolation prize.

I've had trouble finding the right mom jean (though this pair from Urban Outfitters might just do the trick), not because the trend hasn't really taken hold but because I just haven't found an abundance of options. Sifting through the many different cuts that have come out in recent years has not been easy.

Jean savants Jane Bishop and Florence Kane, who launched Jean Stories a year ago to give denim the editorial attention it deserves, trace the ubiquity of denim right now to the changes in technology over the past decade. “Technology has allowed designers to make jeans that hold up all day long and recover without bagging out. Denim is an endlessly innovative and democratic fabric, and designers are making jeans that women can wear and feel comfortable in for every occasion,” explains Bishop. Look at Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, who's taken advantage of the fabric’s versatility to make miniskirts, shirts, dresses and jackets. With a bit of bling, he has put it on the runway.

As far as industry trends go, skinny jeans are taking the sideline after nearly ten years in the spotlight. “The skinny was a reaction to the bootcut, and now people are reacting to that with a 100 percent cotton Levi’s 501,” says Kane. It’s not the brand of jean that’s important though, it’s the cut.

Claire Geist, a personal style blogger with a habit for vintage (she’s behind the blog De Lune and works part time at the Brooklyn warehouse Dusty Rose Vintage) is seeing the same thing as Bishop and Kane. “There’s a slow shift away from the skinny fit towards something a little more loose and approachable, like a high-waisted, slim-fit slouchy kind of thing.” Not to mention, flares are on their way back in, and like other styles, their waist keeps getting higher.

As for the boyfriend? It’s been evolving since Bishop and Kane witnessed its game-changing effect firsthand in 2006, when designers Emily Current and Merritt Elliott brought their new boyfriend jean out. The trend trickled down from fashion insiders to celebrities to high schoolers like me -- I bought a pair from the Gap on my way home from SAT prep after seeing pictures of Jennifer Aniston wearing them. (I had to Google how to wear them because I had never seen anything like them before.) What used to be extra baggy and always rolled up is now getting skinnier, cropped, and uncuffed. Champions of the boyfriend like Claire (and me) are just as likely to feminize them with heels as we are to cuff them with sneakers.

Now that every possible cut and style of denim is out now, it's no wonder that we've come back to the mom jean. (Never say never with fashion, because it always seems to have a second life.) “There’s no fit of jean that will disappear and never come back,” says Bishop. “All that matters is how they make YOU feel.”

Is there anything you told yourself you'd never wear?