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The Mom Jean Dilemma: Rise of an 80s Icon

The Mom Jean Dilemma: Rise of an 80s Icon

When buying a new pair of jeans, there’s no shortage of style choices. Not only do we get to pick from a variety of colours, but also a huge selection of styles, fits, and stretches. But among skinny jeans, raw hems, and distressed denim, there is a contender that has seen a massive rise in popularity, particularly in the past year – the mom jean.

An icon of the 1980s, these high waisted women’s jeans have found a resurgence among modern women who favour comfort, style, and accessibility.

But how has the mom jean found its way to being the staple pair of every wardrobe? Here, we explore the rise of high-waisted comfort.

What are mom jeans?

Mom jeans are high waisted, comfortable, and stable denim trousers that hug your body. There are many variations to the mom jean, sometimes using pleats, tapered legs, short hems, and elastic waistbands.

While created and popular in the 1980s, their popularity with middle-aged American women in the 1990s derogated them as “mom” jeans as they were considered “unhip” by trendy younger women.

Mom jeans became a pop culture hit, but for all the wrong reasons. A 2003 skit by Saturday Night Live gave the jeans a demeaning tagline:

“For this Mother’s Day, don’t give Mom that bottle of perfume. Give her something that says, I’m not a woman anymore…I’m a mom!”

But today, mom jeans have been reclaimed. ‘Mom’ no longer means unhip. Instead, young people today favour these jeans for their strength, reliability, and comfort — everything a mom should be. And their rise to wardrobe staple is demonstrating what we now look for in good jeans.

Comfort at home

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things in our lives. Suddenly, we had to stay at home, working from kitchen tables and finding entertainment without stepping out the front door. But as we acclimatised to this new existence, it’s clear that comfort would be a priority for many.

Since the start of the first national lockdown in England, UK Google searches for mom jeans have risen by 52 per cent in comparison to their five-year average score.

Even now as restrictions ease, searches for the high-waisted product remain higher than before any restrictions were in place. Has the pandemic sparked a love for these comfortable jeans?

It would seem so. Mom jeans are famed for their comfort, so it’s unsurprising that they had a sharp rise in searches during and following the national lockdowns. They’re also a reliable all-rounder, meaning that whether working from home, doing chores, or nipping out for the school run or essential groceries, even the most fashionable of us could get away without changing outfits.

Good for any age

Being the ultimate comfort denim, mom jeans are accessible for everyone. Easy to climb into, they don’t discriminate against any shapes or sizes. They hug the upper waist, making measurements and fitting an easy choice.

This accessibility means that mom jeans are now a reliable family denim. They’re not just for moms now. In fact, mom jeans for kids are even growing in popularity, adding maturity to their wardrobes while giving them the space to run, play, and get rough in the mud.

Don’t worry, lads. Even men can get involved with dad jeans, a variation of mom jeans. Popularised by US President Barack Obama, dad jeans continue the reliability of mom jeans, offering a semi-smart but manoeuvrable trouser that women already know and love. Mom jeans are the pinnacle of accessible denim.

Recurring fashion

Being stuck in the house is not the only reason for the mom jean’s recent rise. It seems that these trousers have come just at the right time, when the fashion world declared that sturdy fashion choices are back in style. And it’s not just mom jeans basking in the relit spotlight. Carrot leg jeans, boot cut jeans, and symmetrical cuts are also back on our shelves and our legs.

Of course, we must remember, that while the mom jean has its origins in the 1980s, it was the decade after where they were aligned with their name. As nostalgia dominates the fashion sphere in 2021, mom jeans have returned as triumphantly alongside leather jackets and oval sunglasses – echoing the urban revolution before the millennia.

In the past year, Google searches for “90s fashion” have slowly crept up. Searches in August 2021 were 26 per cent higher than they were in August 2020.

It seems we’ve fallen in love with fashion from 30 years ago. What the next nostalgic denim trend will be is anyone’s guess, but for now, it seems that the mom jeans are here to stay.


Images: Unsplash