In Defense of Mom Jeans

The jokes say more about our perception of women than of our president.

The mom jeans heard round the world, in 2009.
National Journal
Marina Koren
See more stories about...
Marina Koren
March 14, 2014, 12:35 p.m.

The ghost of mom jeans past has come back to haunt the pres­id­ent.

Pres­id­ent Obama called in­to On Air With Ry­an Seacrest on Fri­day to dis­cuss his re­cent trip to a Gap store in New York. Seacrest jok­ingly asked the pres­id­ent if a Gap sales as­so­ci­ate had sug­ges­ted that the lead­er “up­date his jeans.”

“I’ve been fairly ma­ligned about my jeans,” Obama told the host. “The truth is, gen­er­ally, I look very sharp in jeans.”

The pres­id­ent then re­minded listen­ers of the jeans that star­ted it all. It was Ju­ly 2009. Obama threw out the first pitch for the Ma­jor League Base­ball All-Star game in St. Louis, wear­ing a 1990s-style of pant hu­mor­ously par­od­ied by a 2003 Sat­urday Night Live skit for a fake brand called Mom Jeans.

“Fash­ionis­tas ac­cuse Pres­id­ent Obama of wear­ing ‘mom jeans,’” a CNN story de­clared back then. The Huff­ing­ton Post even polled its read­ers about the com­mand­er in chief’s cas­u­al look. “You are mar­ried to one of the most fash­ion­able wo­men in the world — do you want to de­fend the pants?” Meredith Vie­ira asked Obama on The Today Show a week later. “I’m a little frumpy,” the pres­id­ent re­spon­ded.

The ward­robe choice earned Obama the nick­name of Pres­id­ent Mom Jeans, and crit­ics have poin­ted to the jeans as a sign of weak­ness. The latest jab came last week from former vice pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Sarah Pal­in, in re­sponse to a White House pho­to­graph of a jeans-clad Obama in the Oval Of­fice, talk­ing to Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin on the phone.

“People are look­ing at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” Pal­in told Fox News’ Sean Han­nity. “They look at our pres­id­ent as one who wears mom jeans and equi­voc­ates and blovi­ates.”

The joke has clearly stuck, and it has popped up any time a cas­u­ally dressed Obama goes on a bike ride or vis­its a mu­seum.

Sure, mom jeans don’t look good on just about every­one — the ir­ra­tion­al above-the-na­vel waist, those big pock­ets that make be­hinds look dis­pro­por­tion­ately long, that glar­ing light-blue wash. In oth­er words, sol­id joke ma­ter­i­al. Now for­get about the pres­id­ent, and think about who ac­tu­ally wears mom jeans on a reg­u­lar basis. When you do that, the im­plied in­sult of mom-jean jokes tran­scends the seams and hits at the people who ac­tu­ally wear them: moms.

So when, as Susan Or­lean ob­served in The New York­er in 2011, did “mom” be­come a swear word? And when did look­ing like one be­come al­most of­fens­ive? Or­lean went on:

I guess the cur­rent defin­i­tion of “mom” is someone who wears their jeans high enough to hide their tramp stamp; is at­tract­ive but gen­der­less; is, in oth­er words, nice, slightly frumpy, has old cook­ie bat­ter dried in her badly-in-need-of-an-up­dated-hair­cut hair, ex­udes not one jot of danger or ad­ven­ture or aban­don al­though some­where, un­der her really-should-give-it-to-Good­will-it-is-so-old-and-un­styl­ish flowered top, you can de­tect a whiff of a once-ex­cit­ing wo­man. In oth­er words, please kill me now.

Moms, by vir­tue of push­ing chil­dren out in­to the world and then rais­ing them, are not weak. They of­ten juggle work, hob­bies, and their chil­dren’s hob­bies. They are tough de­cision makers who don’t have time for non­sense or pro­cras­tin­a­tion. Some serve in Con­gress, oth­ers medal at the Olympics. “Wo­men who buy [mom jeans] are prac­tic­al and likely too busy to care that fash­ion ed­it­ors and de­sign­ers have de­clared that skinny jeans are a ‘must’ for the fall sea­son,” Jill Hud­son Neal wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post in 2006. In oth­er words, mom-jeans wear­ers are the kinds of people who get stuff done.

Many moms are also, per­haps most im­port­antly in this case, voters. Pal­in’s sug­ges­tion that people who wear mom jeans are weak isn’t likely to res­on­ate with the fe­male, child-bear­ing base.

If your eyes have welled up at all those P&G mom ads for the Olympics — and ad­mit it, they have — then you know that moms are ob­ject­ively some of the best — and strongest — people in the world.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×