Donald Trump Jr. has some thoughts—well, a lame insult really, aimed at Mitt Romney—about “mom jeans.” Like much about Don Jr., it was an embarrassing misfire.
After Romney announced that he would vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge—a mostly symbolic move which did little to influence Mitch McConnell’s Republican-led Senate—Trump Jr. posted a throwback photo of the senator wearing high-waisted denim. It appeared to be taken in the ’80s or ’90s, when the cut was popular for men and women. The caption read, “Mom Jeans, Because you’re a pussy.”
His mockery of Romney, of course, makes light of the infamous word his father used while bragging about assaulting women in the Access Hollywood tape. Along with that, he chose to feminize Romney as a form of insult. Trump Jr. could have referenced dad jeans, which Barack Obama frequently wore as president, but he decided to call him a girl instead. Good one, Junior!
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a connoisseur of plaid button-ups—who appears to use an entire bottle of Gorilla Glue to slick back his hair every morning—the president’s son does not understand that the past six or so years have made the look cool again.
Here comes Kendall Jenner, just this week in sheer top and mom jeans! They have also been sighted on Kourtney Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, and Sienna Miller. The mom jean came to public attention in the late 90’s, but it's been around, unnamed and unjoked about by presidential offspring, since the '50s.
Trump Jr., 42, knows nothing about fashion, which can be illustrated by the fact that he proposed to his first wife, Vanessa, with a ring he got for free from a jeweler at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. If he did understand trends, he would know that mom jeans have come a long way from the Tina Fey’s 2003 SNL sketch, which reportedly coined the term.
Today, the look is sold both euphemistically (see: Everlane’s $78 “Cheeky Straight Denim”—a mom jean if I ever saw one) and proudly. Retailers like Mango, ASOS, and Madewell all use “Mom” to market their high-waist, tapered-leg options. It makes sense they would use the phrase in their marketing, as it’s highly sought-after. According to Google trends, California, Hawaii, and fittingly, Romney’s state Utah, are the top three regions searching.
I searched through the Getty Image archives in an attempt to find photos of Trump Jr. in the same style. Unfortunately, the first son seems to have only worn suits and ties since his childhood, pairing the boss baby ensemble with a vacant glare that makes him look like a babysitter’s worst nightmare.
He does wear jeans, nondescript ones, on occasion, such as when sitting, looking as if he was constipated, on a tree stump.
This, then, is a short lesson and corrective for Don Jr. as he struggles to perfect his fashion zingers. The first time I tried on a pair of mom jeans, I felt instant, unadulterated bliss, a comfort I’ve yet to recover from. Under the fluorescent lighting of a dusty Topshop dressing room, I stared into a dirty mirror and wondered how it was possible for my butt to both look and feel so good. Was I actually wearing denim, or just a great big hug?
I came of age during the era of low-rise, the-tighter-the-better skinny jeans, which I wore for nearly a decade. I risked friction rash and exposed my lower back to the wind and rain for the sake of fashion. Not too long ago, being stylish meant shoving our bodies—or as much of it that could fit—into a garment made for someone at least two sizes smaller.
Years later, it’s de rigueur to see Billie Eilish in shapeless cargo pants or Kaia Gerber in New Balance sneakers. Getting dressed no longer means risking life or limb to squish inside rayon. The gaze has changed, too—being a mom is not a derogative, and parents can be hot, too. (Have you seen J.Lo?)
Blame it on on #MeToo, the influence of VSCO girls, or sheer exhaustion with the state of the world. If we can’t stay underneath a comforter all day, at least we can dress like one. I chose to credit the resurgence of mom jeans, which Fashionista dates to Topshop’s 2014 version, as the first time the mainstream fashion industry allowed women to be both comfortable and cute.
Les we forget: Jessica Simpson did not endure weeks of intense, unnecessary body shaming after performing in high-waisted bellbottoms back in 2009 for nothing. Is that entirely relevant to mention in this story? Maybe not, but I refuse to let it go unwritten. Jessica wore mom jeans back when that was an (unintentionally) feminist act, and for that, my flared pants and I salute her.
So, a word to Trump Jr. If, to quote the title of your book, you really want your insult to “trigger,” consider making better jokes. Not only was your meme misogynistic, it’s also just plain outdated. Mom jeans have been cool for a minute now, so pick a new object of ridicule. Until then, I’ll be over here, swathed in supportive denim.