It's hard out here for millennials. We can't afford to buy houses, we're ruining the diamond/cereal/auto industries, and if you ask Zoomers, we're a bunch of dorks. Those pesky, barely legal TikTokers have got us feeling middle-aged by the time we're 30. I'm not a "geriatric" millennial, because that makes it sound like I've gone straight from Lit Lounge into a nursing home, but nonetheless I'm firmly in the age zone where I've seen Justice live, like, five times without even trying; lived in Williamsburg long before the Whole Foods moved in; had a side part for 10+ years (not that there's anything wrong with that); and, perhaps most stereotypically of all, I'm still struggling to figure out life after skinny jeans.
Having grown up with the Ramones and Debbie Harry as my denim idols, I don't feel persuaded to let some Zoomer who thinks of 2014 as the "good old days" pry my longtime jean shape of choice from my increasingly freckled hands. No one told us M-words that we'd ever have to find yet another new pant leg style du jour, and those shapeless wide-leg highwaters that Zoomer art school girls are all in on offer little appeal to me. But I get it: It’s time to move on.
A reasonable compromise seems to be the modern interpretation of "mom jeans," a term once used as an insult during the low-waisted heyday of the early aughts but now fully re-embraced as a desirable look. At the turn of the millennium, we lamented how they flattened asses and swallowed belly buttons with their sky-high, tight waists. But after the trauma of surviving that era of jeans so low-waisted they were virtually unwearable unless you had a sub-18.5 BMI and a Brazilian, the return to pants that don't expose several inches of crack when you bend the slightest bit forward has been a welcome return.
That's not to say that finding flattering mom jeans has been easy. When vintage shopping, one confounding realization that arises from trying on jeans from the 80s and early 90s is that maybe our bodies are shaped differently now, or something? Because the taper of genuine vintage mom jeans never quite looks right, and the waist-to-thigh ratio also seems screwy, either creating huge gaps in the back or—as old jeans are devoid of now-ubiquitous elastane—squeezing my proportionally thicc drumsticks with such force that I can't even pull them up all the way. Everyone has different bods and dreams, so for reference, my silhouette is hourglass-ish, with a smaller waist and calves, a peachy, generously sized tuchus, and thighs made for crushing the skulls of my enemies, and finding mom jeans that look good on me has been a several-years-long journey, one in which hundreds of dollars have been essentially fed into a paper shredder and a dejected pile of denim has been pushed to the back of the closet, then eventually donated to the Hollywood Goodwill. (Au revoir.)
Here's what I want out of jeans, in 2021: denim that is firm and holds shape, but has a little bit of stretch; a fit that grazes the belly button without covering it; high back pockets, angled slightly for optimal booty flattery; a tapered, slightly cropped leg; and a light wash (or, even better, a variety of washes and colors to choose from). I want something a little Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson, a little Beverly Hills, 90210—a jean that's a little tight, but not anything that could qualify as a "jegging"; a shape that's body-skimming, but not sausage-case-esque. Yes, I'm looking for a unicorn—but I think I've finally found it.
Buying pants is tough, and I rarely do so online because 1) product photography can be so deceiving on models, who are literally hired because they look good in everything, and 2) I absolutely hate returning things. However, I seem to have come across the actual best mom jeans, only to discover that I'm the last to find out about them. (Typical millennial… pathetic.)
When perusing the many, many (3,229, as of today) varieties of women's jeans currently being sold on ASOS, I came across the Stradivarius Slim Mom Jeans, or if you wanna hear the whole name verbatim, the "Stradivarius organic cotton slim mom jeans with stretch in washed blue." (Though, I later found that they also come in a bunch of other colors, from black to green to pink to bright red.)
Now, ASOS waited until very recently to allow product reviews on its site, so the majority of clothing on the online megaretailer has very few comments or ratings. But these jeans, I quickly noticed, had nearly 190 reviews—a huge jump up from the average of, like, two to four. The reviews are also super solid: Currently, the cumulative rating stands at 4.6 stars out of 5, whereas the average crappy ASOS fast-fashion pant hovers in the three-star range. These jeans seemed to check all the boxes, are made of organic cotton (which is always a plus even though I'm not entirely sure why), and were only 30 bucks, so I quickly pulled the trigger. I have jeans that were $70—shoutout Topshop—and jeans that were $250—shoutout RE/DONE—and I've learned that price really has little correlation with how much you end up loving a pair of jeans.
Only after I got my order confirmation did I start rifling through the many reviews to read more specs, and that was when I discovered a grip of comments noting that many buyers had seen these jeans on TikTok. After some hashtag-surfing, I found the motherlode of 'Toks dedicated to Stradivarius slim mom jean fandom:
SSMJ (Stradivarius Slim Mom Jean) devotees on TikTok praise the jeans’ perfect amount of stretch, magical form-fitting powers, and ability to accommodate a variety of waist-to-hip ratios. On ASOS, reviewers call them “the most comfortable pants I own,” “perfect,” and “the best jeans ever,” praising the fit, fabric (99% cotton, baby), and vintage vibe.
A couple of days later, they arrived—and to my delight, they really do rock as hard as the Tok'ers say. They're just the right level of thickness, and they feel durable with just enough stretch to smooth over anything one would wish to be politely brushed under the denim rug (a lumpy bit, a just-consumed burrito). They are lifting, cinching, and yet as comfortable as a pair of sweats; I can jump on my trampoline in them (yes, I have a small home trampoline, so what; quarantine was tough on us all) and they don't dig in anywhere. The ass situation is magical; we're talking A+++ pocket size and placement. I feel like an 80s groupie goddess, just as I had dreamed. Plus, it turns out that SSMJs also come in Petite and Tall sizing, so perfect-jean hunters of all heights can partake. Yep; they're the bomb. The zoomers were right.
This only makes me feel more validated in my hatred of super-unflattering pants. Sometimes, fashion moves in a direction that it seems universally agreed upon is poorly conceived, fugly and not even particularly comfortable, and such is the case with whatever has been going on with pants for the last three or four years. Back in 2017, The Cut implored us to "Succumb to the Siren Song of Unflattering Pants," and I refused. That same year, The Zoe Report noted that "the ugly pant is cool again," and we began spotting more and more Everlane Wide Leg Crop Pants out in the wild, creating a sea of beautiful young women who for some reason choose to dress like dowdy elementary school math teachers. One Washington Post writer even declared that she fully "gave up on flattering clothing." You do you, but that's gonna be a hell no for me, dawg. I've begrudgingly tried on all of these cursed trousers, and never been able to accept them. Say what you will about skinny jeans and Zoomers' perception that they're cheugy, but at least they don't tent your legs in billowing tubes of fabric that conceal the (surely lovely) shape of your thighs and calves.
But I waited it out, and thank god, it's all been worth it. There is, it turns out, life after skinny jeans.
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