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What Are Dad Jeans and Should They Be In Your Denim Rotation?

From my jokes to the way I offer advice, usually without much provocation, to my uncontrollable grunts every time I get up out of a chair, I’m constantly exhibiting dad-like tendencies. Considering my age — 44 — and the fact that I am the father of two kids, everything I do is automatically classified as “dad-like” by anyone younger than 30.

The only part of my life that isn’t very dad-like at all is the way I dress. People younger than me might disagree with that statement, but judging myself against other dads at middle school functions, youth soccer games, and even the gym, I look like a style icon.

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This brings us to the rising popularity of dad jeans among younger men who probably aren’t fathers yet and won’t be having kids any time soon. Thanks partly to the rise in popularity of mom jeans and 90s style, dad jeans are now making a comeback bigger than your old man’s prostate.

What are Dad Jeans?

Photo of a man's lower body half wearing loose jeans and sneakers.

The new dad jeans fad is inspired by the men’s denim worn by the fathers of millennials and Gen Z back in the early aughts when The Sopranos was a must-watch, iPods were the size of compact cars, and brick-and-mortar stores were the only place to buy clothing.

Dad jeans sit higher on the waist than the typical cut of jeans. The jeans are relaxed through the thigh and tapered and loose from the knee down. The bottom of the pants is a little snugger around the ankle and falls slightly above the tongue of the sneakers, preferably a fresh new pair of white sneakers like New Balance.

The coloring of the jeans can run the gamut from dark tones resembling a train conductor’s pants to stonewashed jeans pilfered straight from Zach Morris’s laundry basket.

Dad jeans are a leftover from the “normcore” fashion trend of the 2010’s. To provoke a strong mental image of normcore and the quintessential pairs of dad jeans, envision Steve Jobs on stage at an Apple product launch or Jerry Seinfeld’s attire in every single episode of Seinfeld.

An online search of the term “dad jeans” will elicit differing opinions at the top of the first results page. You’ll likely find articles – written in the last year – explaining how dad jeans should be a part of every stylish guy’s denim rotation. The older opinion pieces explain to men how to avoid buying dad pants that might get mistaken for a part of your dad’s wardrobe.

The truth is dad jeans are once again in style.

“Although the slim fit fine to wear, the dad jean is where it’s at right now,” explains Kalyn Camara, a buyer and operations manager for an online clothing boutique. “The looser-fitting denim with a higher rise that sits more on the waist gives the jeans a familiar vintage vibe.”

Why You Should Consider Wearing Dad Jeans

Man in black long sleeves, denim pants, and gray shoes sitting on a rock.

Much like any fashion trend, wearing dad jeans all depends on a man’s style and taste. But buying a pair of dad jeans and taking them out for a spin isn’t a bad idea.

“The great thing about denim is that you can really style them to be worn to almost any occasion,” Camara adds. “Date night, happy hour, brunch, around the house, and just doing dad stuff.”

Dad pants pair well with fresh kicks or a stylish new hoodie and serve as an alternative to the tired old sweatpants or athleisure attire.

Naturally, some men should avoid wearing dad jeans at all costs depending on body size and height. Refrain from adding a pair of dad jeans to the pant rotation if your body type isn’t quite Seinfeld but more Costanza. Dad jeans will make you look shorter, heavier, and no closer to being a successful architect or marine biologist.

Should the dad jeans experiment go horribly wrong and elicit nothing but “What the hell are you wearing?” inquires from girlfriends, best friends, and co-workers, you’ve got an extra pair of jeans to wear around the house or for partaking in other dad-like activities such as cutting the grass, tackling home renovations, or just clapping the grill tongs together while waiting for the burgers to finish.

“Ultimately, you should always wear what makes you feel good because that’s when you’re going to look and feel most confident.”

How To Buy Dad Jeans

Dad denim in various styles and colors is abundant and easy to find. Several brands like American Eagle and Urban Outfitters now make a line of jeans specifically labeled “dad jeans.” Ironically, these are both stores that I shopped in during and after college with the sole purpose of not dressing anything like my father.

If your favorite brand doesn’t make a specific cut of denim labeled “dad jeans,” pairs of these pants can be purchased in stores where dads typically load up on budget-friendly apparel, and checking a few vintage stores is always a smart idea as well.

Still not sure where to score a pair of dad jeans before this weekend? Just ask your dad where he buys his jeans. Happy shopping.

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