fashion

Help A Brother Out…Talk About Man Jeans Today

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how difficult it is to be honest and talk about things openly, especially when the thing we need to discuss might make us or someone we care about uncomfortable. At some point, however, the truth needs to be spoken, no matter how ugly it might be. To move beyond it, to improve our life and the lives of those around us, we must be brave. We must face the thing that frightens us and remove its fangs so it can gnash its teeth at us no more. I’m here today to open a dialogue about such a topic.

There is an epidemic among middle-age men in this country, an unheralded scourge that has been spreading each year, leaving more and more unfortunate souls in its wake. Each day, I encounter an ever-increasing number of victims who suffer from this disease. Sadly, most sufferers remain unaware of their sickness, unable to identify the thing that is causing women to point and giggle behind their backs. That sickness, my friends, is man jeans. Yes. Man jeans. There. I’ve said it.

Bad jeans all around…but it was 1998.

Bad jeans all around…but it was 1998. That’s my story.

Now, I know there has been a lot of blog time spent on mom jeans. Saturday Night Live lampooned them in a skit back in 2003. Mom jeans, with their nine inch zippers, pleated fronts, and roomy seat are touted to fit even the least active moms and be suitable for any occasion. Yes. It’s true. The post-child female body doesn’t always fit back into those darling, low-slung, hip hugging jeans from our pre-child-bearing days. Sometimes moms need something with a little higher rise to hold in the residual baby bump and to reduce the disfiguring effects of the dreaded muffin top. This is why mom jeans were first invented, and why women bought them. But eventually women began clamoring for something more attractive to wear for the years between Abercrombie skinny jeans and Goodwill-bought, elastic-waist, polyester, granny pants, and clothing makers rose to the challenge. Stores devoted entirely to the purveyance of the best fitting denim for most any shape and size sprouted up, and moms began finding fashion again. While it’s true that with the switch to designer denim we had to give up no-fuss, washer/dryer care, as well as abandon that little bit of pleated expansion space that left us room to sneak off and ingest an extra cupcake or three at the block party, designer jeans made motherhood and midlife a lot sexier. For each woman turned from away from mom jeans, though, the disparity in the denim choices between the sexes grew until we arrived where we are today…with a preponderance of middle-age men wearing man jeans while the women who love them stand by in their fashionable denim, shaking their heads and wondering when they married this old geezer.

An unidentified man and a cute toddler wearing man jeans. The toddler is pulling it off.

An unidentified man and a cute toddler wearing man jeans. Note: the toddler is pulling them off.

I’ve heard it said that many men hit what they feel is the best year of their life and become lodged there permanently. It’s their happy place. Based on the outfit choices of most middle-age men I know (and, unfortunately, at 46 I know a lot of middle-age men), they gave up on themselves sometime during the Clinton Presidency. For those of you in the dark about what exactly qualifies as “man jeans,” let me point you in the right direction by putting it in simple, Jeff Foxworthy-worthy language for you.

If your jeans came with a tag that said “relaxed,” “loose,” or “comfy” fit, you might be wearing man jeans.

If you’ve had your jeans since college and you were in college over 10 years ago, you might be wearing man jeans.

If your jeans came from LL Bean, Kohl’s, Land’s End, Bass Pro Shops, or any outlet store, you might be wearing man jeans.

If you require a belt to keep your jeans up or you’ll end up looking like those “hoodlum” kids you complain about, the ones who wear the waist of their jeans below their boxer shorts, you might be wearing man jeans.

If your idea of shopping involves grabbing a pair of 36″ x 34″ jeans off a wall to fit your 34″ x 34″ body without ever considering trying them on, you might be wearing man jeans.

If there is so much excess room in the butt of your jeans that you could drop a load in there and no one would be the wiser, you might be wearing man jeans.

If your favorite pair of jeans has sparkly embellishments on the pockets, well…then, I’m afraid you might be wearing your wife’s jeans.

I understand that most men don’t like to shop. You hate spending money on clothing, and if I tell you it might cost you $200 for a good-fitting pair of quality denim that will last, you are going to tell me exactly how many beers you could buy with that cash today. But at some point, men, you’ve got to face facts. You’re middle aged. Your pecs have seen better days, you’ve got clothing older than your children, your new boss is ten years younger than you, and the hair on your head is thinning while the hair in your nose is coming in nicely. And, it sucks. But are you ready to cash it in? Should we just hand out grandpa pants, the fetching ones that you can pull all the way to your burgeoning man boobs? Put on a pair of your jeans. Take a good, long, hard look at yourself in a full length mirror and acknowledge that you’re not the man you once were. You’re better. You’re smarter, wiser, and more successful than you were twenty years ago. You deserve designer denim. And if you pick up a pair of raw denim, you won’t even have to wash them for six months. 😀

Always Bring A Buddy

The dress that stressed me out.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been engaged in a monumental battle. I have been trying to figure out what to wear to a wedding. As I’ve mentioned previously, fashion is not my strong suit. When it comes to fashion I’m like a politician: I know just enough about it to sound knowledgeable, but in actuality I am utterly clueless. This marked lack of the female fashion gene makes doing simple things, like buying a dress to wear to a wedding, a veritable nightmare for me.

Humor me while I prove my point. A couple weeks ago, I steeled my nerves and stepped foot into the dress department at Nordstrom. My goal was to find a dress that relayed that I have the style, class, and confidence befitting a 44 year old woman. Yes. I wanted a dress that would lie. I wanted a magic dress. If Cinderella could have magic shoes, certainly I could have a magic dress. I brought with me only two things…a knowledge of what I like and a knowledge of what looks good on me. I had no idea what constitutes appropriate attire for a fall, evening wedding in Boston. I had no idea what size I wore. I had no idea where to start. I took a leap of faith.

I spent a little over an hour in Nordstrom’s dress department that day, trying on approximately 14 dresses, and eventually leaving the store feeling fairly confident that I had made a good choice. I brought the dress home, put it in my closet, and began staring at my shoe collection (which is really more a flip-flop collection). That was when I realized I had surmounted the terror of dress shopping only to land myself smack in the middle of a worse problem. I now had to buy shoes to match my dress. Holy hell. Being the fashion dolt I am, I spent the next week shopping for shoes to match my beautiful dress. I visited four stores to no avail and ultimately ended up ordering four pairs online to try on and choose from. When they arrived and I decided I needed help determining which of two pairs of shoes to wear with my lovely dress, I texted a few of my fashion savvy friends some photos to get their opinions. It was, I thought, the final step in my shopping process. I was wrong. Two friends liked one pair of shoes. Another liked a different one. Momentary confusion. But, wait…majority rules, right? It was fine. I took a deep breath. And then, just when I thought the decision was made, the unthinkable happened. The waters got muddied.

Rebecca: For an evening wedding, and it might be cold, I would wear tights.

Tights? Tights did not figure into my equation when I was shoe shopping. I had purchased only peep toe pumps to try on. While I know it’s now a widely accepted practice to wear tights with peep toes, my head began to throb. I found myself short of breath. I went looking for a paper bag.

Me: I want to cry. I can’t picture that dress with tights. I’m stressed out.

Rebecca: Don’t cry. You totally have time to figure that out.

Me: I thought I HAD figured it out. That’s why I want to cry. It took me a long time to pick the dress. Then I had to order shoes. Now I see I went the wrong direction.

Being the wonderful friend she is, Rebecca held my hand (all the way from Illinois, mind you) through my mental breakdown. I told her about the other dress I had considered buying. She thought it might be a better way to go. So, I ran back to Nordstrom, tried on the dress, and texted her a photo. It was a go. Next stop: shoe shopping. Over the course of three days, I texted Rebecca about 10 photos of booties and pumps. She helped me choose a couple suitable pairs, one that could be worn with tights and one that could be worn without. I would no longer have to freeze if it was a cold day in Boston. Today, a full two weeks after what began as a simple trip to buy a dress for a wedding, I finally feel like I have an appropriate outfit. Finally. Now all I have to do is find jewelry, a purse, and a wrap. Insert eye roll.

The point of this whole blog, and I do have one, is that the old rule “always bring your buddy” is crucial. Most things in life are better executed with a friend along. Fashion, apparently, is no different. All these years I have been shopping incorrectly because I’ve been going it alone. Big mistake. In the future, I will try to remember that sometimes my independent streak needs to be tamed. Sometimes I need to accept that it’s okay to get by with a little help from your friends. The buddy system was created for a reason. It’s good for safety, sanity, and shopping. Who knew?

(PS…My darling husband said I should keep both dresses. I agreed.)