The following is a post by Megan Collins of Style Girlfriend.

As Jerry Seinfeld might say:

What’s the deal with Dad Jeans?

It’s fitting that I begin this tirade with a Seinfeld-esque question, seeing as the comedian and erstwhile Acura spokesman was one of the worst offenders of Dad Jeans back in the day.

We give the President a hard time, but I think VP Biden deserves just as much of a hard time.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, “Dad Jeans” are a less-than-flattering style of denim that all guys would do well to avoid. That’s because Dad Jeans fall decidedly on the “don’t” side of men’s fashion.

The color is a light blue wash – some may say “stonewashed” if you even remember that phrase from the 80s. The style is high-waisted, sitting well above the hips, and veering dangerously close to a guy’s ribcage. Perhaps worst of all, Dad Jeans billow out around the waist, ostensibly in the name of “comfort” or a “relaxed” fit, though looking at them makes me feel anything but.

Dad Jeans are often seen in the wild worn in conjunction with mock turtlenecks, windbreakers, New Balance “walking” shoes (you know the kind – uber-white, with a sole so big it looks like a platform shoe), and a generally dismissive attitude towards fashion.

Steve Jobs wore Dad Jeans. So did Danny Tanner on Full House. The new torchbearer of the Dad Jean look is our very own commander-in-chief. Wearing his everywhere from the campaign trail to family vacations, the press has filled many valuable newspaper inches dissecting the president’s detente with denim.

So, how to break out of the Dad Jean rut?

Get the fit right

Before you even start shopping, cajole a loved one to help you measure your waist and inseam. You may have been buying one size all these years, but who knows what size you actually are now? Or ever really were? At the store, stick to this number, even if it’s smaller than what you normally wear.

The jeans you try on may feel a little tighter than what you’re used to, but so long as you’re not moving into Steven Tyler territory (ie, skin-tight skinny jeans), you’re probably just experiencing a common sensation known as “wearing clothes that fit for the first time.”

Get the style right

What to look for: You want a dark rinse, straight leg, and absolutely no adornment. This is not the time to get courageous. No studs, no “whiskers” (that terrible rinse that makes the creases look there forever), and definitely no pre-cut holes.

Suck it up

“But Megan,” I hear you arguing at your computer screen. “I want to be comfortable.”

Of course, we all do. But if I left the house feeling the ultimate level of comfort every day, I’d be wearing my flannel J. Crew pajama pants, the ones with the cows printed on them. You don’t want that.

So buck up, learn to take one for the team known as “all of society” and readjust your comfort settings. And for how much better you’ll look, isn’t it worth it? With a quick shopping trip, our president, and anyone else afflicted with DJS (Dad Jean Syndrome), could successfully break out of the disappointing denim cycle.

It’s as easy to make a good impression, as it is to make a bad one. That’s because a little effort up-front—finding a great pair of jeans that fits you and doesn’t make you look like an eighties sitcom star—means no work later on.

Just think of how confident you’ll feel getting dressed every morning when you open your closet and find jeans that fit well and look good with any outfit you wear.

Your kids—or future kids—will thank you.



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PUBLISHED February 21, 2012

Megan is editor of Style Girlfriend, a site about guys' style from a girl's perspective. She lives in New York City and gets lots of inspiration for articles (on what to wear and what definitely NOT to wear) while waiting for the train. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Glen

    Great post.

    It should also be noted that if the jeans seem uncomfortable after following all of Megan’s rules (dark, straight-leg, fitted) it is only temporary. The denim will soften up with wear and conform to your body, becoming incredibly comfortable; even more so than the dad jeans.

    • Thanks for chiming in Glen! Yes, even the most rigid selvage denim will become more comfortable with wear.

  • larry ramirez

    Don’t forget about that other phenomenon, the Hip Hop fit (as I’ve dubbed it). I used to go for it as a kid, big baggy jeans that made me look like I was swimming in my clothes, my cousin, who’s in his early thirties, is still rocking that look and thinks my fitted jeans (I’m not even talking about my skinny jeans) are “nut-huggers”, haha. I think that might make for a good article, being on the other end of the spectrum. Great post, btw, I always hated Seinfeld’s style.

    • At least you grew out of the “hip hop fit” ..a lot of guys wear them through adulthood!

  • Frank H.

    One of the first changes I made to my personal style, not more than a few months ago, I went out and bought some dark blue straight leg jeans. I don’t remember where I read about it but it has impacted how I look more than any other change. I wouldn’t say I had “dad jeans”, but I used to gravitate towards relaxed fit and “vintage” washes. I thought because I am carrying some extra pounds that relaxed was the only cut that I could wear but straight legged cuts, while a little strange feeling at first, fit great, feel comfortable, and make me look a lot less heavy.

    The important thing is interchangeability. Sure my old jeans weren’t terrible(though some would argue otherwise) when paired with graphic tees or maybe a flannel shirt but they would look ridiculous with a button down, nice polo, sweater, blazer, etc… A dark washed straight legged pair does it all.

    • Hey Frank,

      I’m glad you ventured out and realized you didn’t have to stick to “relaxed” fits and faded washes. And you’re right, dark denim goes with absolutely everything (and makes the whole outfit look better than a pair of lighter-wash denim ever could).

      One tip I have is don’t wash your jeans too much, if at all. Seriously. My favorite pair that I wear practically every day, I haven’t washed once. I’m pretty sure I bought them last year.

      Now, if your pants stink, obviously wash them (in cold cold water, woolite dark, and hang dry ideally), but try to avoid it as much as possible. Like I mentioned you’ll notice the denim will start to mold to your body and eventually just fits perfectly every single time. Washing is almost like resetting all that.

    •  Totally agree with what you said about the versatility of your straight-leg dark denim. Buying new jeans may cost more upfront, but since you can wear them with everything you own, you’ll save money in the long run since you won’t be buying ten different styles of jeans to match each shirt you own!

  • Chris

    I think some pictures would be great.  🙂

    • Pictures of Dad Jeans? (similarly, mom jeans:

      The ugly pairs are the offenders, if that wasn’t obvious.

      In case you want to know what to buy instead of what to avoid:

      •  Oof, googling “Dad Jeans” is probably not how you wanted to spend your Sunday morning, am I right? Thanks for taking one for the team on that one 🙂

        • I google Dad Jeans in Google Images in my spare time. Right after “Corgis in Halloween costumes”.

  • Zach

    Measuring your waist to find your jeans size isn’t the best tip because nearly all jeans are vanity-sized. If you buy your exact waist size, you’ll end up with jeans 1-3 sizes too big.

    •  True – some more than others! Old Navy, for instance, runs realllly large. But knowing your true waist size is a good jumping off point; you can size down when you get to the store and see how a style fits on.

  • My girlfriend and I have a running disagreement that maybe you can settle: are shrink-to-fit Levi 501s dad jeans? Granted, I’m a little athletic/slim so they don’t have a fitted look. But they’re not, like, super dad jean-y? Or are they?

    •  I think you answered your own question – they’re not “super” dad jean-y…but they’re pretty dad jean-y 🙂

      I’d suggest the Original Fit from Levi’s if you like the brand but feel like it’s time to get some jeans with a more tailored fit:

    • Just to add to Megan’s comment, they can be dad jean-y depending on your body type. If a slim dude such as yourself wears em, they’ll approach dad territory, especially if you go with lighter colors.

      I suggest the 514 for slimmer dudes who don’t want to go super fitted. They’re still roomy, but much more tailored than a 501 or 505.

      By the way if you follow the directions on the STF tags, you’ll get interesting results. Meaning if you buy 1-2 sizes up in the waist / inseam, and then deliberately shrink your jeans (like wear them in the ocean, sit in a bathtub full of hot water, etc) you may come out with a pair that fits your body pretty well… if you have the body type for it in the first place.

  • Markus

    Over the last couple months I have been changing my whole wardrobe and this is one thing that has made a big impact on how I look. I’ve got a nice dark of Levi’s 501s (definitely not the smallest guy out there!). I love the fit of them and I have gotten quite a few looks from the ladies when paired with a simple polo. It amazes me how many people, no matter what age, wear dad jeans! I rarely see any gents wearing dark jeans, makes me pretty sad. I’ve also gotten my best friend to step away from his washed jeans and come to the dark side!

  • Austin

    I generally stick to Levi’s 501, 505, and 514. In the past I have worn the 511, but I have more leg muscles now, making them too tight in the seat and thigh. Has anyone tried out the 513? They look like the 514 except slimmer through the calf.

    • Forky Witherspoon

      Shut up homo

    • Yes, the 513s are pretty much the same, with a smaller leg opening, so there’s a slight taper. I prefer this over the 514 now that I’ve tried it, but I still think the 514 is a good option.

  • Lucien Ginsburg

    Whatever. I’ll stick with relaxed fits. Have fun at the fertility clinic in ten years!

    • Митчел Сталин

      Wait. So I can look fantastic AND not knock anyone up? Sounds like it’s a win-win on my side of the fence.

    • foljs

      +Lucien Ginsburg Well, you’ll need similar luck at the adoption agency, because with those jeans you won’t be knocking anyone up anytime soon…