In praise of President Obama’s mom jeans

Let’s not judge the president too harshly — he’s leading a trend

Sarah Palin, and the rest of the conservative right’s recent vitriolic criticism of President Obama’s “mom jeans,” are way off base.

Fear not; this is not a rebuttal of a political critique. This is a rebuttal of a fashion critique.

First, I have some disturbing news. There’s a resurgence in bland, Seinfeldian fashion a-brewing.


Whether he likes it or not, the president is a style icon. If you ask him, he has been “unfairly maligned” for his choice in denim. Indeed, no matter how suave he may believe he appears in casual wear, he will continue to pale in comparison to his fashionably iconic wife, First Lady Michelle Obama. On fashion alone, clearly Mr. Obama married up. The Obamas, Baby Boomers both, are always under the fashion microscope.

That said, here is the bad news: mom jeans are coming back. Think I’m kidding? Wish I’m kidding? Sorry. It’s called “normcore” — a very real trend.

As it turns out, Mr. Obama may not want to jettison those lamented and lambasted jeans just yet. So stick it, Ms. Palin. I’ve lived in Alaska (during the ‘90s, no less) and I know one thing for sure: Alaska is not known for its forward-thinking fashion. It takes its cues from the rest of America — Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, mostly. Pot, meet kettle, in other words.

Yadda yadda yadda

Normcore, a puzzling trend that harkens back to early 1990s fashion ideals (admittedly, I’m playing fast and loose with that phrase), is infusing current fashion thinking. I’m as shocked as you are.

I’m also laughing at myself right now. Confession time: as of this very moment, writing from my home office, I’m wearing a pair of old, comfortable Eddie Bauer jeans and a decaying V-neck T-shirt, both circa 10-plus years old. I have newer and better looking casual wear that I could have chosen. However (before I had any intention of writing this article) I threw on these affronts to fashion partially because I had a pang of guilt for not having worn either for a long time and also because I need to do some painting later that I’ve been putting off. I don’t want to dissuade my four-hours-in-the-future self from tackling my chore by wearing clothes I wouldn’t want ruined.

I have no intention of going out in public in these threads, however. But maybe I should. If the normcore fashion trend is to be believed, I could proudly wear these in front of public eyeballs, regarded as a conquering hero of edgy fashion. My own Depeche mode of 2014.

Too late!

Alas, if I want to be a fashion-forward leader in my region, the Pacific Northwest, I’m already passé. Fleece jackets, socks-with-sandals, loose-fitting jeans, white sneakers, baseball hats, mock turtlenecks … they’re everywhere. I mean, everywhere. Too late to lead this charge. In the state of Washington, we’re already rocking this new look. It’s almost as if the 90s never left. Almost.

I’m surprised Ms. Palin doesn’t know of this. Her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska is a scant 1,437 miles by air to Seattle — a destination she must have passed through many dozens of times coming and going in her busy erstwhile governmental career. Plus, she’s an ex government worker, like me. The fashion staples I listed above are de rigueur for government workers across the nation. I can picture several of them toiling away in their cubicles right now in their acid-washed denims, printed sweatshirts and white sneakers. Surely, she knows emerging trends when she sees one, yes?

I just have to ask, though, where do these government style icons get the scratch to keep up with such fast-moving fashion trends, on a government salary? Makes you wonder.

image via

Back to the issue of fashion. Clearly, the forward-thinking Pacific Northwesties and our nation’s government workers are a step ahead of the game. President Obama (a government worker, by the way) is not out of step with fashion — he’s blazing a trail. How long before we see Michelle Obama dressed like Elaine from Seinfeld?

I can hardly wait. Literally. I will see it as soon as I venture out to the grocery store. Take that, fashion critics!

An earlier version of this article first appeared on WiseTribe.

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Julian Rogers is a freelance writer, communications consultant and owner of Juju Eye Communications. Follow him on Twitter (@thejujueye), or connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+.