Confused as to whether you're a millennial or a Gen Z? Seems like the answer lies in your jeans preference.
Every generation thinks they've found the perfect denim, whether that's tight or loose, dark wash or faded, wide leg or stretchy. But Gen Z has given millennials the hard word: the gloriously flexible jeans of their youth are no longer cool.
It's been some time since the TikTok generation declared skinny jeans were supremely uncool - and now the skinny vs mom jeans debate has escalated into a full-scale war.
What are the youths going for instead? Width. High waists. Maybe a flare. Lighter wash. They've discovered the mom jean.
A Washington Post feature delved deep into the debate to discover the origin of the mom jean. And while NZ may be slightly late to adopt overseas trends, all it takes is a walk down Queen St to show that the youths of New Zealand today have embraced the mom jean in all its wide-legged glory.
Writing for the Post, Maura Judkis and Abha Bhattarai revealed that mom jeans got their name in 2003 from a fictional Saturday Night Live ad starring comedians Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch. In the ad, the four women wear boxy jeans while a voiceover declares: "Give her something that says: 'I'm not a woman anymore. I'm a mom'."
Jill Hudson Neal wrote in 2006 for the outlet that "Mom jeans flatter almost no one. Though they were ostensibly designed to compliment a real woman's fuller figure, the reality is that most of them make an average wearer's behind, hips and stomach look ... well, big."
But today, uni students like Aymee Batra, a US senior from New York, claim they "look good on everybody. They're really comfortable. They actually cover your stomach area, which makes it more appropriate and allows you to wear crop tops. And, you know, it's just really efficient. Like, you could easily jump into mom jeans and take them off. You don't have to struggle to put them on."
But any self-respecting millennial will tell you that there's a sense of victory to finally fastening the button on your high-rise black Glassons super skinnies after the ceremonial dance it takes to pull them on. It's satisfying. You feel like you've accomplished something. But apparently skinny jeans are now seen the way mom jeans were seen in 2003 - the pants of choice for women past the age of being cool.
But as some have declared on TikTok, why should we be taking fashion advice from the generation that ate Tide Pods? Widespread outrage appeared online in the form of multiple Buzzfeed listicles "clapping back" at the attacks on millennial culture.
"You are repeating the absolute worst trends of the 90s," one fired back. "We've already been there. We've seen some things. And we aren't giving up our side parts or our skinny jeans. We are fighting back."
But maybe this fight isn't just about jeans. "Millennial" used to be another word for "youth". Think avocado toast, blogging, a reluctance to get married, have kids, own homes. Think low-rise, tight-waisted, flared jeans. But now the millennials are middle-aged, are they simply scared they're not cool anymore?
Fashion psychologist Dawn Karen told the Post that the comeback of 90s jeans are a sign Gen Z is "taking ownership and creating their own way".
Meanwhile, millennials are seeking solace on the border between young adulthood and early middle age.
"Thirty-somethings are trying to hold on to what those skinny jeans represented pre-pandemic: A time when they were at their peak, when they knew what was coming next and there wasn't all of this uncertainty," Karen said.
And the truth is that the youths of today will always have the upper hand in the jeans wars because they're the most desirable demographic from a marketing perspective. But that's true of all fashion - it's going to be targeted at up-and-coming generations.
At the end of the day, maybe the jeans war is really an internal conflict. Maybe you look back at the low-rise flares you wore to that party in the early 2000s with a cringe of regret. Maybe you want to spare the TikTokers from a similar fate. Maybe the conflict is more about where you fit, rather than what type of jean fits you.
Even if millennials do surrender and hop on the mom jean train, does that mean there will be peace among the younger generations? Will we turn on the boomers once again?
Batra says giving up the fight would, ironically, make mom jeans far less cool.
"I feel like it would give in to what mom jeans are. Like, for mothers."
In the denim debate, nobody really wins. So why not just wear the jeans you love?