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The Complete Guide to Dad Jeans

Fashion is inevitably a trend-driven industry. As much as many denimheads like to boast the supposedly timeless style of a trucker jacket, a pair of naturally worn-in raw denim, and a pair of work boots, in the past such a look would have resulted in one being dismissed as a backwoods bumpkin – and so it shall probably be once more. Today’s “timeless” heritage fashion is tomorrow’s out-of-style.

Being a fashion-forward publication, Heddels isn’t content to sit back and pander exclusively to the niche tastes of a small group of irritable twentysomethings who exist in a near-symbiotic relationship with Reddit and internet forums. Staying culturally relevant involves going beyond our established comfort zone – and that includes the archaic sentimentality surrounding “heritage” clothing and trends.

For those bold enough to seek untrodden frontiers, we present our complete guide to the next big thing:  Dad Jeans. Once denigrated, particularly among the raw denim “community”, the Dad Jean is a iconic American staple that is refreshing for its Normcore universalism – and culturally relevant too, for its ironic appropriate white upper middle-class male privilege. Quixotically, anyone can afford to buy – and wear – a pair of Dad Jeans. Best of all, Dad Jeans are making a comeback.

The Fit


Entering the world of Dad Jeans is as relaxing and refreshing as their fit. Unlike “artisanal” raw denim brands, Dad Jeans are available to buy at Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, and Kohl’s, making them easy to try on before you buy. What’s better are that the relaxed fits and large sizes available (often beyond 44) avoid the problematic thin privilege of elitist denim brands. Because Dad Jeans are necessarily pre-washed, you completely avoid the tedious struggle of sizing shrink-to-fit denim. And because you should be buying Dad Jeans one to two sizes larger than your actual waist, you needn’t worry about stretch.

There are several acceptable fits for Dad Jeans. Dad jeans should not be slim fit, with the possible exception of the upper block. A properly-fitting pair of Dad Jeans will have a high rise that should reach until close to the belly button. Low rises are absolutely unacceptable for proper Dad Jean credibility. Boot cuts may be acceptable depending on the circumstances.

The ideal fit for the leg should be loose in the upper half, with a slight taper from knee to hem, so that the jeans accentuate, rather than swallow, your tennis shoes. Dad Jeans should never be cuffed, and the hem should only barely touch your tennis shoes while standing, so that sitting down will show off your white socks.

The Details


Seam puckering on an authentic pair of Dad Jeans.

The most important detail of Dad Jeans are the seam puckering. Although rarely seen on raw denim, a good pair of Dad Jeans requires the zig-zagging puckering fade along every stitch. These show that the pair has been frequently washed and lived in. What’s best is that, unlike raw denim, this detail can immediately be seen in a new pair of Dad Jeans, right off the shelf.

Next is the denim. The denim of Dad Jeans should have an even hand and feel soft when brand-new. If the denim is unusually stiff, we suggest doing several machines washes and tumble dry cycles until the desired feel is achieved. In fact, frequent tumble drying is essential for reaching the true broken-in quality and seam puckering of a good pair of Dad Jeans.

Belt Loops are another crucial aspect of a good pair of Dad Jeans. Avoid the “classic” five loop design: there should be a minimum of six, preferably more. We find that at least seven belt loops contribute nicely to the Dad Jeans aesthetic – especially when coupled with a stretch waistband.

Unlike the hems of Japanese “repro jeans”, look for a hem sewn with durable lock stitching rather than a flimsy chainstitch; and most importantly, look for a thick hem fold. This detail draws eyes to your white socks and tennis shoes, and looks more confident than the thinly-folded hems of “repro jeans.”

Coordinate It


United States Of America President Obama deftly coordinates his Dad Jeans with the appropriate footwear.

Dad Jeans, by themselves, are an incomplete look. They should always be coordinated with the proper attire. When possible, avoid wearing any kind of belt with Dad Jeans, and only a braided leather belt if absolutely necessary. When possible, tuck your shirt or T-shirt into your Dad Jeans.

The most important item to coordinate with Dad Jeans are the socks. White socks are a necessity and enjoy a nearly symbiotic relationship with Dad Jeans. Suggested brands include Izod and Kirkland, though other types are acceptable. Be sure to choose socks with ribbing for maximum visual impact.

The best footwear for pairing with Dad Jeans are tennis shoes, preferably white. Avoid “retro” footwear and brands like Converse and Vans. Black or brown dress shoes are also unacceptable. Skechers and Rockwell offer many casual grown-up shoes that coordinate well with Dad Jeans. Avoid work boots, engineer boots, or cowboy boots, all of which are problematic and too self-consciously machismo. We suggest those elastic Merrell slip-ons for occasions that require more substantial footwear.

Sandals and flip-flops are another style that match nicely with Dad Jeans. Be sure to avoid a fashion faux pas and always wear your white socks with your flip flops. Avoid “hippie” brands such as Birkenstock.


A pair of Dad Jeans boasting advanced features, such as a seven-belt loop design, elastic waistband, and pleated leg.

Where The Future Will Take Us

What’s so great about Dad Jeans is not just their classic American style – it’s their universality. They can be worn authentically, in the un-self-conscious manner of the average suburban American male, or they can be worn ironically, poking fun at the unhip masses. Whether you are a Democrat like President Obama or a conservative like Mitt Romney, you’ll find a comfortable home in Dad Jeans – they are the garment of plebians and the upper echelons of society alike.

In some – no, perhaps all ways – Dad Jeans are much truer to the heart of the Blue Jean legend than pretentious, elitist small-company makers of raw, selvedge denim. They are jeans for everyone. Explore new horizons. Choose Dad Jeans.

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