Boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans: what's the difference, and which is best for your style?

It's boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans in the battle to become your new favorite denim.

boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans - which is better
(Image credit: H&M / River Island)

Having an internal conflict between boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans and not sure which to choose? We get it, you aren't alone. Deciphering new denim looks and shopping for the perfect jeans can be tricky, but we break down the two cuts to help you choose.

Dressed up with heels and a blazer, or down with a tee and trainers, find the best jeans for your shape and style and you’re set for any occasion. And while the mom jeans and boyfriend jeans started off as totally separate denim trends, they've both graduated to capsule wardrobe status, become a staple shape in our closets.  

And while you might be struggling with boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans, both pairs sport a fairly relaxed style, and it's learning how to style jeans that will really unlock their potential to the max. So what actually is the difference between boyfriend jeans and mom jeans? And which type of jeans do you need in your life? Let us break it down for you.

What are boyfriend jeans?

Boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans

Victoria Beckham wears boyfriend jeans

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This borrowed-from-the-boys look was made popular in the 1960s, when Marilyn Monroe donned a pair in The Misfits. Since then, they have become a much-loved style of celebrities, seen on all the A-listers - from Victoria Beckham to Katie Holmes.

Slouchy and baggy, boyfriend jeans have a relaxed and comfortable fit, so if you've been loyal to your best skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans might take some getting used to. They often sit mid-low on the waist and should look a little oversized on the wearer. There are many variations of the boyfriend cut; some are slimmer than others, so if you prefer more fitted clothing you can opt for a style that is more structured, but still loose. Essentially, any style which is less-fitted than straight leg jeans but more fitted than wide-leg can come under the boyfriend category. They're also one of the best jeans for curvy women who want to skim their silhouette.

How to wear boyfriend jeans

When it comes to how to style boyfriend jeans, like many winning outfits in your closet, it is all about balancing proportions and generally you'll want to keep the top half of your outfit more fitted and streamlined to balance out the baggier less. 

Create the perfect smart casual outfit by offsetting the boyish, laid-back vibe with some of this season's best blazers, feminine blouses and heels (or fancy flats). A tight-fitting top will help balance out the looser shape of the jean for a more flattering shape. You can use some of the same tips and ideas as you would for how to style baggy jeans. As while boyfriend jeans are not as extreme, they still stray into similar territory.

“The easiest way to make a boyfriend jean look more polished is to throw on a blazer. It will instantly smarten the look, while adding more structure to your outfit, too,” says Paula Moore, fashion director at Woman & Home.

What are mom jeans?

two women wearing mom jeans

Cindy Crawford wears mom jeans

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This retro-style jean was a favorite among moms in the '80s and '90s, hence the name. It’s now back with a bang and a lot cooler than you might remember. Like the boyfriend jean, the best mom jeans have a relaxed fit but unlike boyfriend jeans, they tend to sit high on the waist, loose around the thighs, they then go down into more of a tapered leg, so they don't look as baggy overall. 

The goal here is structured, tapered comfort that can be pulled on and out the door while still having some of the shape that boyfriend jeans intentionally forego. The hem is often rolled up, finishing just above the ankle. The long back pockets tend to make the bum appear longer and flatter. 

How to wear mom jeans

Mom jean outfits are easier to put together than boyfriend jeans, thanks to their high waist, which makes for a less casual look. The key to making the most of your mom jeans is to tuck in your top, whether it’s a tee, blouse, body or polo neck. This takes advantage of the fact that many mom jeans also are the best high waisted jeans and when it comes to how to style high waisted jeans, it's all about showing off and highlighting your curves.

A belt will also help add definition and create more of an hourglass silhouette. Toughen up with hefty ankle boots or keep it casual in chunky trainers - they are guaranteed to go with pretty much everything. Try pairing it with one of this season's best shirts for a retro and relaxed feel.

“A light blue or acid wash will give your mom jeans an extra retro vibe,” says Paula. “They also look great with a turned-up hem, so if they are coming up too long, just embrace it and roll them up.”

Boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans: The verdict

It mainly comes down to personal preference and working out which of the two are the most flattering jeans for your shape.

Boyfriend jeans require more thought and attention if you want to nail the look. However, if you find the right balance with a fitted top or shirt and offset with pretty footwear and accessories, the finished look can be really fashion-forward and create some of the most slimming jeans too.

Word of warning: Do think about your height before investing. You may find that some boyfriend jeans drown your figure if you’re petite. If that sounds like you, you'll want to look for the best petite jeans in a boyfriend fit, as these will have been reproportioned with your height in mind.

Mom jeans suit more people, regardless of stature, and are generally more versatile. You could throw on most tops with a mom jean and the style would work. The high-waist and tapered leg combo delivers a flattering silhouette, and if you’re partial to a bit of '80s nostalgia or a '90s fashion trend, mom jeans are a real winner.

Fashion editor's picks

To help you decide in the battle of boyfriend jeans vs mom jeans, we've rounded up our three favorite boyfriend jeans and three favorite mom jeans that you can shop right now.

Boyfriend jeans

Mom Jeans

Charlie Bell

Charlie is the Deputy Fashion Editor at Future plc across multiple women’s magazines including Woman & Home, Woman and Woman's Own.

She bagged her first magazine job in 2009 and has previously written for titles including Stylist, Closer and Dare. Over the years Charlie has embraced anything that was thrown at her from styling celebrities to testing out the best jeans on the high street to writing about must-have beauty buys.

With a weakness for a printed midi dress, Charlie is on a mission to shop more sustainably and loves finding new ethical brands and second-hand buys.