My mom swore it'd happen to me someday. In 2007, I was showing off my latest find: $10 jeggings from Forever 21. They were super-stretchy, low-waisted skinnies that tucked perfectly into my vintage riding boots. And, with my drapey jersey tees, they made me look like the photos of Lindsay Lohan on Misshapes...which I may have thought was a good thing at the time. "You have to get a pair," I crowed, but Mom insisted they weren't for her: "Trust me, honey. The older you get, the less you'll want your jeans to stretch." That statement made no sense to me at the time. How could jeans comfy enough to do jumping lunges in be a bad thing? I thought my mother was nuts to still be zipping into high-waisted, non-stretchy denim — the very definition of mom jeans, a good five years before they became cool.
But, now, I'm seven years older, a few pounds heavier, and realizing Mom was right. I'm fine with the fact that I'll never again reach my twenty-something weight — which I had when I ran four miles every morning, and before Umami Burger was a thing. But, much like the end of corsets and foundation garments means that women are now expected to diet and exercise themselves into perma-thinness, so, too, does the current fashion for ultra-stretchy, "comfy" jeans favor a younger, more-toned body. It's not hard for the young and skinny to look great in $10 jeggings. But, these days, I'm all about pants that work hard to make my body look better instead of the other way around.
I'm not necessarily suggesting that we go back to the days of super-tight bottoms. Breathing, after all, should always be a priority. But, I've found that it's worth sacrificing a little bit of comfort when it comes to jeans. Because, the truth is, choosing a heftier-weight denim with no (or just a bit of) stretch and a higher rise does more for my body in two seconds than I can do in two weeks at the gym.
Click ahead for our favorite jeans that hurt in the good way. If you're new to no-stretch, try a 100%-cotton, baggy boyfriend jean. For more-advanced practitioners, there's raw, drainpipe denim, skintight skinnies, and the world's most flattering mom jeans. We promise they'll make you look amazing...even if they do leave red marks when they come off.