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Mitt Romney, the man in mom jeans

Mitt RomneyElectionsPoliticsRonald ReaganMSNBC (tv network)Saturday Night Live (tv program)John F. Kennedy

Besides fighting the charge that firing people is his favorite hobby, Mitt Romney must now battle the allegation that he wears “mom jeans.”

Monday, Chris Matthews raised the issue on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” during a group discussion of Romney’s supposed lack of authenticity. Matthews went off on one of his blue-collar-guy-at-the-bar rants: “This guy with his – whadaya call ‘em? – mom jeans or whatever he wears. What is that costume that he wears? What is that costume? Nobody wears clothes like that.”

Immediately, though, Matthews showed he was not entirely up to speed on the topic by asking, “What are mom jeans? I heard the phrase the other day. Tell me what they are.”

I’ll tell you, Chris, since you apparently missed the "Saturday Night Live" routines in which they figured prominently. Mom jeans are high-waisted denims cut wide to accommodate the ample hips, thighs and posteriors of American mothers too busy driving their kids to soccer games to find time for a personal trainer.

Matthews is not the only one commenting on Romney’s sartorial choice. There are a couple of online photo galleries devoted to images of Romney in mom jeans. There are videos, too. And it has become a topic on Twitter. One right-wing blogger claims that Romney’s wife, Ann, has discouraged the loose-fitting look and has lately forced her hubby into skinnier jeans. This leaves Mitt open to an attack from the Obama camp -- the change of pants amounts to yet another Romney flip-flop. (Obama has stayed the course, wearing his own dorky, spacious denims, even though his slim legs and hips could easily slide into Super Tights.)

Really, this rap on Romney seems a bit unfair. Among an American electorate whose waistlines are expanding as fast as CEO salaries, relaxed-fit jeans have become ubiquitous. Romney may simply be trying to bond with the schlubs he hopes will vote for him by sporting the same saggy pants. But Mitt lacks the pendulous middle-American gut. As a result, he has to pull up his jeans and cinch them tight, thus giving himself that peculiar “mom” look.

Our two best-dressed presidents were John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. JFK’s fresh-from-the-sailboat preppiness and Reagan’s saddle-up-the-horse, California-squire stylishness worked because their costumes synchronized with the images the public held of them.

Maybe that’s Romney’s problem. It’s entirely possible the guy actually wears those rumpled, comfy jeans while he putters around the family compound fixing drain spouts. But, to the public, he seems more like a Nordstrom dress shirt, penny loafers and creased khakis kind of gent.

Yes, it’s silly, but if a candidate’s clothes don’t seem to fit the man, it raises a dangerous doubt in the voter’s mind: Is this guy a fake?

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