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Last weekend I had to explain what ‘Mom jeans’ are to a friend of mine. Luckily he wasn’t wearing them; the topic of fashion just came up in conversation. I ventured that the older a man gets, the less fashion-conscious he becomes. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wearing Mom jeans before long. But what are Mom jeans? High waisted and tapered jeans which ‘manage to showcase any bodily flaw the wearer has’, according to the urban dictionary website. The definition also adds: ‘they’re the kind of jeans that say: ‘I’m not a woman any more… I’m a mom!’ These jeans are without any sartorial sophistication whatsoever; they are truly hideous. Not so long ago the American media had a go at Barack Obama because he was photographed wearing Mom jeans. I wouldn’t be surprised if Enda Kenny has a pair or two tucked away in his wardrobe.

Knowing what Mom jeans are makes me feel comfortable and self-assured. Hey, I may not be my old fashionable and cool 21 year old self any more, but don’t write me off yet: I know what Mom jeans are.

This edifice came crumbling down this week when I went to buy a pair of runners. Part of my daily commute to work involves a thirty minute walk. I have a pair of unfashionable but very practical and comfortable runners for this walk. After all, it’s just not sensible to forsake comfort for style, right? At least I know that inside I’m still cool and relevant, despite passers-by suppressing sniggers as they see me striding along confidently. I often feel like inviting the sniggering types to my workplace to show them the cool shoes that I keep under my desk, just to prove I won’t spend the day dressed like this.

Unfortunately these loyal (and did I mention comfortable?) runners are falling apart. I made it my mission to find a pair of runners that combine practical comfort with fashion, so I went to a trendy runners shop in the city centre. I could easily spend a small fortune in this shop; they’ve an outstanding selection of cool runners. ‘I’m looking for a pair that look good but can support a brisk thirty minute walk every day,’ I confidently told the shop assistant. ‘Yes, these ones are perfect for that kind of thing,’ she said, and pointed to some colourful and trendy looking brand names, and then, pointing to a lower shelf of rather duller running shoes, she added: ‘But here’s the Dad runners; you’re probably after these.’

I was shocked. In one instant, with a seemingly throwaway comment, the shop girl summed up my pitiful existence: I am a man who buys Dad runners. This is the stage I have reached. I would not have been more shell-shocked if the girl had literally produced a large conch and repeatedly bludgeoned me over the head with it. Whether she realised the term is pejorative or not is irrelevant; the point was made.

‘Are you okay?’ she was asking me. ‘What?’ I responded confusedly, ‘Oh yeah, I’m fine, I just need to sit down,’ I explained as I staggered to a seat, trying to hold back the tears. She looked a bit confused herself. ‘So do you want to try on a pair of those ones?’ she asked. ‘Yes, yes,’ I said, ‘I might as well’. I was crying now; she had broken me. I was a man who had suddenly and brutally had to face the reality of a spent youth. The temerity of thinking I could still qualify for a pair of cool runners!

The sales assistant returned with the offending trainers. ‘Thanks,’ I sobbed as I put them on. My God they were comfortable, a fact that made me just cry even harder. ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ she asked. ‘Oh yes fine,’ I sniffled, ‘they’re so great it’s making me emotional.’ She took on the air of somebody who was on the brink of calling security, so I made my way to the till. I fumbled around for my chequebook. ‘Do you take cheques?’ I asked. She looked at me quizzically. ‘What’s a cheque?’ she said.

The police report would later state that a man in his late 30s had to be helped from a city centre retail outlet in an apparent state of distress caused by the ageing process. However, any man reading this will know that we are fragile, sensitive creatures. My advice is shop online; in cyberspace no-one knows your age.

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