In Defense of My Mom Vest

It may have “mom fashion” written all over it, but my mom vest is just the garment I need these days.

I have this vest. I got it at the Columbia outlet store, which is a dangerous place for a mom, no matter how hip you are – or once were.

I was hip once.

I spent my 20s bouncing from cool kid neighborhood to cooler kid neighborhood in Brooklyn.

During those years I saw so many skinny jeans, Chelsea boots, and vintage bomber jackets that the one guy who frequented our local coffee shop in sportswear (this was before “athleisure” became a thing) stuck out. Getting dressed was a sport in itself.

Now I live in the suburbs, and it’s all reversed. Throw cold weather and toddler-occupying (also known as “mothering”) into the mix and I end up with an identity crisis.

Enter: the vest. According to Columbia, the vest – which is sort of furry on the outside AND the inside – is made of 350g high pile fleece and will “make you want to stay outdoors longer.”

While I was in that outlet, some heady combination of “Everything in the store is 40% off!” and “Everything in the store is so damn PRACTICAL!” overcame any claims to hipness I had left. The vest was mine. I was warm. I was happy. I wore it out of the store.

I wore it to my freezing office full of 20-something digital marketers and they immediately informed me that this was “a mom vest.” No one could say exactly why. Fur vests were “in,” yes. And preppy puffer vests, too. But this vest…they just expected me to know that it didn’t make the cut in either category.

But I didn’t know. I lost my sartorial edge.

I love my mom vest. I’ve continued to wear it for a year now, and my commitment to it has only solidified. Here’s why: 

It’s warm as hell: The vest keeps my core warm, whilst leaving my extremities free for catching fast-moving children sprinting away from bath, diaper, food, or nap.

It has generous pockets: After loading the car with bags, lunches, toys, and snacks in the morning, I’m able to hold the last-minute sippy cup and toy train my toddler refuses to leave the house without – right in my vest! – AND still have free hands for my coffee, phone, and finally, my kid.

It really does make me want to stay outside longer: You win, Columbia.

Being sleep-deprived, I will do anything it takes to motivate myself to exercise. That may mean wearing a mom vest to work so that I dread taking a long walk in the cold,  at lunch, just a tiny bit less. I have no other time to get outside on my own. The vest makes it easier.

When I wear it, my son thinks I’m a human lovey: We have this ritual where my toddler son climbs into my lap at the kitchen table after dinner. I don’t know when it started, but it’s not long for this world. He grows antsy as he grows tall.

Some nights I get a quick hug and then he asks to stand up, dance, or even jump on me. He wiggles and squiggles and I hold on as tight as I can, because the sacred rituals of toddlers come and go with the wind, and the end of this one will break me. (All toddler rituals feel like they’ll do that. It’s the source of their power.)

But with the vest, I have a little power, too. On the days I wear it, my son will climb into my lap and feel its softness, surprised. He’ll stop jumping on me, rest his head, and sit still, just for a moment longer than usual. I get to smell his hair, and kiss his head, and be quiet with him, making the mom vest the most valuable thing I own.