Splurge: A CPW Analysis of J Brand Houlihans


IMG_1050 We’re always talking about it here at Ain’t No Mom Jeans: cost-per-wear (CPW), or the cost of an item of clothing over its first year of use.  "Splurge" is our new section dedicated to styling must-have items to get the most out of your investment.  First-up, this years’s hot ticket: J Brand Houlihan skinny cargos.

First I must tell you that I tried to avoid the J Brand Houlihans at all costs.  Even though I thought they were adorable, and I was smitten by their name (saucy Army nurse Hot Lips Houlihan from M*A*S*H is a long-time fav of mine), I really didn’t want to spend the money on a pair of cargo pants.  But they stalked me.  Mercilessly.  Through the internet, on the street, at almost every store I went to, even in the New York TimesThey wanted ME. 

So, on a sans-baby weekend trip to San Francisco, when Hubs told me I should pick myself up a little vacay treat while I waited for him to wrap up work, I knew just what to do when I walked into Shotwell (a Union Square boutique worth a visit if you’re in SF) and saw, you guessed it, my stalker J Brand Houlihan cargos in vintage olive.  I think the hub had something lacier in mind.  But after drooling over the Houlihans for months, trying them on three times in as many stores, and lacking my usual toddler-induced aversion to brick & mortar shopping, this was not a hard sell for the uber-friendly and helpful shop attendant.  I was in the dressing room and out the door with said J Brands and a scoop-back Cheap Monday tee (in an adorable reusable bag) in 20 minutes flat.  Done and done.

Now in possession of the coveted Houlihans, I started feeling a little frantic, but given their versatility, I was able to think of half a dozen styling options off the top of my head.  Versatility is the key to whittling down your CPW and Houlihan cargos are a perfect example because they can be styled up and down.  They're seriously as easy and comfortable to wear with sky high platform heels as sandals, they're durable and casual enough for the playground and spot on (with the right accompaniments) for a hot date or dinner with friends.

Because I’m a SAHM, a good CPW for a splurge casual wear item for me is $10-$15 per wear over a year.  It’s pretty complicated math (jk), but that translates to 15-20 wears throughout the year, which is roughly every-other week for three seasons out of four.  Totally do-able, when I put together my five basic Houlihan ensembles that can be sported on a rotating basis.  Wow.  I am now painfully aware of the truth in S.’s statement, via text earlier today, that we are both geeks at heart.  Maybe she just meant me : )

Here are the looks, ladies, what do you think?

Hot Date/Girls Night Out IMG_1083
I wore this out with the mamas a few weeks ago and l-o-v-e-d it.  I've paired a random racer back zip-front vest with a ruffle detail and ruched sides with the Houlihans and sky high platform heels.   I love the contrast of super feminine details, like big earrings, a silky ruffle and high, high heels with a military look.



  IMG_1095Concert Going
A toned-down version of the hot date night outfit is easy to pull off.  Layer a loose vest (I un-zipped the same hot date top and paired it with a white spaghetti strap tank) or cardi over a long fitted tank/cami (again, silky, feminine details are a fab counter balance to the military style!) and switch out your strutting heels for dressy, detailed sandals.  I wore this to a Wilco show with hub on our anniversary a couple weeks ago.



At The Playground and Around Town IMG_1054
The Houlihans are helping me get out of a denim rut.  Especially as the weather is getting cooler, I find myself throwing them on wherever I would have worn jeans before and they feel so much more interesting.  Last week I wore this while I ran some errands, picked Boy Wonder up from preschool, then we hit the playground.  It's my new fav scoop back Cheap Monday tee from Shotwell plus Houlihans and sandals.  I've also been wearing them with a swingy Splendid slub-knit racer back tank in warmer weather and a drapey thin-knit sweater with a cowl neck from H&M when it's cooler.  It all works. 



A Fall Day

Temps here are still averaging in the 80's, but as the days get cooler, I can't wait to pair my Houlihans with cozy fall sweaters and jackets.  Here I'm wearing an Old Navy sweater coat from a year or two ago over a  t-shirt with TOMS.  I'm cozied up and ready for a leaf fight.  Also can't wait to throw my funnel neck black trench over these babies on rainy days.  Ooooh, and a black turtleneck with lace up boots. . .



Got a Baby Sitter! Dinner With Friends IMG_1065

I like nothing more, when having dinner with friends, than being able to get comfortable and settle in for a long (uninterrupted!) conversation with a glass of wine, which is exactly what I'm going to do in this ensemble of ridiculously comfy clothing.  I scored this BCBG funnel neck sweater at Nordstrom Rack for peanuts and pulled on my much beloved high cuff boots for a polished but laid back look.

I'm feelling' the Hot Lips, how 'bout you?

– M.


  1. I promise to NOT run out and buy them the second I deliver this baby. Because we would be reaching a level of ridiculous if we show up in matching Houlihans.
    But if, in a moment of weakness, I DO end up purchasing a pair…I will at least give you first dibs. Mostly. 🙂
    And I will also concede that you are NOT the only geek here at ANMJ. Geeks are HOT, right? Geek chic and all that?

  2. I got them last year, so you probably won't find them, but they are ASH–I forget the name.  ASH had similar styles this year, but not with lug wedge heels, which is what make these really mom friendly for me.  For similar styles click here:
    LOVE: http://piperlime.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=59768&vid=1&pid=789479&scid=789479012
    I hope you're a 7-1/2 because these are killer!  SHOE LOVE: http://piperlime.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=59768&vid=1&pid=821047&scid=821047012

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