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Mom in a bikini, Dad in short shorts: Yep, they were cooler than you

Frat guy wake up call: aviator glasses were not invented in 2003. Berit Preston’s mom Krista worked them poolside in 1972. Berit writes: 'I challenge Urban Outfitters to style anything that comes close to looking this effortlessly cool.'

Your parents were cooler than you.

Exhibit A: Your dad pulling an Evel Knievel on his motorcycle in little more than short shorts. Exhibit B: Your mother on a cruise wearing pigtails and a bikini while stocking up at the buffet.

Twentysomethings who have come to realize their parents are human are scanning old, fuzzy photos and putting them out for mass consumption on blogs such as My Parents Were Awesome, My Mom, The Style Icon and Dads in Short Shorts. The sites showcase parents, grandparents and even great grandparents poolside, atop muscle cars and in exotic locales dressed in glamorous - and sometimes cringe-inducing - threads.

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The blogs seem to delight in the moment when children come to grasp that their parents had style, adventures and lives before they came along.

Piper Weiss, a 31-year-old newspaper editor in New York, started her blog My Mom, The Style Icon in March. After years of rummaging through her mother's closet, Ms. Weiss stumbled across a photo album she'd never seen.

"She was in Egypt, Morocco and Italy and she's wearing these mod frocks that she had handmade by an Italian tailor, which she said was cheap then. I said, 'Where did these pictures come from, where are these clothes now and who the hell are you?'"

Ms. Weiss scanned the photos, posted them online and asked her friends for theirs. She now has hundreds of submissions and a hypothesis: "Moms had more fun before we existed."

Show us. Click to submit photos of your cool parents in their heyday, using the "general submissions" category. We'll post a selection of standouts

The blog has a category for "hot wheels moms" ("80s mom with a Chevy in Baltimore"), and another called simply, "not your father."

"I got all these pictures of moms with total stranger guys," said Ms. Weiss, men she described as "random boyfriends or former admirers or guys that got in the picture because the mom's really pretty."

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Ms. Weiss's own mother, Marilyn, had plenty of rubber-neckers in the corners of her vacation photos.

"I realized we would totally hang out if we were the same age," her daughter said.

Shown their yellowing photos online, many moms are moved, if not star struck. For some parents, the gesture can make them feel like "minor celebrities," said Eliot Glazer, founder of My Parents Were Awesome.

"Before the fanny packs and Andrea Bocelli concerts, your parents (and grandparents) were once free-wheeling, fashion-forward, and super awesome," reads the site's blurb.

Mr. Glazer, a 26-year-old editor at humour website, also started with his own family photos. Today, the site has 4,500 submissions and the wait time is three months.

Most of the photos come from the 1970s, but boomers are also submitting pictures of their parents from the 1950s. Mr. Glazer tries to oblige contributors' requests to post photos on specific dates, such as their parents' wedding anniversary or the anniversary of a parent's death.

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He calls the site an antidote to the often mean-spirited nature of blog culture: "It's about people who want to pay tribute and honour and celebrate their parents and grandparents."

Some of the photos have political context. On My Mother, The Style Icon, women wait for husbands as they return from service in Vietnam. Dasha Oganezov, a 29-year-old event planner in New York, sent a photo of her mother doing the twist at a clandestine house party in Moscow: Western culture was prohibited in 1967, and had to "seep through the cracks," Ms. Oganezov said.

Things are a bit more playful on Dads in Short Shorts, where the first photo shows a hairy-chested man posing in canary-yellow shorts. His face is blurred out.

"The blog was started in good fun as a celebration of Dads and how they try to be cool and sometimes miss the mark," said Tara Eisenberg, a 26-year-old marketing manager who runs the site with painter Annie Kyle, also 26.

The site gets about three submissions a day. "People are not as forthcoming with the short-shorts photos as we would hope," Ms. Eisenberg said.

Odes to parental threads are also coming to life through events like "Mom Jeans," which saw young women parading their mothers' 1970s fashions down a makeshift catwalk in Toronto this October.

"The fashion show was about girls' relationships with their parents," said organizer Xenia Benivolski, 26.

Ms. Benivolski, who manages an artists' workspace, said at least half the women wear their mothers' clothes day to day. One modelled her mom's stewardess uniform; another donned the overalls her mother wore while she was pregnant with her.

"It was interesting that nobody invited their mom," Ms. Benivolski noted. "They were afraid their moms would be embarrassed."

She said the sensitivity exists because "when you deal with clothes and eras, you're dealing with age."

"There's a point where … you don't want it to be like a sideshow, like making fun of your mom."

After learning that she'd been featured on My Mother, The Style Icon, Berit Preston's mother "shrieked and her face turned bright red," her daughter said.

The photo showed mom hanging out on a boat dock wearing a pink floral bikini and aviators.

"There was a lot of mock outrage about me sending in the picture, but later she admitted to feeling flattered," said Ms. Preston, a 26-year-old technical editor in Pierre, S.D.

The photo was taken 11 years before Berit was born: "It feels shocking to think that there was a time that you weren't the focus of your mom's world," Ms. Preston said. "That feels sort of unsettling but it's not necessarily a bad thing,"

"She still strikes that same pose for pictures today."

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