There are a few images that come to mind when I think of dads and style. There’s the Free & Easy “dad,” a confident, smirking 40+ dude in an heirloom-quality leather jacket, driving, say, a vintage Porsche (no carseats in sight). Then there’s the practical American dad, comfy in Air Monarchs and Kirkland Signature denim, more likely steering a lawnmower. Look up “stylish dads” and you’ll be inundated with photos of actors and athletes suited up or otherwise decked out (they may also happen to have kids at home). None of these are great, realistic role models for day-to-day wear with kids around.
So how does a younger generation of dads, guys now in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, find a middle ground between unattainable Steven McQueenery and style-free pragmatism?
First, let’s look at the qualities dads (especially new dads) need in clothing:
- Practical: For guys with young kids, fatherhood will likely involve a decent amount of physical labor. Babies and toddlers get picked up, carried, and put down a lot (as well as tossed in the air), and they’ll be generally low to the ground for years. Clothing that limits movement is not ideal.
- Resilient: Parenthood reminds many people that life’s true luxury is time. Time to sleep; time for work; time for leisure; time to sleep. And luxury clothing, the custom fabrics and delicate knits we love? They’re great until they’re covered in spit-up or melted crayon; and loose knits make great handholds for climbing kids. I’m not advocating for a wardrobe of scotch-guarded clothing, but stuff should be tough and easily washable. Everything you wear around your kids can and will be treated like your kids treat a diaper: disposable.
- Versatile: So ideal dad style has to be comfortable and not too fussy, but it’s not an excuse for track pants and Adidas slides all the time. It should be something in which you can roll around on the floor in, sling a (diaper) bag over your shoulder comfortably, whip up a meal, and still reasonably wear to the movies, library, or out to eat.
- Rooted in the classics: Finding and growing your personal style is half the enjoyment of clothing, but many dads will find themselves in settings with their kids that are in many ways analogous to the office–standing out too much is not necessarily the goal. Daycare drop-off, the park, birthday parties–you’re encountering a lot of other parents, making a lot of first impressions on people you’ll likely be spending some time with–it’s probably not the best time to be seeing if Vetements works for you. Wait until they’re teenagers and then embarrass the hell lout of them.
Next, let’s consider some dad’s style examples:
Casual prep/ Ivy makes for great dad style because most pieces are washable, easy to grab out of the drawer, and throw on without fussing too much about matching–everything already goes together.
3sixteen co-founder and Self Edge NY co-owner Chen mostly wears the sort of denim and workwear classics we all dig–the ruggedness and better-with-wear qualities that make it appealing in the first place also make it excellent dad-wear.
Artist and pro skater Mark Gonzales wears some colorful, wild stuff (he likely gets a lot of Supreme and Adidas for free) but he always looks comfortable. Turns out dressing to be ready to hop on a skateboard or bike is good prep for being ready to run around with your kids.
Because he runs a pretty traditional men’s clothing store, Mashburn is generally photographed dressed up, but if he can still do it, anyone can–he’s got five kids.
OK, it’s a little self-serving to mention Jesse, but he and his kids always look rad.
Knoxville is a little sloppier than these other guys but his standard kit (the same as it’s been for years) is a good model for everyday dad duty–vintage flannels, Dickies, and chucks. It’s a step up from your old college t-shirt and cargo shorts.
Williams and the womenswear label he designs, Alyx Studio (named for his daughter), are edgier than the usual Put This On recommendations, but his preferred uniform of plain shirt or tshirt with tailored trousers and boots (or Belgian loafers) is a modern, minimal dad outfit.
Finally, some dad’s style care tips:
- For the first few weeks of fatherhood, you really don’t need to care about what you wear.
- As a dad, you’re going to involuntarily come into contact with a lot of bodily fluids. Most of these wash out, but try to get your clothes in the wash as soon as the crisis is over.
- Things that are tougher to get out of clothing: Vaseline, diaper rash ointments, permanent marker, crayons.
- On a similar note, if you wear a lot of tailored, dry-clean-only stuff to work, maybe consider changing when you get home.
- Kids’ clothing is cheap and boldly colored–when it’s new, wash it alone before washing it with your white shirts.