Fighting Dad Stereotypes: Dad Clothes

In my ongoing attempt to address harmful Dad stereotypes head on, I next take on the issue of dressing like a Dad.

Close your eyes and picture what a Dad wears. What do you see?

A t-shirt – it’s probably from a vacation destination. Could be from a civil war battlefield, might just say Arizona. It’s definitely tucked in.

Shorts – likely khaki, though maybe denim, with a number of pockets totaling more than four.

Socks – going at least a third of the way up the calf, yet never so low as to stop right at the ankle or go so high as to reach the knee.

Shoes – white. Tennis shoe by name, walking shoe by defined purpose.

Other accessories may very. A hat that that was a free give away item at some event being worn too high on the head, more perched on the head that actually covering it. Belts of various materials, but most likely woven. Sun glasses that spend an equal amount of time tucked into the neckline of the previously mentioned Smokey Mountains t-shirt as they on the face.

I’m sure it is generational, but if you are in my generation that is what you see, and that is the fashion stereotype that seems to be unfairly placed on the modern dad. And I wonder how this started? Was some secret council convened in 1988 and the dress code for Dads was set in place for the next quarter century? Or did somewhere in Nebraska a Dad woke up one day and randomly picked out a pair of jean shorts, a t-shirt from the San Diego Zoo, and his most sensible pair of shoes and the trend just spread across the nation from hardware store to hardware store? And we thought COVID was the worst thing to sweep the country. Zing!….Too soon?

Actual top Google search results for “dad clothes”

Anyway, are there actually Dads out there that dress this way – yes. Perhaps these are the also the guys who don’t buy their own clothes and rely on their wife’s discretion and corporate swag to assemble their wardrobe. I ask for my wife’s input on clothes from time to time, but outside of Christmas and birthdays, I am fully in charge of what clothes end up in my closet.

I own no t-shirts serving as billboards for states, cities, national parks, casinos, or restaurants. 99% of the time I don’t even tuck in button up shirts, so I certainly have never, and will never tuck in a t-shirt. My shorts and pants are not defined by somebody else’s occupational use – no cargo, no carpenter. I’ve not owned a pair of white shoes since high school, and the shoes that I do have are never grass stained. I wear fitted hats that I purchase on purpose.

Part of this is conscious choice – to purposely not “dress like a Dad.” But part of it is not changing my style just because I’m a Dad now. I didn’t throw out my Chucks and replace them with a pearly white pair of New Balance when my first daughter was born. I didn’t swap my slim fit jeans for cargo pants when I had more baby things to carry. Dad Tip: you don’t need more pockets when you have kids, because you know what has a ton of pockets? Diapers bags, back packs, strollers. You don’t need to sacrifice your style so you can have quick access to the back up pacifier.

The only noticeable change in my wardrobe after having kids is an increase in golf apparel. Which is more a reflection of my change in hobbies as I get older. Though now I wonder, is that what my kids’ generation will picture when they think of somebody dressed like a Dad? Brightly colored Under Armor polos? Or maybe graphic t-shirts? While I don’t have any t-shirts that announce I once went to Nashville, I do have t-shirts letting people know what TV shows and movies I watched in the 90s. Will my kids some day roll their eyes at me in my Boy Meets World shirts and jeans? Will neon Asics be the new white Nikes? Will Hawaiian shirts be the new…well actually those will still be Hawaiian shirts – good style never goes out of style. Wore them when I was 15, wearing them now at 35, and you better believe I’ll be rocking luau casual at 55 and beyond.

But regardless of what my kids will think of how I dress, my Dadness will not be a factor in my fashion choices, and surely there must be others out there like me. Sadly we are are the unnoticed majority, blending in with all the normally dressed people with our cell phone in our pockets and not in holsters. Just dudes with kids dressing like dudes, with kids. I mean, if my kids get a t-shirt that says “World’s Greatest Dad”, you bet your ass I’m wearing that thing. But I will won’t tuck it in to jorts, and God as my witness I will never wear a woven belt.

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