Father Knows Best: The Return Of Dad Style

As lockdowns lift and men begin making their way back to the office, the press is scrambling to figure out how they’re likely to dress. Will they stay in slob mode forever, or would a dash of formality feel rejuvenating? 

The compromise, obviously, is to pick up where the Dad Style trend left off. The pandemic interrupted the (well, possible) rise of what the Japanese call Dad Style. The above photo is from a 2018 Wall Street Journal report on the subject. 

We use it to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the real dads out there, as well as those who just want to look like one. 

33 Comments on "Father Knows Best: The Return Of Dad Style"

  1. Mitchell S. | March 4, 2018 at 12:38 pm |

    The last time this trend happened it was called “geezer style” by GQ. It was Dad Style with pants pulled way up.

  2. I am 64 and I have been dressing like this since I was 19. Though I sub Deck Shoes without socks for loafers. I think of this not Dad Style but as relaxed traditional.

  3. terryoreilly75 | March 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm |

    Aside from the Tom-Brady-chic facial hair and mop, it’s pretty much what I dress like on weekends, to a T. I suppose being a Dad helps.
    As a small, pedantic critique, the jacket is most likely not a Baracuta, but a Burberry.

  4. @Mitchell S.

    If GQ featured it, chances are the “outfit” prices totaled about $2000.

  5. Well… the woman looks pretty much like every American Mom at the local garden supply shop on Saturday morning, no?

  6. Houghton Mead | March 4, 2018 at 1:42 pm |

    The buttoned up polo shirt was exactly how New England dads wore them in the heyday.

  7. Actually, more like $3000. Whatever, it’s not what most dads are going to pay for weekend “chorewear”/

  8. Atlanta Pete | March 4, 2018 at 2:19 pm |

    My “Baracuta”style jacket, which I bought on sale at Orvis for about $100, looks awfully similar to the

  9. Trad Terrier | March 4, 2018 at 2:21 pm |

    I don’t see how dungarees can ever been seen as more comfortable and practical for typical weekend leisure wear than a pair of sturdy twill khakis.

  10. Atlanta Pete | March 4, 2018 at 2:21 pm |

    (to complete the comment that I inadvertently posted) looks awfully similar to the $1,545 Burberry version, other than the plaid. $1,445 for Burberry plaid is a very steep price/

  11. Roger Sack | March 4, 2018 at 3:06 pm |

    That’s what I wore from College in the early sixties through
    the seventies often with chinos instead of jeans. I called it a
    Drizzler Jacket. I believe from London Fog. I never liked the
    tartan lining of authentic Baracuttas. Here is an example:
    http://www.rustyzipper.com/full/220557.jpg

  12. john carlos | March 4, 2018 at 3:15 pm |

    @Hank Same here. I’m 68 and I too sub boat shoes sans socks for the loafers and khakis for the jeans. It’s been my look for about 50 years.

  13. Wife or daughter in that pic?

  14. CanadianTrad | March 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm |

    As a Dad, I take offence. My socks usually match my pants and I never do up my top button. He’s probably wearing jeans rather than khakis because of the jacket. I threw mine on as I rushed out the door on an unseasonably warm day last week. I was halfway to work when I looked down and realized I was khaki from collar to hem. With my tweed cap on I must have looked like a Scottish zookeeper. So that’s why all these guys do WIWT posts on instagram.

  15. Houghton Mead | March 5, 2018 at 1:48 am |

    Canadian Trad,
    The Australian site link only works for subscribers.

  16. CanadianTrad | March 5, 2018 at 6:38 am |

    Hmm, I can’t get back there now either. Sorry, it wasn’t paywalled earlier. I read it last night without a subscription. I’m not AustralianTrad ?

  17. Dylan Snow | March 5, 2018 at 7:02 am |

    Here you are, Gentlemen:

    ‘Dad Style’ Is Now in Fashion

    The 1990s called and they want their fashion back.

    Balenciaga didn’t even need the kids. The brand’s spring 2018 fashion show, held last June in the verdant Bois de Boulogne park in Paris, featured a parade of models in over-size colour-striped windbreakers, pale jeans similar to those that made Barack Obama dad-in-chief and bloated running shoes in the style of podiatrist-approved Asics.

    The actual children the male models carried were almost overkill: The 99-year-old brand was clearly celebrating that most unlikely of style icons, the dad.

    Balenciaga’s father-fest was the most literal interpretation of the trend, but across the men’s style scene, dressing like a stereotypical suburban dad has become au courant. “The whole dad trend is noticeable,” said Chris Green, the divisional merchandise manager at retailers Totokaelo and Need Supply Co. in New York, “You see guys dressing like dads with the bigger sneakers, baggy pants, big shirts and over-size track jackets. I’m surprised Members Only jackets haven’t come back huge yet.” (Side note: “dad style” is an offshoot of the “normcore” trend for aggressively simple basics that reigned a few years back.)

    Dad style might feel familiar if your Saturday go-to outfit is a pair of comfy jeans and an old hunter-green polo shirt. Alternatively, the term might evoke memories of your own pop’s closet, if he favoured argyle vests and canvas baseball hats.

    Even if you are a superior being who wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but Brunello Cucinelli fine-gauge sweaters, you know the look from its influential TV heyday in the ’90s: Think Tim Allen on “Home Improvement” or Jerry Seinfeld’s sitcom alter-ego. Mr. Seinfeld’s character may have lacked children, but many baby boomer dads at the time aped his regular-guy style. In much of America, fathers and non-fathers alike are still stuck in a style that is so out it’s suddenly in.

    If you’re among their numbers, it may be head-scratching to realise that hoity toity fashion designers are taking their cues from your closet full of decades-old Brooks Brothers shirts and Lands’ End windbreakers. (Surprise, you’re on trend!) If, on the other hand, your current style is not particularly fatherly, you may be wondering: Why would any guy, old or young, want to lean into a staid suburban-dad look?

    Well, for one thing, it can be a relief to opt out of the edgier style game. “There’s so much stuff being pushed out there, that you’re just like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go with what I know,’ and maybe that does somehow come back to what your dad wore,” explained Jeff Halmos, a Los Angeles dad and co-founder of women’s T-shirt brand Monogram.

    At 38, Halmos is part of the generation that first grappled with the sleek “metrosexual” style that prevailed after Queer Eye for the Straight Guy debuted in 2003, encouraging men to spruce up their wardrobes. Men’s fashion sped up its trend cycle, rapidly hurling skinny jeans and Chinoiserie bomber jackets at us. If keeping up has left you exhausted, dad style can be an exit ramp to a comfort zone of fleece jackets and dependable khakis, the sort you relied on in college.

    Dads need clothes that can withstand whatever fatherhood throws their way.

    The reason you never threw away those sturdy, humble essentials is because dad garments harbour a certain utility that bloodflow-constricting jeans and silk jackets lack. Dads need clothes that can withstand boogers, pizza sauce and whatever mystery substances fatherhood throws their way.

    “Dad style feels like a functionality play along with some nostalgia,” explained Al James, 40, a freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon, and a father of two. He readily acknowledges that his Patagonia fleece jacket and his New Balance sneakers are “trendy” right now, but to him, they’re simply versatile pieces that help him get through a day filled with school pickups and diaper changes. “You just have to pick up some stuff that you’re going to be able to roll with the entire day. There’s no costume changes,” said James.

    The guide

    Practical? Check. Comfortable? Definitely. I may already own it? Ideal. Critically though, dad style is not an invitation to pull out your most egregiously mockable pieces under the cover of “fashion fad.”

    Fleece zip-up vests printed with a defunct law firm name are not fair game, nor are Sopranos-style tracksuits. Instead, revisit tried-and-true workhorses like Levi’s 501s, Ray-Ban Wayfarers and Lacoste polos. Prioritise good dad style (defined by quality, subtlety, fit) and eschew bad dad style (squareness, stodginess, sloppiness).

    And consider upgrading some of your staples to more presentable versions, like Burberry’s trim harrington jacket and Spalwart’s streamlined waffle-soled running sneakers. These pieces boast dad reliability, but you could wear them to say, dinner and a movie.

    “I’m a dad, but I’m not going for dad’s style,” explained Brendon Babenzien, the designer of New York-based label Noah. His brand’s latest collection (rugby shirts, wide pleated pants and plaid anoraks) has a throwback, Long-Island-suburbs air, but the trimmer shape and refined patterns are clearly of 2018.

    By tidying up the fits, using finer fabrics and adding details like tech-friendly pockets, designers like Babenzien are making it easier to be dad but not bad. A pair of Noah’s wide-legged khakis come in a thicker, harder-wearing cotton than you’d be used to if you’re still wearing leftover Gap chinos from the ’90s.

    Swedish label Our Legacy’s broad-striped shirts might remind you of an old Benetton button-up but without the paunchy extra fabric. British brand Martine Rose offers functional windbreakers that aren’t wispy or techy, and Lanvin’s striped mock-neck long sleeve T-shirts have a retro sensibility without a flabby retro fit.

    Acne Studios makes a streamlined, logo-free ball cap that might sub in nicely for that Black Dog hat you bought back in ’89. With such styles, you can get that cozy, familiar feel without looking Al Bundy frumpy.

    The Japanese term “wabi-sabi,” loosely defined as “beauty in the imperfections,” encapsulates dad style. Be yourself, and don’t worry about looking model-perfect while mowing the lawn or even out on the town.
    A dad-style jumper by Dries Van Noten. Picture: AFP
    A dad-style jumper by Dries Van Noten. Picture: AFP

    Brooklyn-based photographer Mordechai Rubinstein documents real guys around New York, particularly stylish older men, for his Instagram account “Mister Mort.” When he asks them about a certain appealingly aged sweatshirt or military jacket, they often say, “This old thing?” Keep that in mind when someone compliments your great new windbreaker. “Oh, this? It’s just something I picked up from my dad.”

    8 Dad Style classics to steal from your father’s closet (or your own)

    Now that dad style is meriting rapt attention on Paris runways, raiding your father’s wardrobe (or excavating the depths of your own) is more interesting than ever. With designers proposing their versions of dad stand-bys like colour-blocked anoraks and thick sweatshirts, a cheaper — and more nostalgic — option is to wear the originals.

    Be discerning, though: Some garments are best left in the past. Those old broad-striped shirts are likely too blousy and knee-high athletic socks still belong in the dark recesses of the underwear drawer. While pleated pants are “relevant” again, today’s cut is more tapered.

    Here’s a guide to eight pieces you can shop for in Dad’s closet (or your own) to help you save money and be, yessir, “on trend.”

    The Functional Sneaker

    No brand has benefited from dad style’s popularity more than New Balance. Young and old men alike are fetishising its sneakers (chunky and grey on the outside, squishy on the inside). Some labels like Balenciaga and Gucci have taken the look a bit too far with their hulked-out trainers. Daddish New Balances are just clunky enough.

    The Dad Cap

    Also known as “vacation hats,” these canvas ball caps may feature the name of some town where your family spent the summer in the ‘80s or ’90s. Although Balenciaga and Acne Studios are making their own pricey versions, you can nab a sweetly nostalgic version Chez Dad.

    The Fleece Jacket

    Among the unlikely shared enthusiasms of snooty menswear editors and ecologically-minded suburbanites, you’ll find Patagonia’s Synchilla jackets. Developed by the California label in the ’80s, the fuzzy classic is more authentic and affordable than the new riffs developed by luxury.

    The Professorial Sport Coat

    Tweedy, elbow-patched, definitely oversized sport coats are the George Jefferson-approved tailoring trend of the moment. Odds are high that one is already hanging in a dad’s closet. But, remember, as with any tailoring, if it’s too wide in the shoulders, leave it right where it is.

    The Vintage-Inspired Polo

    Salvaged from the years before the phrase “slim-fit” was ever uttered, the roomy polo is having a renaissance. Bonus: Piqué cotton acquires a nice patina over the years.

    T he Argyle Sweater Vest

    Though Urkel co-opted it for a time, the argyle sweater vest will always be associated with dads, particularly those with a “Dr.” in front of their name. Italian brand Marni recently showed off a version over a short-sleeved shirt, but this classic works best as a layering item under a jacket. That helps to diminish the dweebish Urkel factor.

    The Fishing Vest

    As a kid, you may have dreaded those weekends when your dad dragged you out fishing, but that multi-pocket fishing vest, of his has become a surprisingly useful outer layer in the era of portable chargers and plus-sized cell phones. Maybe you already have your own.

    The Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses

    Bob Dylan, John F. Kennedy and … your dad? Should you be lucky enough to have a Wayfarer fan as a father, go ahead and “borrow” his. The squared-off, dark, tilted frames are as quintessentially “cool” today as when they debuted 66 years ago.

  18. The penny loafer in the picture appears to be Rancourt’s take on the old Sebago Cayman (R.I.P.), which was sold by Brooks Brothers and LL Bean (both private label), among other others.

  19. Charlottesville | March 5, 2018 at 11:28 am |

    The price of the guy’s outfit comes to $2,123, if I added correctly. According to the caption in the Journal, he is wearing: Gosha Rubchinskiy & Burberry Jacket, $1,545, and Gosha Rubchinskiy Polo Shirt, $215, Dover Street Market, 646-837-7750; Jeans, $60, gap.com; Socks, $28, falke.com; Loafers, $205, rancourtandcompany.com; Watch, $70, timex.com. I think my weekend look probably comes in around $1,700 to $1,800 cheaper. You can save around $1,200 just by buying an authentic Baracuta jacket, which is still overpriced in my opinion, but a true classic.

    By the way, I received the new J. Press Brochure over the weekend and (while some commentators may cavil and quibble about the fit or 5:00 shadow on the model in a couple of the photos) I think it looks great. I would love to see the sold navy seersucker suit up close; it sounds like a great idea for summer. I also note that the Press end-of season sale has some remarkable deals on fall/winter suits, sport coats, sweaters and trousers. I am not close enough to pop into the store, but there is a lot available on line. My fingers are twitching as I contemplate whether I really need another chalk-stripe suit or Harris Tweed jacket, but I fear prudence is losing the battle.

  20. If the article’s author is implying that JFK famously wore Wayfarers, they’re wrong. While he did own a pair (according to the JFK Library’s archives) the pictures of him wearing what appear to be Wayfarers actually show him wearing American Optical’s Saratoga model which, according to an email I received from AO, are going to be made once again later this year.

  21. whiskeydent | March 5, 2018 at 2:50 pm |

    Fashion is for followers. Style is for standouts. I can’t wait for dad style to go out of style again.

  22. Mitchell S. | March 5, 2018 at 4:43 pm |

    @Charlottesville: $2,123 is probably what the average guy spends on shoes and clothes in a YEAR, not for a single outfit.

    Who does the journal think their audience is? Not all their readers are billionaires like Rupert Murdoch. Ridiculous!

  23. Charlottesville | March 5, 2018 at 5:13 pm |

    Mitchell S. — Agreed. The Rancourt loafers are probably worth the money, and the price is probably what my Allen Edmonds penny loafers cost. I suppose that my Levis 501s might be close to the price of the GAP jeans, although I would be more likely to wear khakis on the weekend which cost a bit more than $60. The $200 polo shirt and $1,500 windbreaker, however, are definitely not part of my wardrobe. Even decked out in my best cap toes, suit, shirt and tie, I would not be likely to top $2,100 on the hoof, unless you factored in the credit cards in my wallet.

  24. whiskeydent | March 5, 2018 at 5:53 pm |

    @Charlottesville

    For giggles, I looked at the “real world” prices of the coat and polo at Lands End, Brooks, Orvis and La Coste (below). I used no sale prices.

    It appears one can get these pieces for $145 to $368. I was surprised Orvis came in at $238; I thought they’d be nearer to BB.

    Note: Only the Orvis jacket appeared identical. I noted how close the others came beside the prices.

    Jacket – light, tan similar to Barracuta
    LE $99.95 (only somewhat close)
    BB $298 (fairly close)
    O $169
    L $250 (only somewhat close)

    Polo Shirt – white and 100% cotton
    LE $44.95
    BB $69.50
    O $69
    L $89.50

  25. Dutch Uncle | March 6, 2018 at 1:24 am |

    whiskeydent:
    I’m glad that some other readers of this blog live in the real world.

  26. Further price check: the Grenfell G-9 from Ben Silver is $389, their house polo is $89. When you’re triple and more Ben’s prices….well, “full retail” doesn’t begin to describe it.

  27. Charlottesville | March 6, 2018 at 9:32 am |

    Whiskeydent — I may need to check out the Orvis Baracuta-style jacket. My current jacket needs to be replaced, and the real thing currently runs anywhere from $295 to $395, which seems high to me for what is basically a lined cotton windbreaker.

    NCJack — Agreed. When Ben Silver looks like a bargain, something is wrong. I have a couple of Ben Silver items, but I bought them at one of their too-rare sales. That being said, their recent catalog has some nice looking stuff, but J. Press is more likely to get me to pry open my wallet. I note that Southwick and Empire are making the current line, according to a Squeeze insider, so the shoulders and general quality should be high.

  28. whiskeydent | March 6, 2018 at 9:39 am |

    @Charlottesville

    Orvis frequently runs short-term sales, especially at the end of seasons. So I’d watch their web site for the next couple of weeks. You might get a better price. One caveat, the sales are often not honored at the store. Call ahead to be sure.

  29. I like this style. Personally I am a bit preppy and a bit Ivy, but I like the American working class style, as the man in the picture.

  30. whiskeydent | March 6, 2018 at 9:50 am |

    @Chartlottesville

    I just got an promo email from Orvis, and indeed the jacket just went on sale! However, I was wrong about the original price. It was $169, not $69. Now, it’s on sale at $129. It’s called the Weatherbreaker Jacket and it comes in other colors besides tan. Again, call ahead if you’re going to the store. Sorry for my confusion.

  31. Charlottesville | March 6, 2018 at 12:24 pm |

    Thanks, Whiskeydent. I will check it out.

  32. Dutch Uncle | June 21, 2021 at 1:02 pm |

    CC asked: “Will they stay in slob mode forever”

    Weren’t many men in slob mode long before the pandemic and lockdown?

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