An Homage to My Father’s Closet

As I got ready for a casual dinner with a friend in Soho, I reached for my navy baseball cap paired with a crisp white t-shirt tucked into my most loose-fitting light wash jeans, a pull-over sweater tied over my shoulders for when it got cold later, and finally, my favorite sneakers. All of a sudden, I looked in the mirror and realized it.


I’m dressed like my dad.


While putting my outfit together I hadn’t even noticed that I unintentionally copied my dad’s go-to look. The one he’s been wearing and pulling off since before I was born.


Why am I all of a sudden dressing like a middle-aged man casually enjoying my day off work? Instead of reaching for my mom’s 90’s kitten heels, I now find myself digging through my dad’s drawers to find the perfect oversized Harley Davidson shirt I can cut up and distress. Or perhaps a colorful windbreaker I definitely don’t need. Or even the perfect knit sweater vest I can tuck into some pleated pants for a knockoff Uncle Phil outfit.

Art by Elizabeth Pamboukian

But it’s not just my dad’s closet I’m crazy for. The last time I went home, I saw my neighbor Bob wearing the New Balance trainers I’ve had in my cart for over two months. As I complimented his shoes, he said, “Thanks, I’ve had them since 99’!” and continued to walk his golden retriever. I ended up buying the shoes two weeks later.


So, what is it about the suburban dad look that we’re so fascinated by?


The dad trend is nothing new. It really started a few years ago alongside the athleisure trend that included track pants, the baseball cap, and the clunky, chunky, wear-everywhere sneaker. But since then, especially with the pandemic heightening our need for comfy versatile clothes, dadcore has only progressed.


This week while thrifting, I skipped the entire women’s section and went straight to men’s. Why? Because I wanted an oversized button-down shirt and some khakis, of course. By the end of the day, my Danny Tanner-inspired wardrobe was complete. More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself asking, “Dad, can I borrow your Hawaiian shirt? You know, the yellow floral one with the naked ladies in the margarita glasses?” It’s not just me, though ---- it seems like everyone wants to dress like a cool dad. Once a guy I went on a date with told me his go-to style is “cool 90’s DILF.” I never saw him again, but I have to say, he did dress well.


Nonetheless, it seems as though fashion has some serious daddy issues.


Dad fashion is where nostalgia and irony intermingle. It’s intentionally awkward, with intentionally outdated silhouettes. Style might not be the focus here, but rather function and comfort. Today, you can’t step outside or scroll through Instagram without seeing something that reminds you of your old man. Whether it be sweater vests, bucket hats, tucked-in polos, or orthopedic-esque sneakers, we’re all dressing like our fathers. And I don’t blame us for wanting to dress more like dad. These pragmatic, not-so-fashionable choices are of the utmost comfort and can easily be dressed up or down.


I admit I was late to hop onto the dadcore trend. Even though my style is constantly changing, I’ve always lingered more on the feminine side with midi and slip dresses occupying half my closet. I always thought I had to show at least a little skin to be sexy. Whether it be a little cleavage or a lot of leg, I always wanted to incite a little scandal with whatever I wore, because that’s just how I thought young people dressed. But as the pandemic lingered on, I gravitated more towards comfortable, cozy clothing that were not necessarily sexy in any way. After I raided my dad’s t-shirts, I went on to buy sweatpants and sweatshorts, hoodies and crewnecks ---- clothes that my dad would definitely approve of. It’s been a while since he’s given my mom “the look” and asked me to “cover up with a sweater,” or pull my shirt up a little.


Maybe my dad was right all this time. While I know he wanted me to dress more modestly, he never could have imagined I’d be taking his advice by raiding his closet. It’s taken me this long to realize that perhaps I do want to look like I’m going out to mow the lawn. A brown leather belt is great at holding up your pants, but it’s also become quite a fashion statement when worn with khakis. Loose-fitting dad jeans are in and skinny jeans are out. Mid-length Bermuda shorts are back, and you don’t want to forget the BBQ sandals. A baseball cap is not only good for going incognito, but it’s also a lifesaver on bad hair days. And black loafers worn with crew socks? Touché, dad.


What’s old is new again, and intentionally outdated dad fashion is apparently going strong. It’s finally cool to look uncool, to dress unsexy, and to be a “dad.” I was always embarrassed by the way my dad dressed, but it turns out he’s been the fashion icon of the family this whole time.


Thank you, dad, you wore it first.


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