When did we start dressing like our fathers? 2
Everything old is cool: the trends of the moment include Hawaiian shirts, a loose silhouette, and high-waist trousers. Art by Chris Clemente

When did we start dressing like our fathers?

Growing up, many of us didn’t see our fathers as lookbook pegs. And yet these days, we sport the Magnum P.I. shirts, the New Balance sneaks, and the formerly laughable fanny packs. How did we start dressing like retirees? 
Jam Pascual | Aug 27 2019

In the world of fashion, the typical course of things dictates the second, third, fourth coming of old trends. We’ve seen clothing lines recycle the disco silhouettes of the 70s. Contemporary designers are taking cues from the bright colors and shapes of the 80s. And well, there’s always going to be a place for grungy, lumberjack flannel. We’re due for Y2K aesthetics to make a comeback in a big way, and while that’s kind of happening, we’re seeing a very specific old thing being repackaged as stylishly modern. I’m talking about dadcore.

When did we start dressing like our dads? Generations Y and Z may have different experiences of culture consumption, but as kids and teenagers, neither of us saw our pappies as Lookbook pegs. As adolescents, we gallivanted in skinny jeans and drop-crotch joggers, while our dads took us to mass in either straight leg light washed pants or cargo shorts. New Balance for comfort, visor caps and glasses with built-in shades for utility.

When did we start dressing like our fathers? 3
Throwback to Magnum P.I. Art by Chris Clemente

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Now it seems that sartorial dad-isms pervade every party I’m at. Floral shirts, which used to be happy signifiers of middle aged men on vacation, are now a fuccboi wardrobe staple. Fanny packs see action at bars and cafes, not just Enchanted Kingdom. And don’t get me started on the chunky shoes. Apparently your old man was way ahead of Balenciaga’s curve when he was rockin’ those FILA kicks. My friends’ fat footwear just happens to sport quirkier colorways.

It seems that sartorial dad-isms pervade every party I’m at. Floral shirts, which used to be happy signifiers of middle aged men on vacation, are now a fuccboi wardrobe staple.

For the love of God, I’m tucking my shirts in now. Into slacks. For fun! What happened?

We can begin with normcore, another brief fashion wave that abuses the tired “core” suffix. From about 2017, clothing brand Vetements and its CEO Guram Gvasalia sought to make a statement in the fashion world: exalt the ordinary. Vetements, in its own weird way, was going against fashion’s tendency at the time to glorify brand names and limited edition pieces. 

“I think normcore started it all and was probably the anti-thesis of what street wear and fashion was during this time,” says Javier Pimentel, whose subject position as a fashionable member of Gen Z is credential enough. “Like 2013-2016, I think the fashion world was very logo-heavy, along with tight skinny jeans and boots with brands like YSL dominating. and logos plastered everywhere.” To put it another way, true high fashion came to be associated with the following traits: affordable, utilitarian, no fuss.

What this artistic orientation produced is a look that blurs the line between runway model and sidewalk schmuck. Even GQ noticed this.And while it is typical of high fashion designers to reappropriate the style choices of the masses in lower tax brackets, it’s also interesting how many Vetements pieces don’t look all that different from the stuff you find in surplus stores. Also worth looking at is the current artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, Virgil Abloh, and his fashion house Off-White, which seems to have no qualms with super light washed denim and wide pant legs. My pops was apparently a trendsetter.

When did we start dressing like our fathers? 4
Tired or retired: sportswear with fanny pack. Art by Chris Clemente

Other factors within and beyond the fashion world played a part in this. Japanese clothing brands giving denim pants new life; the youth’s tendency to like a thing ironically at first, before loving it sincerely; that whole thing with the dad bod; a weird openness to calling hot dudes “daddy” (this needs more unpacking); the possibility that this chunky shoe trend is partly just our old Supra fixation, regurgitated. As for the resurgence of fanny packs? You can thank Adidas, Gucci, and Supreme.Most of my peers wear fanny packs across the torso, but you can wear it around the waist and still not look out of place at a Daniel Caesar show.

We can also attribute dadcore’s moment to how today’s university and working youth are savvy about ukay shopping. Digging through bargain bins and discovering pieces (that presumably used to hang in the closets of Baby Boomers and silver-haired Gen X-ers) has kind of eclipsed other consumer behaviors. Today’s politically aware crowd abhors the mechanisms behind fast fashion, and it’s not like everybody can afford to get their fits tailored and bespoke.

This sounds like a lampoon, but make no mistake: dad fashion isn’t without aesthetic merit. It’s not a big leap from Queer Eye’s Tan France endorsing the French tuck to make your legs look longer, to stuffing dress shirts so deep that the garter begins where the chest ends. And besides, fanny packs are handy as hell. Hip twenty-somethings need a place for their Klean Canteens, and you ain’t putting that thing in a Jansport. Also, this isn’t a menswear-exclusive trend—a generation that’s loose and lax about gender norms produces looks that cut across gender demographics.

Besides, fanny packs are handy as hell. Hip twenty-somethings need a place for their Klean Canteens, and you ain’t putting that thing in a Jansport.

But maybe there’s a deeper sociological rationale to this aesthetic celebration of all things tatay. A Highsnobiety article asks us to consider dad fashion’s value as a signifier of status. Millennials and Gen Z kids have no reason to look optimistically to the future—an ongoing climate crisis and extremely tense political situation erase any feasibility of us achieving the life and trappings our parents did. “Suddenly, the stability enjoyed by a suburban dad with a house, a car, a 401K, and, hey, even a really cool Weber Grill looked a lot like freedom—a freedom young millennials might never enjoy. Where earlier generations sought to escape being tied down by these hallmarks of boring, restrictive drudgery, youth now viewed them as an unattainable fantasies, which they could only emulate, and critique, by re-appropriating the most basic and visible elements of the suburban dad lifestyle: dad caps, dad jeans, and ugly running shoes.”

I’m considering this little dadcore renaissance a good thing. My bland self is way too comfortable in the isles of Uniqlo to go full Barack Obama, but it’s a beautiful thing seeing some of my friends and their little siblings dressing like the kind of men who don’t care much about looking cool for anybody.