Introducing the Inaugural Inductees Into the Dadwear Canon
From Rolexes and Vans to a Patagonia fleece, here are 23 timeless menswear items every well-dressed dad swears by
We as a culture have spent way too much time making fun of dads. Of their style, the things they like, what they wear or even listen to.
But times change. Dads are back in a serious way. We’re learning that dad rock is actually really great and that the clothes your dad rocked while you were growing up were, much like the old man himself, timeless.
That’s why we came up with this: the Official Dadwear Canon. The inaugural class comprises 23 items your dad or grandpa would rock (and probably have rocked), and that you, too, should one day incorporate into your wardrobe (if you haven’t already).
Now, we obviously know that like trees, no two dads are alike, and that yours may very well have his own, singular sense of style that can’t be lumped in with all the other dad wardrobes. But in our experience — from thumbing through men’s magazines to poring over #menswear Instagram to talking with stylish gents everywhere about the items they love best — there are just some classics that men of a certain age keep coming back to.
Why? Simple: They never go out of style.
It sounds like such an ‘80s idea because, well, it was. Casio wanted to build a watch that would stick around for generations, one that you could literally shoot like a hockey puck and it would still be OK, a digital timepiece with a battery that could last up to a decade. The TAGs and Rolexes are for a night on the town, but the G-Shock is the one for everyday life.
The Repp Tie
It’s “undoubtedly the classic neckwear of the British wardrobe,” as G. Bruce Boyer called it. Maybe your dad started wearing them at prep school or college, maybe it was after that trip to London where he was fitted for the greatest looking suit you’ve ever seen. Whatever the case, the striped repp tie has never not worked. And in this age of pattern clashing, you can pair it with so many different shirts that the options are as endless as you want them to be.
Yes, Vans. To be more precise, the Old Skools or the Authentics, because they’ve been around long enough to be on the feet of a few generations of dads. Cool papas from their 20s well into their 60s who hit the streets with their board or bike in their younger years still swear by these bad boys. Obviously you could also say the same thing about another icon, like a pair of Chuck Taylors or PF Flyers, but Vans have come out on top in recent years as the sneakers people of all ages have no trouble putting on.
We all go through phases. Maybe we grow up wearing khakis since they’re both a prep-school staple and also really good for skateboarding if you find a loose enough pair. But then you noticed that those are the pants your dad wore to the office when it was casual Friday, and thus maybe you gave up on them because nothing your dad wore couldn’t be cool, right? Wrong. Surely by now you realize your dad was and still is cool. But if not, look up pics of anyone from Andy Warhol to David Byrne and surely you’ll stumble upon an image of them rocking some chinos.
The surcingle belt is among the subtlest of the dad-style flexes. To better understand its appeal, think of it like the belt equivalent of a mullet: With its classic brown leather tips and a silver or brass buckle, it’s all business up front, but as that leather gives way to the more casual, almost playful cotton twill section around the back, it’s a fucking party. Or as much of a party as dad will allow himself. Embroidered stripes are fine; embroidered motifs are even better.
Barbour Bedale Jacket
What’s the epitome of “Dad Canon” to you? Well, for us, it’s something you know can be handed down. It’s enduring, pure quality that doesn’t really need to reinvent itself, because new generations will discover it sooner or later. The Barbour jacket, maybe something your dad bought on a hunting trip in Scotland or that jacket he threw on for his morning walks on autumn mornings, is that rare piece of clothing that is refined, utilitarian and cool as hell.
On pages 98 and 99 of The Official Preppy Handbook, there are two images of the preppy in college, the man and the woman (possibly spitting images of your parents) are both rocking, yes, L.L. Bean boots and rubber Bean moccasins, “even though it’s sunny.” Your dad maybe wore them on hikes or on rainy runs to grab supplies at the grocery store before settling down for a game of Sunday football. Only now do you realize how ahead of his time he was when you see a dapper kid (or even member of the New York Yankees) from Williamsburg to Portland (the one in Oregon) rocking these, walking on the pavement like it was their personal runway.
Brooks Brothers Blazer
One of the few rules that transcends all style is you should have a blazer in your closet. Man, woman or whatever you identify as, a blazer looks great on anybody. It is your saving grace when you have an event that leans toward fancy but doesn’t require a suit. You can wear it with jeans or slacks, and if you’re feeling brave and want to look like you just went to a cocktail gala for Jurassic Park, by all means rock it with shorts and a pair of desert boots. And if you’re looking for a blazer you can’t fail with, go with the classic with the gold buttons. And if you really want to show the dudes on the trad style forums you know what’s up? Go with the three-button sack version — just make sure that shit is properly tailored.
G.H. Bass & Co. Weejuns
The circle of life is making fun of your dad or grandpa for wearing a pair of penny loafers, then seeing a copy of Take Ivy for the first time and realizing how effortlessly cool those shoes actually look and buying a pair for yourself. Now you can’t wait for summertime so you can rock a pair of these bad boys without socks. The only question is whether you go with tassels or not.
Grandpas started out as dads. They’re granddads — top dads, really. And if there’s one piece of clothing these fatherly titans know how to flex in, it’s the Harrington. They pop the collar on them on the golf course on windy days and keep it down when running errands, and the tartan pattern on the inside is hard to miss when they take it off and can’t remember where they put their damn jacket. Around since the 1930s, the Harrington has really never not been “in,” thanks to the fact that it looks great and works for pretty much any situation. That and, of course, there’s a Steve McQueen connection.
The Wool Knit Tie
Go look at pictures of guys in the ‘70s and early-‘80s CBGB’s punk bands and you’re sure to find at least one knit tie in there. Then go look for photos of dads from the same era that look like they work for some public broadcasting company or they’re future ice-cream barons, and you’re sure to see the same. Why? Because it’s the chill tie. It’s neckwear that says, “I’m cool, man.” And it has endured for decades.
Where to Buy: Gitman Bros. You can also find them pretty often at retailers like Gant or J.Crew, depending on the season.
Russell Mesh Athletic Shorts
It seems so basic when you think about it. Your dad and his buddies had that weekly pickup game he made you go to the park to watch. He couldn’t shoot the rock to save his life, but he was the nastiest defender on the court. He just showed up and give it his all — and that in itself gave him an air of respectability. Still, all these years later, the uniform is still fresh in your mind. Maybe he rocked a pair of Jordans or he was 20 years ahead of the whole hypebeast thing and showed up in a pair of Grant Hill’s Filas. But most of all, it was the shorts. They were to his uniform what The Dude’s rug was to his room: the shorts really tied it all together. And now that Russell is starting to team up with streetwear giants like Kith, you realize your dad didn’t only dress cool, but may have been a prophet as well.
The College Shirt
There is really something timeless about a beat-to-hell old University of South Carolina or UCLA T-shirt, the kind your dad has worn since his hellraising days at his alma mater. You know what we’re talking about: that old orange University of Illinois shirt that has been washed so many times you can barely read what it says. That Dartmouth sweatshirt that’s maybe the most comfortable piece of clothing in the house, the Howard shirt he finally gives you because he’s proud you’re going to his school. The letter are peeling off, it’s falling apart at the seams … and yet you not only accept the gift, but willingly wear it as well.
Rolex Oyster Professional
Listen, there are plenty of iconic watches that can tell us so about a dad and his style. Some guys can do Cartier, others are Omega or TAG dudes. And don’t get us wrong: they’re all great. But there’s something about the Oyster that just makes you believe your pops was emulating Paul Newman or James Bond and felt like they’d appreciate a Rolex. It’s a luxury adventure watch, the timepiece for a dude who drives fast but hikes deliberately. And maybe, if you’re good, he’ll get you one of your own. That’s sort of the dream, right? You get a watch like this and you know you earned it. As one owner tells Matt Hranek in A Man and His Watch, he wouldn’t sell his Oyster if it were “worth a dollar or a million dollars.”
Loyal to its name, the Ray-Ban Wayfarer has done a bit of traveling to get to where it is today. The original Wayfarer, designed in 1956 by Bausch & Lomb, offered a cat-eyed, plastic alternative to the more traditional metal frame sunglasses. After decades of diligent product placement (think Ray-Ban capitalizing on the connection to JFK or ‘80s staples The Blues Brothers or Less Than Zero), they’ve cemented themselves as the most iconic shades on the market. The frame, redesigned to a more rectangular shape in the ’80s, is now worn by pretty much everybody. But it’s that unparalleled history that will keep dads — and their kids — wearing these shades for years to come.
Ralph Lauren Polo Shirts
The polo shirt, synonymous today with prep school and frat attire, was once exactly what it asserts itself to be: a shirt in which to play polo. But the style that we’re familiar with today originated on the tennis court in the 1930s, when famed sportsman René Lacoste wore a short-sleeved shirt made of pique cotton, innovating a more comfortable version of the tennis shirt. Lacoste’s shirt was popularized among European and American men alike, who were drawn to the marriage of a sporty look with leisurely feel. It was this design that caught the eye of Ralph Lauren, who first released his famous version of the shirt in 24 colors in 1972, turning it into the staple it is today. And while Ralph’s version might not be our favorite, the staying power is the reason it makes the dad canon.
Suggestion: Fred Perry is also pretty timeless.
The origin of tweed can be traced to Scotland, where farmers sought a warm, water-resistant material for the chilly and damp climate. It was subsequently adopted by the Scottish elite as a sensible fabric for hunting, fishing and shooting. The flexibility of this rough, earth-toned cloth helped it find its way into the closet of almost every modern adult man, from the woodsman to the urbanite to the businessman to the professor. Tweed is not defined by the weave, but by the rough woolen texture, so the actual design of the tweed sport coat can change from one garment to the next to match your particular style while maintaining the integrity of the fabric. But really, this is the kind of fabric you earn more than buy. It’s something you wear to walk the dog but also if you’re sitting in a library reading on a cold day. It’s casual but sturdy, just like a dad should be.
The Dad Hat
The baseball cap is possibly the most versatile hat out there. It’ll keep the sun out of your eyes while you’re in the backyard barbecue or sailing your boat. It can keep you warm in the winter when you’re shoveling the snow off the front lawn. And now that it’s been rebranded as The Dad Hat, wearing your favorite baseball cap is a fashion statement, whether or not that was your intention. The Dad Hat became a cultural phenomenon in 2016 when mass media company The Shade Room posted an instagram of pop icons sporting an array of baseball caps, branding the hats with their new moniker. So yes, you can rock a beat up Houston Astros cap with the old logo or you can drop over $200 for the Balenciaga version — either will be a fashion statement.
Suggestions: You can’t go wrong with the plain ’47 Classics, and Country Club Prep has a nice selection of caps with great needlepoint designs that, if the name doesn’t give it away, are pretty darn preppy. For the younger dad who still wears Vans and band shirts, check out what Noah has to offer.
The Patagonia brand, founded by climber, kayaker, mountaineer and all-around good-guy-to-look-up-to Yvon Chouinard, has proven essential for any person gearing up to take on the great outdoors (or the backyard in a snowstorm). Unlike other outdoor clothing brands, which are influenced by changing trends, the classic Patagonia fleece is, for all intents and purposes, the same fleece today as it was when Chouinard designed it in 1977. As an adventurer himself, he knew what he needed and he made it: a warm, light jacket that would absorb moisture. And his simple but effective product has endured the test of time. You’ve probably seen one in a picture of a cool dad standing by a van on his way to a Dead show in the late-’80s, or maybe more recently, on somebody like Ezra Koenig or Kanye West.
No dad wardrobe is complete without a pair of what is quite possibly the most iconic article of clothing ever made. Invented in 1973 when Levi Strauss and Jacob David had the idea to add rivets to the pockets of jeans for strength, the Levi’s 501 has become a staple for just about every denim wearer, at one point holding the title of the best-selling item of clothing in the world. The simplicity of the style and the high quality of the production have proven to work for rockers, hippies, cowboys and Steve Jobs, a trailblazer in the realm of dadwear.
New Balance 990s
When New Balance unveiled the “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio” campaign earlier this year, it was a flex, but an honest one. These grey runners made their debut in 1982 and could have been worn by any cast member of The Big Chill. Ten years later, they’d have been right at home on any member of Pavement. More recently, all sorts of forward-thinking, style-conscious folks have adopted them as their own.
There are a lot of great shirts out there, but is there one that is as veritile as the Oxford? Why do you think everybody from Brooks Brothers to J.Crew and Sid Mashburn make some variation of it? Wear it untucked or with a tie and a blazer for a cocktail party. It looks as good washed and freshly pressed as it does frayed and tattered.
Suggestion: The iconic Brooks Brothers version is hard to beat, but you also can’t go wrong grabbing a few when Ralph Lauren has a sale. Gitman and Sid Mashburn are also both worth checking out. If you’re looking for something in madras for the summer, this Kiel James Patrick variation on the classic will do the trick.
Shaggy Dog Sweater
There are plenty of great sweaters out there. There’s that one ‘80s sitcom dad whose name we shant mention here who, before being outed as a serial rapist, had a sweater named after him. Dads and sweaters, we’re saying, sort of go hand in hand. You’ve probably stumbled upon a photo of your pops at some party in the ‘70s or ‘80s and he’s just looking like a million bucks in this incredible fuzzy number. Did you ever try looking for it? Perhaps it was the super warm J.Press Shaggy Dog, possibly the most perfect sweater you could ask for.
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