The Style Tips 11 Well-Dressed People Picked Up From Their Dads

Actors, directors, designers, writers and more on the sartorial lessons they inherited

June 13, 2019 12:32 pm
That kid is already an icon thanks to his dad. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
That kid is already an icon thanks to his dad. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
Getty Images

“Dad Style” may conjure images of novelty ties, Crocs-and-socks, or shamelessly exposed kneecaps, but the lessons in dressing we all pick up from the father figures in our lives can be broad in scope and scale. They can be something as direct as a piece of advice, rule or ritual passed down through generations, or something as ephemeral as a stance, a slouch, or the set of a cap seen in a photograph from an earlier time. My father took the time to teach me how to polish my own shoes, shave and tie a tie — the essentials of traditional dress and grooming -— but I also absorbed from his own ever-changing wardrobe my taste for the colorful and the playful; for the item, be it a lapel pin or sock, that cracks a subtle joke by its incongruity or sartorial insouciance. 

In anticipation of this Father’s Day, InsideHook reached out to several stylish people from various walks of life to ask what their fathers, step-fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and even uncles taught them about style — and, in some cases, what they hope to pass down to their own children.

Here are a few of not only the traditions and lessons learned, but also the innovations and idiosyncrasies absorbed from our fathers.

Paul Feig, Director, A Simple Favor, Ghostbusters

My dad never really preached about style, but he showed me that when you go to work you always wear a suit and tie. He was born in the ’20s and that’s just how guys dressed when they went to work. He was a World War II Veteran and he got a G.I. Loan, started as a pawnbroker in Detroit, and then opened an army surplus store. He would be pulling down boxes and getting his hands dirty in the stockroom but no matter what he’d wear a suit and tie. 

When I first came to Hollywood I didn’t want to dress like “The Suits,” but now I realize that putting on a suit and tie is a different event than rolling out of bed and putting on sweatpants and heading to work. Now on set crew members come up to me and shake my hand — it feels respectful. And at the end of the day, I just feel better in a suit. 

Kamau Hosten, Proprietor, Kamsten

My father isn’t exactly a style enthusiast, but he does have an inherent comfort and relaxed sense about him. When I was younger, I recall how cool he looked sitting on the front porch in our house in Trinidad: legs crossed, newspaper in hand, with his pipe and thick, tortoise glasses. He pays attention to the details and I’ve taken that from him. There was a chill vibe about, like he didn’t care, but closely, looking back, I noticed he did. That, paired with a quick wit, were features I tried to emulate when I was younger, though I think I’ve come into my own now.

Sean Crowley, Owner, Crowley Vintage

I think one of the most precious lessons of personal style, regardless of what that style is, is understanding proportion. It doesn’t sound very sexy, but it’s a golden lesson my grandfather taught me mostly by example and it’s never let me down. He was part of “the brown shoe army” of WWII. (After WWII, all leather shoes, cap visors, belts, straps, etc. went to black.) He rarely wore black shoes other than for evening. I took that as gospel. And my father and grandfather both taught me the singular beauty that is a perfectly placed dimple in a four-in-hand tie knot.

Young royals taking tips from Prince Charles (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Tim Graham Photo Library via Get

Mustafa Shakir, Actor, Jett, The Deuce, Luke Cage

“It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or if you’re poor: never wear cheap shoes. Happy feet will carry you further than an expensive suit.”  — Advice from his godfather

Jeremy Kirkland, Host, Blamo! podcast

Something I absorbed from my Dad was his ability to just really wear clothes. Do you know what I’m talking about? My dad was in a rock band for a while when I was a little kid and man, did he dress like it —even after he stopped playing music. But something he imputed onto me was wearing clothes with confidence. 

He would wear bolos, bandannas tied around his head, cowboy boots (that were cut into chukkas), and when he wore it — he wore it with confidenceI remember trying to wear a bolo tie to look like him and I was like, dad this doesn’t feel right. He said, “Wear it like you own it.” Touché, pops. 

Jake Mueser, Owner; J. Mueser Bespoke

I was raised by New England academics, so there was very little in the way of sartorial advice growing up. As much as I would like to describe my Ivy League parents as inhabiting an “Ivy Style” world of tweed blazers with lovingly worn suede patches, it was unfortunately more Patagonia fleece and ill-fitting jeans. As a new father and someone who made their own way through the world of menswear, I am thinking about what style lessons I will impart to my daughter Winter. I will probably just tell her — in the words of Oscar Wilde, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated — that should have us covered regardless!”

Danny Agnew, Creative Director/Resident Stylish Guy, InsideHook

My dad has always been a loafer guy. Not that he doesn’t own any shoes with laces (more on that in a bit), but growing up, I have this indelible image of him rocking shorts and some variety of leather moccasin/tassel/horsebit — a few of which I’ve filched over the years and are still going strong with his adhesive name tags firmly fixed to the inner sole. All these years later (and sporting an absolutely irresponsible collection of shoes in my closet), the loafer is still my go-to footwear choice — perhaps that’s why I do things like write entire articles about their history.

He’s also taught me the value of occasional flair in one’s shoe choices — I forget exactly when/why he started doing this (my mom would know), but at some point he started bringing a pair of crisp, blinding-white bucks in a briefcase to weddings, only breaking them out when it was time to dance. The fact that he’s not much of a dancer notwithstanding (sorry, Pop), the lesson stands: fun shoes equal a fun time. And if you’re gonna cut a rug, why not do it with a flashy carpet knife?

Rose Callahan, Photographer, I am Dandy, We are Dandy and Last Night at the Met

My beloved father was not really a style icon. He was the quintessential tweedy intellectual type that adopted his style of tweed jackets with elbow patches and cords from his college days in the early ’60s and held steadfast to it his whole life. In fact I think he had the same few on rotation the whole time till the end! For a highly formal event he might pull out his knit tie. After he passed away I remember seeing his shoes — very practical and not the least bit aesthetic — and crying because they seemed like the most personal object. I photographed these shoes and his closet to remember these things. He was meticulous about his grooming, always slicked-back hair and well-kept full beard. 

I don’t think those are lessons, more just memories. Clothes and style are such intimate things. I think I inherited his perfectionism and love of “the classics,” but he didn’t experiment. I like to be more dramatic, and have style eras that evolve, and play with dressing. 

Mark Pagan, Host, Other Men Need Help podcast

My father was an impeccably dressed man but more importantly for me, he was very affectionate. With other men in his company, he would often have his hand on their shoulder while they talked. Initially as a kid, it looked like Earth had reversed gravity and it was my dad’s arm preventing his colleague from floating up to the ozone layer. But it’s an etiquette property of a certain type of man — be it Latino, or Mediterranean, or some Texan or just being my dad — that continues to make me feel safe, respected and gravitationally connected to Earth.

Lara Elena Donnelly, Novelist, Amnesty: Book 3 in the Amberlough Dossier

My father taught me that scent can be an asset or an abomination — he wore bitter lime cologne all through the summer, and I remember how the bathroom and the hallway smelled after he took a shower, or just before we went out to eat. He talked reverently about George Trumper, which was my first stop when I finally got to London. But he was quick to relate the cautionary tale of an old restaurant patron, The Rose Lady, who nobody could stand to be within 10 feet of. A lesson in style, there: make bold choices, but make them with some class.

He taught me to look at the cut of a garment, the drape of the cloth, identify quality from across the street. He’s oddly adept at selecting women’s clothes, too: I still own the little black dress he gave to me for Christmas, before I went abroad for the first time. “You might need to dress up,” he said. “And this won’t wrinkle in your suitcase.” He was right on both counts, and now I always pack that thing even if I’m headed to a cabin in the woods. 

David Coggins, Author, Men and Style, Men and Manners

I learned a lot from my dad. He thought it was very important that I understood basic rules, only when I knew them could I break them (or at least, bend them). He encouraged self-expression through dressing up, something he still does, in theory as well as practice. He thought it was important to be comfortable in a formal setting, because that comfort is what allows you to be relaxed, and that sense of relaxation and ease in your element, is a vital part of any man’s sense of style. 

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