daddy cool: decoding menswear’s latest muse
For an industry that’s so obsessed with teenage dreams and youth culture, why are the kids now so down the dads?
Vetements spring/summer 18
"Young dads in the park with their kids at the weekend," read the show notes at Balenciaga's spring/summer 18 suburban spectacle. Taking place in the Bois De Boulogne, on the western fringes of Paris, it showed exactly that: Dads, accessorised with real life children -- the models' actual flesh and blood FYI, as Demna just asked his usual suspects to bring along their kids for the ride, carrying them under their arms as if they're the new It bag. The clothes were typically Dad too. Most notably, there was an excellently awkward assemble of an oversized blazer worn with pulled-up denim jeans and brown leather loathers.
The Dad as a muse has been bubbling underground for a little while now, but - as with the majority of today's most hyped trends - it was jumpstarted by Demna, and his corporate themed autumn/winter 17 Balenciaga collection. The star of the show was the ugly but equally brilliant, clumpy trainers that were dressed-up with just-so-perfectly-ill-fitting tailoring and ties -- think working Dad on the school run. "These are those same men, out of the office, relaxed and observed at their happiest," the spring/summer show notes continued.
Demna didn't stop with Balenciaga. Let's look to the Georgian designer's own baby, Vetements. Taking to the streets of Zurich -- where Vetements recently relocated -- Demna and co. recruited real people there and then, asking if they would like to play dress up and be photographed in the spring/summer 18 collection. The result was 54 life-sized photographs of ordinary boys and girls, men and women dressed in tucked-in t-shirts, geeky trainers, office-appropriate tailoring, reimagined pieces from the Vetements archive, and utilitarian sportswear. The latter reminded me of what my own Dad would wear when I was younger. Out of those 54 portraits, three featured fully fledged families and seven or eight could have been fathers.
It's not just Demna who's at it either: menswear's most wanted, Martine Rose, who incidentally consulted on Demna's debut menswear collection for Balenciaga, was caught musing over the Dad for her line too. While she may not have been as blatant as Balenciaga, her spring/summer 18 show was an homage to the outdoorsy type: bike riders, climbers, and golfers. Everyone knows they're the Dad's favourite pastimes. The clothes were as exquisite as always, but a special mention goes to the lycra cycling shorts, hoiked up cargo shorts -- belted, with the shirt tucked in -- anoraks and supersized fleeces. 100% totally Dad-proof.
Models who could have easily been mistaken for patriarchs were popping up all over the runways too. Whilst there's been evidence of fashion embracing women of all ages, for some time now, (Joan Didion in the spring/summer 15 Celine campaign, Benedetta Barzini at Simone Rocha autumn/winter 17, Lauren Hutton in the new Calvin Klein underwear campaign, are a few examples that spring to mind), the industry has been lacking a significant amount of dilfs (except for perhaps Prada, whose menswear campaigns are always brilliantly cast). But at the most recent round of menswear shows, they were out in full force. They were balding in tracksuits at Pigalle, there were bearded hipster Dads at Junya Watanabe and at Yang Li the man of the moment had slicked back hair, making it even more obvious he was of age.
But fashion is very much an industry that's obsessed with teenage dreams and youth culture. Typically, easy, breezy cover girls will enjoy their prime for a handful of years before they reach their twenties and celebrity offspring juggle homework and puberty with runway appearances and fashion appointments (Lily Rose Depp made her first public appearance glittering in Chanel at the age of 15). So why is menswear musing over Dads?
As we know, fashion is very much influenced by the world around us. Trump, Brexit and Theresa May's snap election have dominated the headlines over the last year. Perhaps then, politics has played its part in the rise of the Dad. After all, arguably the ultimate Dad muse is Jeremy Corbyn. His wardrobe of cagoules, a-bit-too-big tailoring, polo shirts and shorts worn with pulled up socks (a major trend for spring/summer 18) has sparked Vogue articles concluding that Corbyn is very Vetements. Martine Rose's spring/summer 18 e-vite even starred Jezza looking suave in his infamous shell suit and posing with his bike. In true Dad style, his cycling helmet was firmly on. Safety first, of course. And let's not forget Balenciaga's autumn/winter 17 tribute to socialist papa Bernie Sanders - the Parisian powerhouse cleverly reworked Bernie's campaign logo in tribute. With their cuddly left-wing policies and warm nature, there's actually something very Dad like about Bernie and Jez that goes way beyond their clothes.
But the clothes themselves? Well the industry has spent the last couple of seasons engaged in a passionate love affair with normcore, gorpcore and anything anti-fashion. Miuccia Prada led this fixation with normality in her menswear show for autumn/winter 17 -- the opening look was as Dad as it gets (very stylish Italian dad though): a V-neck knit with an office blue shirt, comfy lace-up shoes and beige cords. It was excellent.
The Dad is arguably the most unlikely of all muses: a typically embarrassing species, one who's usually gifted with bad jokes and a terrible, dated dress sense. In popular culture, the Dad is dumbed down and depicted as useless or completely incompetent. In Mean Girls for example, Regina George's Mum is papping the Queen Bee as she poses in her bunny costume. "Doesn't she look great honey?" the cool mum asks. The Dad just stands there, arms folded, totally emotionless. On TV the doofus Dad trope is very much a thing (Homer Simpson, the most obvious case). Doofus Dads. What could be more anti-fashion than that?
So, will we start to see the youth of today dressing like Dads? If the clothes look this good then yes, probably. Should you start raiding the depths of your Dad's wardrobe? Maybe. I won't tell if you won't. Dads the word.
Text Billie Brand
Photography Mitchell Sams