I’m in a bit of a bind. Although I’m overjoyed at the news that I’ll be a father for the first time next month, my inner fashionista is frankly terrified. You see, I’m a bit of an urban exhibitionist. In fact, I own more pairs of shoes than my wife, and I consider my inclusion on the Hackney Hipster Hate blog a badge of honour.
I don pink Ralph Lauren chinos in the summer with pride and have amassed a substantial collection of Duchamp pocket squares since my full-on descent into foppism. One of my prized possessions is a rose gold tie-clip by Lanvin – that and my Brooks Brothers membership card, of course. I know my YMC from my APC (I always think of APC as the more arrogant brand, partly because it’s French but partly because it’s damn expensive) and I even ride a Pashley to work, even though my poor 41-year-old hamstrings would definitely benefit from a racing bike. (Leaning forward at such an angle just doesn’t look or feel good while wearing a sports blazer.)
However, I have a terrible feeling the next few years are going to be rather trying for me and my wardrobe. But does fatherhood really mean I have to become “dadcore” – wearing clothing that is comfortable, with no real regard for fit or appearance and, according to this paper’s own style guru, Hadley Freeman, “anything from Marks & Spencer’s Blue Harbour range” – and abandon my penchant for linen blazers and cordovan slip-ons in favour of machine-washable hoodies and trainers?
Real men wear their babies
This is NOT me by the way
Here’s a comment from a post about baby carriers on a blog called babyCentre: “One of the sweetest moments from new mommyhood was seeing my hubs on his knees, on the floor, trying to figure out the baby sling and gently trying to place our first baby in there without harming her … I took pictures and they still make me want to give him wet kisses when I look back.”
There are so many things wrong with this comment that it’s hard to know where to begin, but the point is that I’ve never, ever seen anybody pull this look off properly, so let me be the first to pooh-pooh the papoose. I don’t care that most of my male friends fall over themselves to extol the virtues of a baby harness to me, “but it’s so easy”, “skin on skin contact is really important”, “mate, have you tried getting on a bus with a buggy?” etc. Nuts to that. Wearing a pair of shorts in the city during the sultry summer months may well be practical but I’m certainly not going to entertain the thought. I’m with Tom Ford when he said it’s inappropriate for a gentleman to wear shorts unless they’re on the beach or the tennis court.
Take Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in Plein Soleil (1960) for example – perhaps the most stylish character ever committed to celluloid. After casting the dead body of his friend Philippe Greenleaf overboard and struggling desperately to keep his sailing boat afloat in choppy waters, does he ever take his chinos off? Of course he doesn’t – Alain knows that a little pinrolling is all that’s required. Nope, until Gieves & Hawkes starts manufacturing baby harnesses in Prince of Wales check – or at the very least featuring tweed straps – I’ll stick with the impracticalities of a pushchair thank you very much.
Alain Delon gives great pinroll in Purple Noon
Much to her surprise (and my disappointment), my wife has started sneaking furtive glances at young mothers and their buggies, and at this precise moment she’s sold on an iCandy or Bugaboo. Forgive me if I’m slightly nonplussed that the iCandy (really?) comes with a unique one-handed folding system, the silly futurist contraption is never going to work with my navy double-breasted Hackett sports jacket is it? If you’re that interested in status, darling, then we should really opt for the Balmoral by Silver Cross. Nothing like a perambulator with a royal warrant to keep you ahead in the style stakes.
Reluctantly I acknowledge that a pushchair will probably end up being my main accessory for a good few years, but surely a baby can fit in a satchel too? As far as I’m concerned, Dunhill needs to look into producing a textured leather holdall that includes a baby-sized pouch, perhaps with subtle leg holes incorporated either side of where the handle straps meet the bottom of the bag? You read it here first, folks.
I’ve been told this will be a particular hazard for me. Babies apparently love nothing better than grabbing on to a tie with their little grubby hands and yanking it with great abandon. So here’s a double whammy – not only is there a great chance my collection of Reiss knitted silk ties will be ruined but there’s also the likelihood that I’ll be garrotted by my own offspring in the process. The solution? Bowties or waistcoats. The bowtie is a tricky one to pull off now that its rakish appeal has been sullied by daft celebrities on red carpets everywhere – I’m looking at you, Tiny Tempah and Harry Styles. The waistcoat, however, brings three major benefits: 1. It acts as a gentle corset, 2. It looks fantastic and 3. Over half the tie is hidden behind buttoned cloth, so is therefore much harder for sticky little hands to get at. Choose a lightweight machine-washable Harris tweed number for extra durability.
I can forget about dressing appropriately for summer too, apparently. In celebration of my recent membership to Muswell Hill Bowling Club, I bought a Ralph Lauren cricket jumper and a pair of white Brooks Brothers trousers (think California-era Pete Campbell in Mad Men) and I’ve been subject to much ridicule – apparently white clothing is no-no with any child under 12. Rookie error on my part. I guess sticking to lightweight khaki chinos (coupled with a woven leather belt and cotton and linen-blend button-down chambray Oxford shirt) will keep me preppy enough for the time being?
Chaps that strutted around inc the 90s like peacocks with feather cuts and Maharishi snopants have resorted to jeans and T-shirts. I have to say I look at some of the new dads in my peer group and wince. At best they’ve become urban woodsmen with plaid, selvedge and Alden Indy rip-offs (not actually a bad look in itself but now somewhat ubiquitous and hard to extricate yourself from once you’ve chosen to go down that path) and at the very worst, they appear to have just given up completely. Chaps that strutted around like peacocks with their feather cuts and Maharishi snopants at the height of Britpop have resorted to jeans and T-shirts, replete with weekend hoodies.
Look, I realise that I’ll have to make many sacrifices for my child (money, time, sleep, fun, sex) but does this really mean I have to become part of the dadcore revolution? My rational side tells me I’m being way too naive here, and that after three weeks of no sleep, shitty nappies and the constant wailing of a newborn, I’ll fail to give a toss if my Paul Smith cufflinks clash with my Hermès hanky. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that having a baby might just make me ever so slightly less self-obsessed – if that’s possible?
This article first appeared in The Guardian two months before Martha was born. Part 2 of the Dandy Dad Manifesto entitled: ‘I was wrong’ or ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love jeans and T-shirts’ will follow soon…
Image of Dandy Dad courtesy of Linda Nylind for the Guardian