“Prediction: as Kanye transcends into dad-life, he's going to make dad-core trendy and cool,” wrote one Reddit user in 2015. “Would it be a far reach to predict that, as Kanye becomes older and more mature, his fits will reflect his lifestyle? With another kid on the way, and plenty of artistic (and business) ventures to explore, Kanye might eventually depart from the streetwear realm entirely and actually make dadcore look cool.” The post received three comments before slipping into Reddit obscurity.
Yet, two years on, here we are. It may not have been precipitated by the sartorial choices of Mr West – who had a decidedly lowkey year after cancelling his Saint Pablo tour at the tail end of 2016 – but perhaps the overarching prediction of the Reddit user, KlausFenrir, was correct. Dad-wear was one of the defining aesthetics of menswear in 2017, filtering onto runways and into our wardrobes.
In June, Demna Gvasalia debuted his SS18 Balenciaga menswear collection, which saw a host of real dads walking the runway with their children. The clothes followed suit – washed jeans, oversized blazers and decidedly sensible waterproof cagoules. “It felt like they needed to have some relaxed, comfortable, cosy moments,” said the Georgia-born designer of the collection, which riffed on the idea of dads on their day off, taking their kids to the park. At Martine Rose – who also consults for Balenciaga – we saw a similar celebration of the previously-unfashionable raincoat, as the London designer drew from the understated, functional approach dads have to dressing. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose unfussy wardrobe has seen him become an unlikely style icon, was also on the moodboard.
As with Gvasalia, Rose’s celebration of dad-wear can quite easily be interpreted as a response to wider issues within the world. Gvasalia spoke of the relationship between fathers and their children representing “hope”, and there was certainly a sense this past year that menswear sought to offer comfort and reassurance in taking inspiration from the archetypal father figure. Unfashionable, but pragmatic, and ultimately there when you need him. Against a post-Brexit, post-Trump backdrop, maybe that’s what was needed – not radical change, but someone to put an arm around us and tell us it’s all going to be ok.
And the trend didn’t end with the runway. “A ‘Dad’ Look Is Suddenly Stylish: The Tucked-In T-Shirt,” proclaimed the New York Times in July, noting that everyone from Brooklyn Beckham to Virgil Abloh had adopted the style. Whilst many would point to the skaters such as Sean Pablo and Dylan Rieder as the origin of this, as Andrew Luecke, co-author of Cool: Style, Sound, and Subversion, told the newspaper, it also chimed with the idea of embracing what was previously considered uncool or even ugly. That thinking saw 2017 dubbed the year of the “ugly sneaker” by some, with decidedly clunky running shoes by the likes of Raf Simons, Balenciaga and Yeezy becoming de rigueur in street style pictures and at fashion weeks.
Elsewhere, bum-bags and fanny-packs (or hip-bags, if you’re uncomfortable with either of the other terms) also became reflective of this shift. No longer would these practical little bags be exclusively for sweaty but organised parents at Disneyland, but also for style-conscious streetwear fans. Sure, the ones sported by those queuing outside Palace and Supreme were sleeker in design, or bore the labels of luxury brands like Prada, but at their core were still bum-bags.
The New Balance 990 sneaker – another no-nonsense dad-favourite, due to its comfortable fit and colourway of competing greys – was another street style staple this past year. Two editors at the streetwear-focussed Highsnobiety named the silhouette in their ‘Favourite Sneakers of 2017’ round-up. “A timeless classic that will never go out of style,” wrote the site’s founding editor David Fischer. Which, while probably true, highlighted the inherent irony of the dad-core trend, which at times has felt like something of a post-normcore hangover.
To be clear, this isn’t normcore, wearing the hyper-oversized cagoules of Balenciaga or Martine Rose will certainly ensure you stand out in a crowd, and a tucked t-shirt on anyone under thirty always looks like studied insouciance. But this past year did see designers and fashion fans alike probing the wardrobes of our dads – or at least an imagined ideal of a dad – in a search of utilitarian simplicity. As my own Dad continually reminds me with stories of buying his first pair of adidas Stan Smiths on holiday in the 90s, they aren’t all as unstylish as we might first think.