Every college tour I’ve been on this summer has included at least one goofy looking father in a T-shirt with a silly saying and stains from his rushed breakfast, his son or daughter standing as far away from him as possible. And there’s often another dad, pressed shirt and polished shoes, making the rest of us normal guys look like slobs.
So now I feel a new responsibility to look my part as I walk around these campuses with my daughter. I don’t want to embarrass her, or, worse, have her judged based on my wadrobe.
This challenges me. My fashion sense, cultivated over these many decades of life, is really non-existent. My one rule, “comfort above all,” puts me in shorts and well-worn T-shirts whenever possible. But my usual uniform doesn’t make me feel like I’m fulfilling my paternal responsibility while I might be embarrassing my daughter.
My own father never went out without a collared shirt on, and mostly these had buttons going all the way down the front. I have pictures of family vacations, site seeing in exciting places, and there he is in his oxford shirt and sport coat, in the middle of summer. As he aged, polos became part of his wardrobe, but even before his death, when he wasn’t working, he couldn’t leave home without putting on slacks, collared shirt, and jacket.
Of course dads are different now, our sensibilities relaxed. I know a number of 40-plus guys who wear hoodies and style sneakers when they attend parent-teacher conferences they attend a few minutes after leaving the.
But I have neither the illusion nor the desire to make my middle-aged body look right in a 20-somethings clothes.
When my girls were younger, I never hesitated to wear jeans and T-shirts to the playground, figuring these were the equivalent of daddy play-clothes. I never worried much about what I wore at all, much to my wife’s frustration and disappointment.
But walking through ivy covered campuses it occurs to me it’s time to step up my game. Clothes make statements about so much and in my case it’s time to dress like a dad, at least some of the time. My 20s are half a lifetime away. It’s okay for me to dress the part of a man who has a home, a car, a dog, and teenagers.
I’m not going overboard, maybe just real shoes and long pants for now. Enough so that I don’t create an obstacle to my daughter’s future, embracing my role in life as her father.
Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.