The fashion choices young dads think are compulsory (they’re not)

dad in boardshorts

The male brain does funny things. When a man goes from not having a kid to having a kid, for example, he suddenly decides he needs to change his overall look.

There is no logical reason for this. One week you’re not a dad, the next week you are a dad, but there’s no rule book anywhere that says you have to start wearing different clothes.

And yet a lot of fathers seem to go down that road. The self-inflicted makeover begins soon after childbirth and within weeks has fully taken hold.

You’ll see the guy 12 months later and barely recognise him on the street as he hurriedly strides past you on his way to pick up some taco shells, baby cereal and two bottles of Pino Grigio down the shops. That may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

In the interests of educating mankind before this dad-fashion pandemic spreads any further, here are a handful of trends we can exclusively reveal you DO NOT need to follow. Repeat: There is no law stating you have to wear this stuff.

Boardshorts from the 90s and 2000s

Shorts fashion may have gone through several phases since baggy Billabong slash Quiksilver boardies were in vogue, but that doesn’t stop dads from somehow finding them in the bargain bin of their local surf shop.

While young fellas are hitting up ASOS for their Euro-sleek cruising shorts (just made that phrase up), papa is proudly accompanying his polo shirt with some long and lairy Volcoms of the kind he used to wear to the Sunday session back in his uni days.

Bucket hat, fedora or similarly ‘funky’ headwear

Alright, the last time you wore a bucket hat was at Big Day Out in the early 2000s, so why do you need to revive that gnarly old favourite a decade and a half later?

In what may be some kind of misguided example-setting-for-the-kid thing, both mums and dads take to wearing unusual headwear when they go on outings with the child. A cap worked fine when you were a non-dad, didn’t it? So just wear a cap.

Cargo shorts

A wide-ranging study (conducted by me sitting in a café watching all the dads) recently concluded that over 90 per cent of fathers wear cargo shorts.

OK, I’ll grant you cargo shorts have some practical value, but really, are we willing to give up all sense of style for a few extra pockets? Unless you’re Smash Mouth or Justin Timberlake when he had blond tips, cargo pants look a bit wrong.


Though likely intended as an attempt to ward off dad-bod (and probably gifted by a concerned partner), the fitbit just ends up being a kind of dorky wristband that you can check your socials on.

Chuck Taylors

I’m not going to lie, Chuck Taylors are timeless and make anyone who wears them look cooler. I just wanted to make the point that every young dad has a pair. That is all.

White or pastel linen shirt

I know what you’re thinking when you buy a linen shirt, that a) it will make you look like Bond when he’s playing it casual at some exotic beachside locale, and b) it’s light, fluttery material will hide your gut.

The blueberry and baby vomit stains that will end up on it will be a pretty strong hint to others that you are, in fact, a dad trying to hide a gut and not an international superspy flying under the radar, even if you do have expensive Italian sunglasses to complete the look.

Leather thongs/Birkenstocks

You used to wear regular rubber thongs but they just don’t give you that extra level of padding and comfort you need for your daily dadding activities such as walking to the park and playing peek-a-boo.

Trade those flimsy flip flops in and get yourself some trendy leather slides that go really well with your G-Star jeans or, ahem, cargo shorts.

Retro band t-shirt

While happy to hand over most of their previous identity to become a full-time dad person, many men will decide they at least need to show off the fact they ‘used to be pretty cool, you know?’.

Hence, they break out the Tool, Pennywise or Beastie Boys t-shirts of their youth. Bonus points if you can wear a Nirvana shirt and publicly call out a teenage girl wearing a Nirvana shirt for not knowing any of the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

An extension of this is going back even further to childhood and rocking an Astro Boy, Muppets or Alf shirt, ostensibly in an ironic way, but we all know you’re really just a lost little boy who’s struggling with pressure and responsibilities of adulthood.

Next time you see a dad wearing one of these shirts, give him a hug and tell him he’s doing just fine.

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