You learn a lot when you assume responsibility for the wellbeing of a tiny human. The true meaning of sacrifice. Every available make and permutation of baby travel system. The names of all six members of PAW Patrol. (Seven if you count Everest.)
Fathering a child will inevitably cramp your style to some extent, metaphorically if not literally. And while recent trends like tucked-in T-shirts, pleated trousers and ugly running shoes may have rehabilitated ‘dad fashion’, albeit ironically, you can’t wear any of them because you are actually a dad. Leave irony to the cool kids and stick to bad puns.
Below are 10 more sartorial truths that coming back from the hospital with an occupied car seat really brings home.
Less Is Less Hassle
Despite being smaller than your gloves, babies’ clothes take up a lot of room. I was forced to perform a more ruthless edit than a Game of Thrones scriptwriter, as out went my double Ikea Pax (two-Pax?) wardrobe and Malm chest of six drawers. In came a single Stuva combination wardrobe with four drawers barely deep enough to hold one folded adult T-shirt. Anything thicker has to go in one of the drawers under the Brimnes (bed).
And you know what? I didn’t mind, because the streamlining was long overdue. I realised that I didn’t wear the vast majority of my old clothes. Having decluttered like Marie Kondo on crack, I can see the few pieces that I live in, and re-up on those.
Having a kid focuses you on what’s really important – in life and in your rotation.
Time Waits For No Metrosexual
Babies typically operate on three-hour cycles of eating, sleeping and crapping. And that stuff takes the best part of three hours. So if you want to go anywhere or do anything before the next cycle, you have a minuscule window in which to get ready or be trapped.
Where my morning ablutions were once American Psycho-esque in their sybaritism, I now shower so quickly that I don’t even get wet. And thinking about what to wear is another luxury off-limits to sleep-deprived, decision-fatigued new dads. You need to be able to get dressed in the dark, and faster than the Flash’s fibre-optic. Polo shirts, which are vaguely smart but don’t require ironing, become suddenly, incredibly appealing.
Because I’m so rock ‘n’ roll, which in itself sounds ironically dad-like, I’d already instituted a rule before my daughter was born whereby I only bought clothes in navy, grey, olive, burgundy, camel and black. (NB dark colours hide stains.) That rule has since become a stone-set commandment. If it doesn’t fit with everything else that I own, then it can’t take up premium space in my wardrobe or mind. Because I have no spare bandwidth. Or budget.
Fancy Grooming Products Are Money Down The Drain
With disposable income a distant memory, no quantity of facial hydrating cream will unfurrow my brow upon glimpsing the hefty price tag. I don’t care how nice it smells, or looks on the bathroom shelf.
What’s In A Name Is Predominantly Mark-up
I was already beginning to question the wisdom of hype brands, which is a surer sign of impending fogeydom than my grey hairs and disapproval of sexually provocative music videos.
Before you accuse me of basic bitching (not unjustifiably), I don’t have a problem with streetwear per se. I do, however, have a problem with high fashion’s appropriation of an otherwise democratic dress code, and astronomical prices that don’t bear the slightest relation to quality of materials or construction. After browsing one too many upmarket knock-offs of field jackets and military overshirts in the snatched moments between researching biodegradable nappies, I’ve started Googling ‘army surplus shops’.
The peak of this phenomenon might be Balenciaga’s dad caps, which retail for an uncool £195. Think about what your dad would say if you told him that you spent £200 on a cap.
Insecure Attachments Have Their Advantages
To paraphrase Robert De Niro in Heat, don’t let yourself get attached to anything that you are not willing to throw out in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat of warm baby shit on your lap. Given a choice between desecrating your expensive designer pride and joy or your around-the-house beater, your offspring will choose the former with an unerringness that borders on spite.
With clothes as with children, having favourites is not advisable. Someone will get hurt.
Some Labels Are Hotter Than Others
As in the ones that say machine washable at 40°C. If a piece is dry clean, hand wash or even cool wash, I move on.
And if wearing raw selvedge denim for six months without laundering was ever remotely feasible, it definitely isn’t now. There’s a reason that dad jeans aren’t indigo. Wool might boast natural stain- and odour-resistant properties, but it can also be expensive and too precious to withstand a vigorous spin cycle. Hence I’m cashmere-poor, cotton-rich.
On that note, fewer clothes and more washing is a key factor in dads’ garments rapidly becoming as faded as their glories. If you don’t have to sterilise it by boiling because it’s covered in milky sick, then don’t.
The Quick Wash Is A Lifesaver
Time is the enemy of stain removal, not to mention smells. You can try to dab (not in the Paul Pogba sense), working from the outside in to prevent running. But if that dab borders on a rub then you’ll only embed the offending substance further into the fibres.
It’s tempting to leave the soiled item in a heap to deal with later when your willpower has regenerated or your other half cracks first, as I did in the aftermath of the aforementioned poo-nami. (Sorry, darling.) What you should do is throw it into the washing machine ASAFP.
If it’s dry clean only, then you need to get it to the dry cleaner within a similar window. So unless the other parents in your NCT playgroup have nicknamed you ‘Baby Driver’, then you’re screwed, as is the item. I refer you back to the above section on labels.
Dadbod Is No Laughing Matter
I’m a freelance journalist who writes about fitness and even I’ve found it hard to balance work and dadding with working out. Lately, I’ve taken to squeezing in exercise between my daughter’s bedtime (around 7pm) and before dinner (which tends to be 9.30pm).
Waist management is connected to a wider point. One of the chief causes of relationship death – which becomes vastly more tragic when children are involved – is that partners stop making the effort that they used to. Your baby mama incubated a whole other being with her body. The least you can do is not look like you’re expecting a second.
Tony Hawk Is A Special Case
My thirtysomething mates who have yet to reproduce might be able to just about get away with brands like Supreme and Palace. But there’s something deeply gnarly about continuing to dress like a skateboarder as you approach the lip of life’s halfpipe.
Even in the few short months that I’ve been a dad, I’ve already felt compelled to appear halfway respectable in front of medical professionals and council bureaucrats. With nurseries and schools, that’s one trend that’s guaranteed to continue. I can’t say the same about the others.
The Snip Is An Enticing Prospect
I get a haircut every four weeks without fail. Indulgent as that may seem, it helps me retain some much-needed sharpness, plus it’s 45 minutes of uninterrupted conversation with a (currently) childless man. Worth. Every. Penny.