Let me take you back to my senior year of college. I was working an afternoon shift at Liberty University’s brand-new student center with my culturally aware, straight-talking friend, Anna.
“You totally look like a soccer dad right now,” she said.
At the time, I didn’t realize that was a bad thing, with my faded polo shirt tucked into my khaki cargo pants, paired with tennis shoes and a flat hairstyle that resembled Mike Brady on the first season of The Brady Bunch.
Over time, especially since getting married, I have learned how to dress as a culturally relevant man, not Nick Burns, your company’s computer guy.
So for any dads out there who are wanting to step up their game, I’m here to sincerely help. The truth is, Nick Burns (a Saturday Night Live character played by Jimmy Fallon) is a good place to start; regarding who not to look like.
1. If you are a white man under the age of 40, nix the mustache. It makes you look a pervert. No one takes a young mustached Caucasian man seriously- hence the term, “ironic mustache.”
2. Lose the cell phone belt clip. Just place your phone in your pocket and leave it on vibrate. That way, no one has to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” every time someone calls you.
3. No white socks. Unless you’re playing sports or you’re Michael Jackson in 1985, white socks are nerdy.
4. Give away your pleated pants. Pleats went out with Sears catalogs and Zack Morris cell phones.
5. When it comes to your hairstyle, the key is not to look like a weatherman, who I feel are notorious for having a definite “side part” like the previously mentioned Season One Mike Brady. The truth is, the clean-cut, yet semi-messy “Ryan Seacrest” is the safest way to go right now.
6. Go black, or go brown; but don’t go both. If you are wearing a brown belt, don’t wear black pants or black shoes too; and vice versa.
7. When it comes to jeans, light and baggy says “Hey man, Creed’s coming into town and I’ve got front row tickets!”. Also, do not purchase jean shorts. Like the white man’s mustache, they have become a fashion joke, now referred to as “jorts.”
8. Unless you’re actively on duty in the military, there is no reason for your pants to have cargo pockets. Cargo pants equal “sloppy” except they are part of your required uniform.
9. When wearing a neck tie, which you sporadically should, only wear it with a long-sleeved, collared shirt. I’m sure you don’t want to look like Dwight Schrute.
10. Fact: There is a reason no one ever asks anymore; “boxers or briefs?” That’s because it goes without saying. Boxers.
Passing the Mic:
Can you think of anything to add to my list? Maybe you’ll give me enough material here to write “10 More Ways Not to Look Like a Soccer Dad.”
I admit it. Last week I became an instant fan of the new NBC sitcom Up All Night starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett. It is described as “the funny misadventures of a ‘cool couple’ with a newborn,” on page 28 of the October 2011 issue of Parents magazine. So far, the main premise of the show seems to be how a new mom and dad attempt to remain cool people after having a baby. As simple and even as shallow as that may sound, it actually makes for a very creative and relevant TV show.
Maybe it’s a trait of my generation (I’m 30), but I feel like parents of young kids today focus more on staying cool than any prior generation. We clearly remember seeing the hilarious “Mom Jeans” skit on Saturday Night Live and their appropriate slogan, “Because you’re no longer a woman; you’re a mom.” After seeing that, I think it’s possible that we, as an entire generation, decided to be more proactive about our post-baby hipness.
Admittedly, as for myself, I don’t want to end up a bland soccer dad with an “un-ironic mustache” and the hairstyle of a weatherman, who wears my cell phone on a holster attached to my pleated khaki pants. But it’s not simply about fashion; in fact, that’s the least of it.
More than anything, I believe my generation’s “stay cool after being a parent” motto has more to do with the fact that in elementary school, we were constantly told how unique and special we were. Now, as adults, we find much of our own coolness in the very things that make us unique.
We don’t want to become a boring stereotype of a lonely housewife or a henpecked dad. Instead, we want to keep our individuality while proudly displaying our ability to effectively parent.
And let’s face it: Being a parent is officially cool! From the rise in popularity of the stay-at-home dads, mommy (and daddy) blogs, and simply just being able to share your baby’s pictures with your 800 Facebook friends, being actively involved in your kid’s life totally increases your “cool points.”
So maybe as new parents, we don’t get out as much, we’re physically drained by the end of the day, and we struggle to embrace our new identity; but that doesn’t necessarily make us less cool than when a positive pregnancy test showed up in our lives.
If it’s possible to gage one’s own coolness, then I would have to say that I’m much more cooler as a 30 year-old dad than I was as a 24 year-old single guy. The forced maturity I have had to obtain during the past year of my life has taught me to become more relevant to the human population in general.
So because I understand other people better, I become more relevant in my culture. And isn’t that kind of what being cool is about anyway; being culturally relevant?
I blame it on my Italian heritage, which trickled down to me throughout my life thanks to my grandfather Metallo; of course, since I grew up in the South, he was simply “Paw Paw”. I’ve inherited an instinct to incorporate just a little bit of peculiar character in purchased items. It’s a careful balance of finding items that are slightly flashy and clashing, yet still classy, but not trashy. (Bet you can’t say that phrase five times real fast…)
In this American generation, the idea of a man caring much about his shoes is often considered to be related to gay or metrosexual culture. But I don’t subscribe to that mentality. In fact, I believe an important part of being a man is how he dresses; and as everyone should know, his shoes are the most important part of the wardrobe, since they ultimately set the tone for his clothing.
My mindset is more of an old-school class American idea; yet it is still a staple concept of any movie or TV show portraying Italian culture. From The Godfather movies to The Sopranos, the way an Italian man dresses is well planned out. Never an accident. Italians are not slobs.
Paw Paw Metallo
Being that my wife and I both are one quarter Italian, our son Jack will also be one quarter Italian as well. That means he will not get by with the typical American guy’s shoe collection: a pair of black dress shoes, a brown pair of boots, a pair of running shoes, and a pair of flip flops. No, not my son.
Jack will be like me. I own no less than 15 pairs of shoes, some of which are at least 10 years old, yet you would never know it because I take such good care of them. And while Jack won’t be born for another three months, he already has two pairs of essential “flashy, clashing, and classy yet not trashy” shoes awaiting him.
Last week as my wife and I were registering at Target, we found some shoes on clearance that not only meet the criteria, but also are essentially identical to shoes I already own. A pair of Kelly green sneakers (6-9 months, in time for Summer) and a pair of white leather loafers (12-18 months, just in time for Christmas). Like father, like son.
*Jack is still the size of a papaya; no major change in fruit size this week.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: