Over the last couple of years, the idea of dad interests have become ironically popular. "Dad music," "dad movies," and "dad jokes" are mentioned so often on Twitter and Facebook that you eventually grow numb to it and lose your gut reaction to punch-fuck the world. But I can at least understand the need to make fun of us for it. We dads each made a personal choice to be entertained by those things, and that totally makes us fair game.
What's not so funny to us is "dad clothes." See, dads across the globe already know this, but it's hard for a teenager to understand: No matter how much you fight it, we are your unfortunate future. There's nothing you can do to avoid it, because the "dad look" isn't a personal choice. It is thrust upon you, like the whipped-cream-covered balls of a male stripper. You either just have to sit back and take it, or hand it a dollar and hope it goes away. And it all happens because ...
#5. We Are Trapped In An Inescapable "Dad Paradox"
Let's say that Singy Songman (sorry, I don't know any popular modern singers) starts wearing authentic Revolutionary War uniforms in all of his public appearances. Right down to the musket and stupid hat that looks like a taco that had a stroke. At first, the world laughs at him and says that Singy has lost his mind. But little by little, that same outfit starts showing up on kids at school, and within a few weeks, it's so popular that the principal has to instate a new "Leave your cannons at home" rule.
Now let's say that dads as a collective whole take notice and think, "That is something I could totally pull off. I even have my old Revolutionary War outfits from back when I was a fan of Prince." We don't immediately jump into the fad because we've been around long enough to know that sometimes those things are here and gone in a matter of weeks. Hell, at one point in the early '90s, Right Said Fred tricked hundreds of thousands of douchebags into wearing this shirt for about a month:
Personally, I liked it better as pants.
So we wait. We watch from afar to make sure that this thing sticks around, and when we're satisfied that it's safe, we dive in. Then we proudly strut out in public with our awesome new look, shouting battle cries to Americans that they will finally bow their filthy traitor heads to the glory of Mother England. We look fucking awesome.
And that is the exact second that the fad dies.
This is the "Dad Paradox." Anything we wear is instantly considered uncool. No matter how awesome the outfit and no matter how much kids love wearing it, if your dad adopts that fashion, it's over. Even outfits specifically designed for dads are considered dorky, simply because we're wearing it. We make things uncool just by existing. It's why all dads (unless they're rich, but more on that later) look outdated: Our association makes it outdated.
"No, you look super cool, Dad. Can I go now?"
Eventually, you just have to either buy what you want and tell the world to suck your wrinkled balls, or give up and just wear whatever is most comfortable. Personally, I do a bit of both. Most of the clothes that I like are found in the teen or "young adult" section, so when I shop, I look like a midlife crisis desperately trying to rediscover my youth. If Tony Hawk ever stopped making his clothing line, I'd spend the rest of my life naked.
Of course, simply by saying that I wear Tony Hawk clothes, I just singlehandedly crashed his company's stock. You're welcome, Tony.
#4. We're Trained To Only Shop For Clothes When We Need Them
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When it comes to shopping, there are two fairly ridiculous stereotypes I've been inundated with my whole life. The first is about the overly-excited woman or group of teenage girls who act like shopping is a literal orgasm. Julia Roberts was shown transforming from a lowlife prostitute into an upscale powerhouse with a single shopping trip. It's a tired, lazy-ass cliche that I've seen on sitcoms, movies, songs, standup routines, and cartoons, because "woman + shopping = OMG SO TRU LOL!"
The second is that men shop only when they need something. We walk into a store, grab that thing, pay for it, and then leave. We get right to the point, and we don't fuck around. Taking your time, looking through all the departments, and making a day of it is something that women do. If I walk out of a store with six new pairs of shoes, my friends would ask if I needed help holding my purse. That cliche is so old and worn out that I instinctively spit on my TV when I hear a comedian talking about it.
Forceful spitting in a pantsless rage.
So on one hand, you have that stigma lingering over your head, and god forbid you do anything to damage your masculine credibility. On the other hand, you have to remember that we're talking specifically about dads here, and not just men in general. That poses a second level to the problem.
Everyone knows that taking care of kids is expensive, but until they've reached their teens, you don't realize how deep that rabbit hole goes. I'm not just talking about food and shelter. Hell, I'm not even talking about glasses, contacts, braces, insurance, and medical bills. Just their hobbies alone can break you. If one of them wants to learn how to play music, there's a couple hundred bucks right off the bat just for buying the instrument. Then there's the cost of the lessons and all the extra opium you'll need to dull the pain while they practice.
If they're into video games, you might as well mortgage your fucking house. They'll need money for field trips at school, fees for the occasional oddball class, school supplies, class pictures, yearbooks, and a thousand other things you never really consider until they reach a certain age. They grow out of their own clothes in a matter of months, so you're constantly hitting the refresh button on their wardrobe. They want to go out with friends, so they'll need money to get into the movies or the crack house or wherever kids hang out these days. And oh shit, if they're going out on a regular basis now, then they're going to need a phone. It goes on and on and on.
"Thanks for the money, fucker. I'll use it to have you destroyed."
So you start budgeting for it. Especially if you have more than one kid (I have three). You get to the point where you look at your bank account and realize that buying something that you just want takes away from things you could be buying for your kids, and not even in a spoiled brat sort of way. We're talking sheer basics. And if you don't think hobbies and hanging out with friends is a basic necessity, you've not just forgotten what it's like to be a kid; you've forgotten what it's like to be a functioning human.
So as dads, we save that money, and only spend it on ourselves when we need to. And I think that's why that ridiculous cliche gained traction. When you shop for necessity rather than fun, it becomes a chore. "Oh yeah, don't forget that we have to stop at the store to pick up my nunchuck polish. I have a demonstration this week."
#3. Clothing Size Becomes A Laughable, Meaningless Clusterfuck
Sometime in your 40s, your body starts doing weird shit. For some men, it'll be really obvious stuff, like gaining or losing weight. For others, you may stay the same size, but the actual shape of your body changes. Your abdomen swells like you're six months pregnant. Your chest sinks in. Your ass deflates. Your waist and hips used to hold your pants up just fine, but strangely, they now seem to have disappeared. Not grown or shrunk ... just straight fell the fuck off of your body without you noticing. So now you have to wear a belt, no matter how well your pants fit.
I consider myself an extreme case because my metabolism has always been weird to begin with, but once I hit my mid-30s, it kicked into overdrive. My weight fluctuates by 15 to 30 pounds from month to month. Since I'm tall, you can mostly see it in my face, but here's a pretty good example. This is me in late 2010, weighing around 175 pounds (I'm the one on the left who isn't Michael Swaim):
Calm down, ladies. And gentlemen. And me.
And here's me trying desperately to look cool under the "John Cheese" signature that appears in the movie John Dies At The End. I'm up to around 235 pounds here (taken in 2012):
No, you can't have my John Dies snow hat.
And this is me today, at a modest 195:
Yes, that's a two-year span, but this happens every couple of months with me. Right now, I'm somewhere in the middle at 210. If you took a time-lapse video of me, I'd look like a pulsing blob from an episode of Doctor Who -- some weird alien creature that was trying to morph into its human disguise. Badly.
When I buy new clothes, I can't judge the fit by my current weight. I have to factor in those fluctuations, which makes my waist size go from 36 to 40 and then back down again. If I want the pants to fit when I'm bigger, I have to get the larger pair. Which also means that when I lose the weight, my pants are going to hang off of me like I'm a 1990s gangsta rap star, minus the associated coolness. The same thing happens with my shirts. When I'm smaller, I wear a large. When I'm bigger, it's XL. So I either have to buy nothing but the latter and have them hang off of me like a coat rack when I lose the weight, or I have to buy two sets of clothes and alternate between bouts of fat.
I'm seriously considering stealing a bunch of those little size tabs the stores use to separate jeans on the rack and organizing my whole closet with them.
Right now, I just have them in rainbow order.
Of course, there's a much less physical reason that dads look the way we do ...